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Profiles of the Bush Administration Chiefs of Environmental Agencies

What can we expect from the George H. W. Bush administration's selections for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Council on Environmental Quality?

| May/June 1989

  • Manuel Lujan, William Reilly, James Baker
     L-R: Secretary of the Interior Manuel L. Lujan, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Reilly, and Secretary of State James Baker.

  • Manuel Lujan, William Reilly, James Baker

You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from the environmental community when the Reagan administration gave way to the Bush administration on January 20. Eight long years of doing battle with James Watt, Don Hodel, Anne Gorsuch and the rest were over.

The period was not without its benefits, however. Membership in most environmental groups soared in response to the vitriolic attacks from Mr. Watt and the others. Once Watt left, in October 1983, membership rolls grew more slowly, but support remained firm. It will be interesting to see what happens under Mr. Bush, who insisted throughout the campaign that he is an environmentalist.

Early indications are mixed and inconclusive—yet hopeful and promising. Allow me to briefly profile the new environmental chiefs in Washington.

Manuel Lujan, Secretary of the Interior

Lujan retired this year after some 20 years as a New Mexico representative in the House. He never scored well in the League of Conservation Voters' biennial voting chart, racking up a lifetime average of around 20%, which is near the bottom of the heap. He has been a prime proponent of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Range to oil and gas exploration, which is likely to be the biggest conservation battle in Washington this year. On the plus side, he is said to be close to Rep. Mo Udall of Arizona, one of Congress's most stalwart environmentalists. His confirmation hearings revealed almost nothing, except that he eschewed the confrontational rhetoric of Watt and hoped that all issues can be worked out amicably between all parties. Expect him to keep a low profile.

William Reilly, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency

Reilly is clearly tagged to be the administration's environmental good guy in a very tough job. Reilly was routinely described in press reports as the first professional environmentalist ever to head the EPA, and so he is. A moderate Republican, Reilly has served for the past decade plus as president of the Conservation Foundation and, after the merger of the two organizations, as president of the World Wildlife Fund/U.S., as well. He is a believer in scientific studies, careful analysis and reasoned compromise and accomodition.

At his confirmation hearing, Reilly said what no one in the Reagan administration was willing to say for eight years: that it's time to do something serious about acid rain and not simply launch another study. What this will be we must wait to find out, but it sounds promising.

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