Whitman's tenure at EPA found her frequently caught between environmentalists and an administration perceived as pro-business on environmental issues. Her departure announcement, which follows that of White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, by just a few days, comes as Bush administration officials weigh options as the president's 2004 reelection campaign kicks off. "This is not really a surprise," says one environmental professional group official in Washington. "She was rated as one of most ineffective in terms of having influence in the administration."

In her letter, Whitman refers to agency accomplishments in her tenure, including reductions in pollution from offroad diesel engines, low-emission school buses, record settlements from companies for Clean Air Act violations, development of the proposed Clear Skies Act to cut powerplant pollution, EPA's Watershed Initiative, a water quality trading program to deal with nonpoint source pollution, the push to clean up decades of PCB pollution in New York's Hudson River, brownfields legislation and post 9/11 efforts to tighten security at water and wastewater plants and within the chemical industry. Despite that, some observers say she didn't garner a lot of support in Washington. "Career staff is ambivalent" about her, says one. "She was a nice lady, but cut off on some things."

Speculation over possible successors includes former Michigan Republican Gov. John Engler, although his environmental track record is considered poor among environmental groups. Another possibility is David Struhs, head of the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection and "point man" to Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, on Everglades issues. Sources say the Florida governor may be more amenable to Struhs' departure after his own reelection last year. Two other longshots are Josephine Cooper, a top EPA official in its pesticides office who also served in EPA during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and Mark Racicot, former governor or Montana and now head of the Republican National Committee.

hristine Todd Whitman submitted her resignation May 20 as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a letter and meeting with President Bush. She had served in the cabinet level position since 2001. Whitman's resignation is effective June 27, at which time she says she is returning to New Jersey where her family still lives. Whitman resigned as New Jersey's governor to take the Bush administration appointment as EPA chief.