The New York Times | Editorial
Monday 24 April 2006
President Bush has asked the Senate to approve nominees for two important federal posts with great influence over environmental policy. Neither candidate is particularly good news. One should certainly be rejected.
Mr. Bush has nominated William Wehrum to succeed Jeffrey Holmstead to head air pollution programs at the Environmental Protection Agency. The Holmstead era produced several positive initiatives. But it will be remembered chiefly for its efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act (particularly with respect to rules governing mercury emissions and older power plants), to manipulate science and to elevate corporate interests above those of the public.
Mr. Wehrum, who served as Mr. Holmstead's deputy and doctrinal hit man, could make things worse. Opposition to his nomination has been building rapidly in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where the vote could break largely along party lines. If it does, the nomination may hinge on two senators whose views on Mr. Wehrum are not known: James Jeffords, an independent from Vermont and a consistent critic of the administration's clean air policies, and Lincoln Chafee, an environmentally inclined Republican moderate from Rhode Island.
The second controversial nominee is Dirk Kempthorne, the Idaho governor who is Mr. Bush's choice to succeed Gale Norton as secretary of the interior. Mr. Kempthorne, a former senator, is sure to be approved despite a poor environmental record.
Perhaps his experience in the Senate, with its tradition of give-and-take, will make him more amenable to compromise than the ideologically driven Ms. Norton, who tended to favor commercial interests at the expense of publicly owned resources and who acquiesced in a series of disastrous cuts in conservation programs.