The nomination of Utah Governor Michael Leavitt to head the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has caused an uproar among
environmentalists. But we should be less concerned about Leavitt’s
spotty environmental record than the Bush administration’s penchant
for politicizing EPA findings.

‘From the beginning of the Bush administration, the White House
has constantly injected itself into the way the EPA approaches and
decides the critical issues before it,’ writes Russell Train in an
essay on the Grist Magazine web site.

Train, author of the forthcoming Politics, Pollutions, and
, oversaw the formation of the EPA in 1970 under
President Richard Nixon and served as EPA administrator under Nixon
and his successor, President Gerald Ford. The agency, he notes, was
created as an independent regulatory committee within the executive
branch so that the environmental decisions and regulations produced
would not be unduly influenced by anti-environmental industries
and/or politics. This is not to say that folks in the White House
weren’t concerned about what the EPA was doing — they were — but
they never tried to meddle with the agency’s findings.

That’s hardly been the case under George W. Bush. In June, for
instance, Bush and his oil industry cronies so thoroughly butchered
an EPA report on climate change that EPA staff opted to leave their
findings on global warming unpublished rather than publish
scientifically inaccurate information. There are also questions
about the Bush administration’s role in softening EPA reports about
post-9/11 air quality in Manhattan.

Congress is currently moving to make the EPA a cabinet-level
agency, a move Train argues will no doubt be hailed by Bush as a
victory for the environment. But such a move will most likely only
make it easier for the White House to meddle with EPA
Erica Wetter

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