Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (R) is President George W. Bush’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Bush announced the nomination Aug. 11 in Colorado while visiting Western states to boost his environmental image.

The announcement was a surprise to agency watchers. Leavitt had not been mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed former N.J. Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) when she resigned her post as EPA administrator effective June 27. Marianne L. Horinko, who heads the EPA office that oversees the Superfund program, has been acting administrator since July 11.

Leavitt must be confirmed by the Senate. Two Democratic senators seeking to oppose Bush in the 2004 presidential election, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, say they will use Leavitt's confirmation as a platform to spotlight Bush's environmental record.

Leavitt, a former businessman who is in his third term as governor, is an advocate of states rights and is expected to work to shift environmental regulations out of Washington.

Bush praised Utah’s environmental record under Leavitt’s leadership, noting that the state now "meets all federal air quality standards" and has the nation’s cleanest watersheds.