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Enlibra catching on with key federal officials

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. -- Many chuckled pessimistically when Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt invented a new word, Enlibra, to embody his new environmental agenda of problem resolution through cooperation.

Given the rancor surrounding most environmental debates in the West, how in the world could Leavitt expect feel-good platitudes like collaboration and partnerships to really make a difference? But some important people in the Clinton administration are paying serious attention to the Enlibra doctrine.Top officials with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy on Tuesday pledged their support for the principles of Enlibra. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson told Western governors that Enlibra is "a goal we all share. In our conversations and in our cooperative work, and in your excellent Enlibra principles, we are on the right path."

That sentiment was also expressed by Robert Perciasepe, assistant administrator for the EPA, who said "we couldn't agree more with the ideas of collaboration."

Leavitt, who co-authored the principles of Enlibra with Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, said he has witnessed a groundswell of support for Enlibra from federal agencies and regulators across the environmental spectrum who have come to realize that they can't accomplish anything from Washington, D.C., without state and local involvement and participation.

"It is a doctrine that emerged from the West, but it is not a Western doctrine," Leavitt said. "For it to work, it has to be a doctrine of environmental management that is shared by our partners in the federal government."

Richardson, a former congressman from New Mexico, is a huge fan of Enlibra, and he impressed governors with his recitation of one Enlibra principle after another that are being incorporated into Department of Energy practices.

"You are seeking national standards with neighborhood solutions. So are we," he said. "You also support markets before mandates, a principle that drives many of our initiatives as well. Enlibra calls for collaboration, not polarization. We are putting this principle into practice in our collaboration with the eight states that house our waste cleanup sites."

Leavitt said the fact Washington officials are embracing Enlibra is a recognition that everyone involved in environmental debates is frustrated with the stalemates, lawsuits and confrontation that have developed over 25 years of environmental regulation.

Local governments, private landowners and major businesses are signing on, as well.