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Special Event

Bush Names Whitman to Head EPA

Aired December 22, 2000 - 3:44 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to move immediately to Austin, Texas, the Driscoll Hotel there, and President-elect George W. Bush making an announcement about his next Cabinet choice.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... governor of that state. She has been able to balance the demands for economic growth and at the same time she's supported environmental protection measures.

She has set and enforced firm and clear standards for the protection of New Jersey's environment and the New Jersey shoreline. She led the way in securing funding to purchase a million acres of land for open space. All this while overseeing the reemergence of her state as a place where people can find work, a center of economic activity and development.

Governor Whitman reflects a growing consensus in this country about environmental policy.

She and I share the same point of view. We share a philosophy that moves beyond the old central command-and-control mindset that believes Washington has got all the answers to environmental issues. My administration will work with state and local governments in protecting our land and air and water. In partnership and in mutual respect, we will meet our common obligations as citizens and stewards of our Earth.

I know Governor Whitman well. She is a strong person. She is plenty capable of taking on this difficult, but important, assignment. I am asking Governor Whitman to join my administration. I also -- I told her how much I will value her advice, to the point at which I'm going to name her position as a Cabinet officer.

And so it is my honor, along with the vice president-to-be's honor, to submit the name of Christie Todd Whitman to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

GOV. CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN (R-NJ), EPA NOMINEE: Mr. President, I am honored to be asked to serve as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

I thank you for your confidence. And I also want to thank my family, whose unwavering support has allowed me to accept challenge after challenge, and this job will be a challenge. I recognize that. Teddy Roosevelt, our first conservationist president, once said, "I recognize the right and the duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land, but I do not recognize the right to waste them for the generations that come after us."

TR understood the necessity of striking the right balance between competing interests for the good of all Americans. Our new president understands that as well. It's been a hallmark of his leadership in Texas, and I know it will be a hallmark of his leadership for America.

Such leadership is important in everything that government does, and that's especially true in the work that we do to protect our environment.

For the past seven years, I have what I believe to have been the best job in America, governor of New Jersey. I also believe that my job has given me the best preparation for this new opportunity, an opportunity that I embrace with great enthusiasm and great expectation.

New Jersey has been challenged. We've had to meet all the environmental concerns. We know the challenges of reclaiming abandoned industrial sites. We know the need to protect our cities, their quality of water, their quality of life, to ensure that our suburbs and rural areas aren't overrun by suburban sprawl.

We also face the responsibility of being good stewards to 127 miles of beaches, thousands of acres of forest and woodlands, and a farming tradition that we cherish. All of this in the context of a dynamic and growing state economy.

Having served as governor, I also know what it's like to be on the receiving end of mandates from Washington. I have never underestimated the importance of environmental protection, just as I have never overestimated the ease in achieving it. That perspective will help me work with our states as we meet the challenges ahead of us.

Finally, I come to this job as someone who grew up on and still lives on a family farm. In my earliest years, I developed a respect for the balance that nature brings to the land. I also learned the importance that everyone on the farm pitches in to do their share and then some.

That's why I am honored to be given this position in a Bush administration, where I intend to do my share and then some to meet the challenge. I know that this great country of ours has the ability and the will to build a more prosperous America, while meeting our environmental obligations to those who follow us.

Mr. President, thank you again very much for this opportunity.

BUSH: Congratulations. Great job.

WHITMAN: Thank you.

BUSH: And it gives me great joy now to wish everybody a happy holiday season. I hope you're safe in your travels as you go home.

I look forward to seeing your smiling countenances after the season. And as a gift, I will spare you from having to ask me any questions.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: God Bless.

CHEN: The president-elect saying that this is it for the weekend. It's a holiday weekend. President-elect Bush and his family...

(VIDEO GAP)

CHEN: ... again earlier in the day, the appointment of Senator Ashcroft, the outgoing senator from Missouri as his choice for attorney general. We're going to take a break here and return with more of our special coverage after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHEN: Continuing our special coverage now: The president-elect has selected another member of his administration. And he is once again pulled from the ranks of the nation's governors.

Major Garrett is standing by now in Austin -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Joie.

Three quick points to make this about selection. Governor Christie Todd Whitman, as EPA administrator: The president-elect made clear he is going to elevate that to a Cabinet position by law. The EPA administrator is not a Cabinet-level position in any president's Cabinet. But it is the new president's discretion to so identify that. President-elect Bush did that as a signal of the environmental community that he takes this matter seriously.

Secondarily, both the president-elect and Governor Whitman made clear that they're going to change the policy and defer to the states as they deal with environmental policy. Republicans have long criticized the Clinton administration for having a top-down, one-size- fits-all Washington bureaucratic approach, rather -- to enviornmental policy. Thirdly, there was a reference made to a -- to what Christie Todd Whitman has done in New Jersey.

She recently secured -- through a referendum that she supported in New Jersey -- $98 million dollars to set aside more than a million acres of land in New Jersey to fight suburban sprawl and protect farm land, a key environemtnal effort she undertook, an illustration of states taking the lead in environmental policy -- Joie.

CHEN: CNN's Major Garrett for us in Austin, Texas, again reminding our viewers that president-elect Bush has selected Christie Whitman as his EPA chief. That is his third appointment of the day. Earlier, he named Senator Ashcroft to be his attorney general, and later Jim Gilmore, a governor, to be the RNC chief.

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