The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 11, 2003

President Bush Names Gov. Leavitt to Head EPA
Remarks by the President in Announcing Nomination of Mike Leavitt as EPA Administrator
The Marriott Hotel
Aurora, Colorado

3:34 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. First I want to make a comment about some foreign policy. Today's departure of Charles Taylor from Liberia is an important step toward a better future for the Liberian people. The United States will work with the Liberian people and with the international community to achieve a lasting peace after more than a decade of turmoil and suffering.

The United States will help ECOWAS and the humanitarian relief organizations to get aid to those who need it. I appreciate the efforts of many African leaders, most especially Nigerian President Obasanjo, Ghanaian President Kufour, South African President Mbeki, Mozambique President Chissano. Their continued leadership will be needed in the weeks and months ahead as a new government is formed and the Liberian people seek to chart a future of peace and stability.

Earlier today, I spoke in Arizona about the urgent need to safeguard America's forests from wildfire. It's one of the many environmental challenges that face our nation. Those challenges go beyond our forests. We must also be vigilant in protecting the air and soil and waters around us.

This is the primary responsibility of our Environmental Protection Agency, and today I am pleased to introduce my nominee to lead that Agency, Governor Mike Leavitt, of Utah. I appreciate so very much Jackie being here, as well as Michael, Taylor, Anne Marie, Westin and Chase, who's not with us. The Leavitt family is a great American family, primarily because Dixie and Anne, the mom and dad of the Governor, worked hard to make it such, and I'm honored they are here, as well. Thank you all for coming.

I also appreciate the fact that the leader of the House and the Senate from Utah have joined us today.

I selected Mike Leavitt because he is a trusted friend, a capable executive and a man who understands the obligations of environmental stewardship. With the Senate's approval, Mike Leavitt will lead an Agency with 18,000 dedicated employees in offices all across our country. The work of the EPA is vital and reflects a national consensus on the importance of good stewardship.

During the last three decades, we've seen extraordinary progress in cleaning our air and protecting our land and making our water more pure. The quality of our air is far better than it was in the 1970s. Many more of our lakes and rivers are safe for fishing and swimming. Toxic emissions have declined, and we're bringing new resources and programs to reduce run-off and erosion.

We're making real progress protecting endangered species and helping them recover.

Mike Leavitt will come to the EPA with a strong environmental record and a strong desire to improve on what has taken place during the last three decades. He served for over a decade as governor of an important state. As co-chair of the Western Regional Air Partnership, Governor Leavitt has been a leader in applying high standards in air quality, and he understand the importance of clear standards in every environmental policy. He respects the ability of state and local governments to meet those standards, rejects the old ways of command and control from above. He was twice re-elected by the people of Utah in part because he leads by consensus and focuses on results, instead of process.

In Utah and beyond, he has gained wide respect for handling environmental issues in a spirit of openness and bipartisanship. These qualities and his experience will make Mike Leavitt a fine addition to my administration. I will count on him to continue the good work begun by former Administrator Whitman and Acting Administrator Horinko.

He will join my Cabinet with a full agenda and with my full confidence. Mike, I appreciate your willingness to serve. I thank the people of Utah as you leave office to take on this incredibly important assignment in our nation's capital.

GOVERNOR LEAVITT: Thank you, Mr. President. First of all, Mr. President, may I express my appreciation to you for your confidence, most of all for your friendship. I'd like also to acknowledge Governor Whitman and the service that she rendered, first to her state and then to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Two brief stories communicate what I'm feeling. I was eight years old, Mr. President, when I first laid eyes on the Grand Canyon. My mother, who's here today, had entered an essay contest with a local radio station, and she won. And on a hot summer day we got on a big yellow Utah Parks bus, and we went to the rim of the Grand Canyon. We got there about twilight, and it's a view I won't ever forget. There's 200 miles that drops in front of you, and there are these cliffs that are gold and crimson, and it's this large shadow that begins to cross that canyon as the sun goes down.

I went back to that spot. I went back 36-years later. This time I was governor. This time there was a brown haze across the same place where that beautiful clear vista had been before. This time, I was there to co-chair a commission that had been charged under the Clean Air Act to rescue that view.

Now, any environmental problem that involves 13 states, and 13 tribal nations, and three federal agencies, and the private sector, and a long list of environmental groups had complexities and had disagreements, and this was absolutely no exception to that. But in the end, we worked together to develop a plan that will clean up the air over the Grand Canyon. It's left a lasting impact, not just on the Grand Canyon, but on me. It has changed the way we resolve environmental problems and disputes in the west, and I think it's safe to say, in the entire country.

There is no progress polarizing at the extremes, but there is great progress, there's great environmental progress when we collaborate in the productive middle. And if you add to that, technology -- the new technologies of the 21st century, and an unwavering commitment to progress, it's a recipe for success, a recipe for real progress.

That experience at the Grand Canyon and a hundred others that I've had since that time have crystallized in me a very clear environmental philosophy. It's called, in libra. It's a latin word. It means to move toward balance. To me, there is an inherent human responsibility to care for the earth.

But there's also an economic imperative that we're dealing with in a global economy to do it less expensively. And Mr. President, it's your commitment to both that has enlisted me to this cause.

Now, the setting of the second story is the Parker Mountain, and it's where my grandfather keeps his -- kept his cattle. We had just finished lunch. He had a one ton flatbed truck, and we were sitting in the shade. There was a wooden box he kept on the back of the truck, and it had grass seed in it.

And it was my job, no matter where we were after lunch, to spread some grass seed among the sagebrush to improve the range. It was very hot. I don't think it's as hot as it was -- as in Crawford, Texas, but it was hot. And I say, it's too hot. And my grandpa said to me, we've been on this mountain for four generations, and there's an obligation to take care of this place, and to leave it better than we found it.

If the Senate confirms my nomination, it will require that I conclude the service of a decade to a state I love and to people I love. But I may do so knowing that the air is cleaner than when I arrived, that the water is more pure, that the land is better cared for, and that the people are more safe. I'm leaving it a better place than I found it.

And Mr. President, to you and to the American people, I leave that precise commitment. If I'm confirmed of this service, I will give you the same pledge: I'll leave it a better place than I find it, I'll plant seeds for a future generation, and I'll give it all I have.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Good job.

END 3:44 P.M. MDT

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