Widely criticized EPA administrator resigns

Christine Todd Whitman, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator who during her two and a half year tenure has often found herself at odds with environmentalists and the Bush administration, announced her resignation on Tuesday afternoon.

In a May 20 resignation letter, Whitman said she would step down as EPA administrator in late June, to devote more attention to her family. Deputy EPA Administrator Linda Fisher will temporarily fill Whitman's shoes if the agency has not found a permanent replacement by June 27, according to spokeswoman Bonnie Piper.

"As rewarding as the past two-and-a-half years have been for me professionally, it is time to return to my home and husband in New Jersey, which I love just as you do your home state of Texas," Whitman wrote in her letter to President Bush. "I leave knowing that we have made a positive difference and that we have set the [EPA] on a course that will result in continued environmental improvement."

Shortly after taking office, Whitman decided not to challenge a court decision that awarded an EPA employee who accused the agency of race and sex discrimination $600,000 in damages. Allegations of widespread discrimination and retaliation had plagued the EPA the year before Whitman arrived.

In two and a half years at the EPA, Whitman led successful efforts to protect water quality, reduce diesel fuel pollution and clean up abandoned industrial waste sites, Bush said in a statement. He called Whitman, who left her post as New Jersey's first female governor to run the EPA, a "dedicated and tireless fighter for new and innovative policies for cleaner air, purer and better protected land."

But Whitman engendered criticism from environmental groups and alienated her own staff members.

Jeff Ruch, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a Washington based nonprofit, is not sad to see Whitman go. She has "presided over the greatest rollback in environmental enforcement in history, has pushed pollution control policies that put corporations rather than public health considerations in the driver's seat," he said. "[She] allowed the White House to make decision after decision that trumped her own judgment as well as that of the experts within the EPA."

Ruch's group would like to see Bush replace Whitman with a moderate who will stand up for his or her beliefs. "We had high hopes for [Whitman] when she came in, because of her previous environmental record," PEER spokeswoman Jennifer Reed said. "But she always toed the party line."

Whitman insisted staff call her "governor," her former title, and she was sometimes considered out of touch with the actions of agency managers. For instance, in June 2002, she acknowledged that she was unaware her agency had sent the United Nations a report stating that human activity has caused the earth's climate to change, a position Bush does not support.

Her push to delegate more environmental oversight responsibilities to states also angered some of her staff members and resulted in at least two high-profile resignations. In February 2002, Eric Schaeffer, head of EPA's Office of Regulatory Enforcement, left the agency because he believed Whitman had undermined federal efforts to enforce air quality standards. Robert Martin, the EPA's national ombudsman, resigned in April 2002 when Whitman stripped him of major job responsibilities.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.