By Darius Dixon
September 27, 2012
Former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman hopes to see a bit more of Gov. Mitt Romney rather than presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the coming weeks — at least on environmental issues.
“I’d hope he’d go back to the way he was as governor of Massachusetts,” said Whitman, a George W. Bush-era Environmental Protection Agency chief, during an interview with POLITICO on Tuesday. “Because in that position, he was finding the balance that can be struck between environmental protection and economic growth because it’s not a zero-sum game.”
Beating up on EPA isn’t new — and it’s been a durable tactic for Romney and the House GOP this year. But Whitman is concerned that the anti-EPA message will scare away the voters in the political center that Romney needs, even though it “may play well with the base.”
“In my mind, what Mitt Romney needs is independents,” she said. “He’s going to get the base to the extent that they’re going to come out and vote at all. … But what he’s not going to get are those in the center, and those in the center are those that care about these kinds of things.
“Bashing the agency, saying it’s all the fault of the agency,” she said, “I think that gets us into a really bad place.”
Whitman added that “EPA’s always been a target because every regulation that it passes makes people change behavior or spend money for a problem they may not think exists.”
“We have done a good job at cleaning up the air — air is cleaner, water is purer, land is better protected than before EPA was established,” she said. “But that success has made it almost more difficult to make the environmental argument.”
Whitman also noted that members of the Bush administration were often quick to blame EPA for exacerbating brownouts in California during the early part of the 2000s.
She’s not a campaign surrogate for the Romney camp and isn’t expecting a job offer in a new administration. For now, she’s using her appeal as a moderate Republican to campaign for Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts early next month.
To some extent, Whitman suggested that the Obama administration has been “aggressive” and has “gone overboard at times” in its regulatory zeal. But the former New Jersey governor defended EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who previously worked for the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
“The Lisa Jackson that I’ve known, too, is someone who understands there’s a balance between economic interests and environmental interests, and there’s a balance that can be struck that will work for all,” Whitman said. But she said the Obama administration is pushing the EPA in part because it hasn’t had much success getting its goals passed through Congress.
Overall, Whitman said little “bothered” her about Jackson’s EPA.
“What bothers me more about her EPA is that she’s up on the Hill every other week, which, if the taxpayers understood how much money they pay and the time lost in preparing for those things, I would think that they’d be upset,” she said, somewhat tongue in cheek.