An Interview with Christine Todd Whitman

By Noah Graff

Today’s Machining World Archives January 2007 Volume 3 Issue 1

Christine Todd Whitman (Photo from Associated Press)

Christine Todd Whitman served as the EPA administrator under President Bush from 2001-2003 and was the Governor of New Jersey from 1994-2001. Currently she heads the Republican political action committee, It’s My Party Too, and is president of the Whitman Strategy Group, an organization which helps corporations deal with environmental issues

Christine, would you summarize the mission of the Whitman Strategy Group?
We focus on helping businesses, utilities and local governments improve their environmental profile, helping them find ways that they can cut their emissions into the atmosphere with programs which they might not have known about. We also introduce them to new technology from time to time. A lot of the manufacturers who read our magazine face a great deal of difficulty with the EPA and OSHA. Can you tell me what a small company can do when faced with expensive environmental problems? Often the problems companies face can be avoided. They just need to know where to look and what to look for. Companies often feel they need to go to the top person in the region or in the state. The decision-maker is usually further down the line, and they’re apt to get a better hearing there than if they try go to the top person.

Ideally, how would you change the EPA to be friendlier towards businesses?
I would allow more opportunity for the agency to work creatively in the private sector. That is not to say that we don’t still need regulations and that we don’t still need enforcement.

What do you think of the new regulations passed in Europe outlawing lead in car parts?
An issue we’ve always had with the way the European Union and many European countries address environmental issues is their precautionary principle. The problem is that this philosophy assumes something bad from anything produced and it says that you’ve got to get rid of it before you even know the problem. Lead is a significant problem, but until you have an appropriate alternative for it, the real issue here should be appropriate recycling of the lead.

Although you’re a Republican, do you feel your views are closer to those of the Democratic Party regarding environmental or women’s issues?
The environment has always been a Republican issue, starting back with Roosevelt. The Environmental Protection Agency was started by Richard Nixon. The majority of environmental regulating laws were signed by Republican presidents working with a Congress largely held by the other party.

What do you think of George Bush?
He’s somebody who truly believes his convictions. He focuses on a goal, and he is determined to get there. And, he is very loyal to the people who have been loyal to him.

If he was running today would you vote for him?
I never reveal who I vote for. Nice try.

Why did you resign as administrator of the EPA?
One reason was that my husband and I really did not like the bifurcated marriage we had. But there were regulations that were about to be promulgated that I had been working on for two and a half years which I felt very strongly about that were going to end up in a place where I just wasn’t comfortable. The president had an absolute right to set policy. He was elected, not me, but he also had a right to have an administrator who could implement those policies with a clear conscience, and I just couldn’t have signed that regulation.

Of all the jobs that you’ve had, which has been the most fun?
Governor, without a doubt. The governor of New Jersey was constitutionally the most powerful. Your ability to make a difference, really shape policy and see it through is enormous. And that is very challenging, exciting and satisfying.

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