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Three Term’s the Charm

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That’s all, folks. After more than a decade of gracing local television newscasts with his perfectly coifed hairpiece, Gov. Mike Leavitt is leaving the big taco stand of Utah for the plush environs of a top bureaucrat’s office as head of the Environmental Protection Agency in D.C. We can’t possibly miss the guy. He’s been here so long. Why not willingly give up his title of nation’s longest serving governor?

But why the EPA? As presiding governor over Winter Olympic security measures that kicked him all the way up to the president’s advisory committee on homeland security, plus the added benefit of kickin’ it with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Israel, Leavitt could have lobbied to kick Al Qaeda ass. Not a chance. Our governor no doubt made a big impression last spring when he locked hands with Interior Secretary Gale Norton over a settlement to roll back wilderness study areas and an agreement loosening requirements for county road claims. Now the two will be but a local phone call away from frequent lunch dates and conference calls.

As nice and gentlemanly as Leavitt is, his environmental policy rarely had more life than a warmed-over corpse. That’s putting it politely. In a 1998 speech before the Western Governors’ Association, he yammered on about pollution in the Grand Canyon, never once stopping to mention specific issues inside Utah state lines. It was under Leavitt’s watch that MagCorp, long the nation’s worst toxic polluter, did business. Leavitt routinely lost his temper over the Goshutes proposal to store nuclear waste. He never raised his voice when asked about Envirocare’s business practices. Talking about MagCorp, which was sued in federal court two years ago by the EPA for allegedly violating toxic waste law, would have been a lot harder to stomach as well. The company plant located outside of Grantsville is no longer the nation’s worst toxic polluter—it now ranks No. 51, thanks to improvements in plant equipment—but where that suit will be steered with Leavitt as the helm is an interesting question. Critics long complained about his love of nebulous terms à la “Enlibra.” Other Leavitt tenets, such as “Markets before Mandates,” aren’t that hard to decipher.

& ull; Pay only for what you need. The Walt Disney Co. perfected the idea of a self-destructing DVD, which becomes unplayable after two days, thereby eliminating the cost and hassle of returns. (Never mind that it could be copied within 48 hours.) The Irish, on the other hand, perfected the art of requiring that shoppers pay for plastic bags that often litter the landscape after use. Specifically, shoppers pay a tax set by the Irish Department of the Environment and imposed since March 2002, according to an MSNBC report. It’s estimated that, before the tax, Ireland’s paltry population of 3.3 million used 1.2 billion plastic bags. Just imagine what the number is here. Irish environmentalists put 12 years of pressure on their government until the regulation passed. The idea harnesses a combination of market (people pay only for what they need) and mandate (shoppers must pay). Don’t bother floating this idea past Leavitt. He believes in “Markets before Mandates.”

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