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Utah 'green' groups slam Leavitt's record

Utah environmentalists ratcheted up the pressure Monday, hosting a national teleconference to block Gov. Mike Leavitt's nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Wearing buttons that say, "The environment, Love it or Leavitt," local environmentalists plan to be in Washington, D.C., today to protest in person.

Today, Leavitt is expected to appear before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for his confirmation hearings.

And on Monday, five local environmental groups held a press conference in Salt Lake City to formally announce their opposition to President Bush's nominee as EPA chief. They invited national reporters to participate, but only one had any questions.

The person, who did not identify herself, wanted to know if Leavitt had done anything good for the environment in Utah.

"I can't think of anything he has done to protect the environment or the public's health," responded Zach Frankel of Utah Rivers Council.

At Monday's press conference, Frankel was joined by representatives of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Families Against Incinerator Risk and the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The groups have issued a "white paper" that details the governor's "anti-environmental record" and takes issue with Leavitt's claims of environmental successes.

They blasted Leavitt's so-called "enlibra" policy, which promotes balance and consensus-building on environmental issues.

Leavitt hasn't invited critics to the table to debate his controversial Legacy Highway, a four-lane highway that parallels I-15 along Davis County and through Great Salt Lake wetlands.

"As far as enlibra goes, we're still waiting to see it," said Marc Heileson of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. "The Legacy Highway policy has been 'my way is the highway.' "

Frankel was more blunt.

"Putting Gov. Mike Leavitt in charge of EPA is akin to placing a vampire in charge of the blood bank."


E-MAIL: donna@desnews.com