Christie Whitman’s Dreams

Christie Whitman’s Dreams
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Christie Whitman’s Dreams

 

Christie Todd Whitman is the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During her tenure as Governor of New Jersey she had, according to the Sierra Club, a fairly good record on environmental issues. When Gale Norton was nominated by President Bush for Secretary of the Interior the environmental community was outraged and fought her appointment ferociously. Christie Whitman’s nomination went relatively unchallenged. Senator Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn has labeled Ms. Whitman as “the lone crusader fighting within the Bush administration for environmental improvements.”

I imagine Ms. Whitman has had many sleepless nights since she took over the EPA. In March, the director of the EPA’s office of regulatory enforcement, Eric Schaeffer, resigned in protest since he and his staff were “fighting a White House that seems determined to weaken the rules we are trying to enforce.” He said EPA’s efforts to compel pollution cleanups “are threatened by a political attack on the enforcement process that I have never seen in 12 years at the agency.” Schaeffer is no lightweight, in 2001 he received the Justice Department’s “John Marshall Award” for public service based on his efforts in oil refinery cases. On his last day on the job, Schaeffer commented on his boss: “Ms. Whitman is doing some pushing back….she is starting to understand the scale of what we’re looking at.” Think about how tormented Christie Whitman must feel at times. On the one hand, she is obviously a politician with ambition and if she serves her party well in a cabinet position – well, who knows what is in store for her in her political future? On the other hand, if she has a conscience and is truly concerned about the environment, how can she deal with the atrocious acts of the Bush administration –

attempting to gut the Clean Air Act, slashing EPA’s personnel by over 200 positions, siding with the auto industry to defeat increased CAFE miles per gallon standards, and on and on?

I wonder what Christie Todd Whitman dreams about at night?

When I learn about the continuous assaults on environmental protection that President Bush and Vice President Cheney are guilty of, I am tempted to label Ms. Whitman as just “one of them” just another in perhaps the worst environmental administration since Earth Day in 1970. But perhaps she is doing the best she can, under the circumstances. Wouldn’t the Sierra Club want a tormented Christie Todd Whitman as head of the EPA rather than a clone of Gale Norton, who seems to relish such things as expansion of oil drilling off Florida’s coast, in Florida’s Grand Cypress National Park and in the Arctic Refuge in Alaska?

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