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Whitman resigns from EPA

By
RICHARD TOMKINS, UPI White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- Christie Todd Whitman, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has resigned her post to return to private life, saying it was time for her to go home.

Whitman said she personally tendered her resignation to President Bush on Tuesday.

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She will leave the post as of June 27 as she returns to her "home and husband in New Jersey."

No other reasons for her exit were given, but Whitman is known to have been less than happy in her time as steward of the nation's environment.

"Christie Todd Whitman is a trusted friend and adviser who has worked closely with me to achieve real and meaningful results to improve our environment," Bush said in a statement released Wednesday.

She "has served my administration exceptionally well. I think her for her outstanding service to our nation and wish her well as she returns home to New Jersey."

In a television interview Wednesday, she denied any friction with Bush over environmental policies.

The administration, she added had "done some extraordinary good things" for the nation's environment, including its watershed initiative and brown fields legislation.

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"I'm not leaving because of clashes with the administration," she told CNN. "I haven't had any. I'm leaving now because it's the appropriate time to do it."

An administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "The president appreciates the great contribution she made to improving the environment and wishes her the best as she returns to New Jersey."

No successor has been named and the official said it's "way too premature to even think of names at his point."

Environmentalists believe Whitman's resignation was based on an element of frustration.

"We think she did her best at the EPA but the administration wouldn't let her do her job," Sierra Club spokesman David Willett told United Press International.

"We have little hope that her successor will be able to do any better. The Bush administration is definitely listening to the interests of the polluting industries and not the people."

Whitman earned the reputation as an environmentalist while governor of New Jersey, overseeing the implementation of tough regulations to improve air quality. As EPA chief, however, she saw the administration push for relaxing of those standards, Willett said.

Whitman's most awkward moment came shortly after taking her post with Bush when she told world environmentalists and diplomats in Japan the administration was endorsing the Kyoto environmental accords. She apparently had not been informed that decision was being reversed.

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Whitman on television Wednesday said she had always disagreed with the Kyoto Protocol, which would have imposed environmental emission controls on the United States and other countries.

If there was a level of frustration, she said, it was what she called the refusal of environmental groups to say anything positive about administration policies.

In her letter of resignation, Whitman said administration efforts to protect the environment were leading to cleaner air and water, and better protection for land.

"I am proud of the work this agency has done and of the contributions it has made to the success of your administration," she said.

"I leave knowing that we have made a positive difference and that we have set the agency on a course that will result in continued environmental improvement."

Whitman said Wednesday she had no plans to run again for public office but she had also learned never to say never.

"I don't know what's next, but obviously I'll do something," she said.

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