New EPA administrator pledges to replace conflict with collaboration

Washington, D.C., Dec. 2, 2003 — Pledging to replace conflict with common sense and collaboration, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Mike Leavitt on Tuesday outlined his guiding principles, conveyed his plans and aspirations for the agency and previewed a 500-day action plan to significantly improve the nation’s air quality.

“Real environmental problem-solving takes place in the productive center, not at the emotional extremes,” he said. “The productive center is the place where the best ideas compete and a fair process for decision-making exists.”

Leavitt’s speech to Agency employees came after three weeks of cross-agency introductions, discussions and briefings. Drawing from an environmental philosophy called Enlibra – a word derived from Latin roots that means “to move toward balance” – Leavitt explained that the eight principles of Enlibra form the prism through which he views environmental issues.

“The Enlibra principles are just common sense, really, and many other people have reached the same conclusions on their own,” he said. “But do not underestimate the value of common sense, particularly as the counter to conflict.”

Putting words to work, Leavitt previewed a 500-day plan to clean up the nation’s air. The plan, soon to be released, provides a road map for how the new Administrator intends for the agency to achieve the most productive period of air quality improvement in American history.

Specific action steps include supporting the President’s Clear Skies cap and trade initiative, acting on 8-hour ozone non-attainment and working to ensure compliance with ozone and particulate standards, addressing mercury emissions from power plants, and placing stringent controls on off-road diesel engines.

“The cap-and-trade approach shows us again and again that people do more and they do it faster when they have an incentive to do what is in the public’s interest,” said Leavitt. “More, better, faster, newer… that’s the tune you will hear from me.”

Leavitt envisions a new wave of national environmental productivity beginning in America. “It is emerging not from legislative initiatives,” he said, “but from people joining together in collaborative networks for environmental teamwork.”

Citing the Western Regional Air Partnership as an example of successful regional collaboration, the Administrator heralded the importance of collaborative process and EPA’s role as a convener. Leavitt said that every significant step of environmental progress he has ever been involved with came about through collaboration.

“Collaboration does not eliminate litigation, but it can minimize it. Collaboration doesn’t take away hard decisions, but it improves acceptance,” said Leavitt in his speech. “They [good collaborations] elevate the ideas that create faster progress, better innovation, newer technology. They become the successes that show us the way.”

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