Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service

Project Prologue

Western Governors’ Association

INTRODUCTION

During his tenure as governor of Utah, Mike Leavitt was also a member of the Western Governors’ Association whose members governor 19 states and three U.S.-flag islands in the Pacific. WGA works on policy issues affecting the American West.

Leavitt served as vice chair in 1994 and as chair in 1995. During this time, Leavitt applied one of his core philosophies – federalism – to his policies as he argued for a more centralized approach to governance, putting more control in the hands of the states.

Among the initiatives he led were:

1) Enlibra: A New Shared Doctrine for Environmental Management

2) The Western States Primary

Enlibra: A New Shared Doctrine for Environmental Management

When Leavitt was elected governor of Utah in 1992, he was appointed vice chair of the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission – a federally-appointed task force charged with cleaning up the haze over the Grand Canyon. The federal government gave the members of the task force five years to come up with a plan. If they failed, the EPA would do it for them.

As Leavitt met with other governors, leaders of Native American nations and representatives from the private sector who were all serving on the task force, he discovered that everyone seemed politically and economically motivated not to agree on a solution. In fact, during his service as governor, he found environmental discussions extremely difficult because of the deep division between interested parties.

He has described seeing two cars alongside each other at an intersection in Salt Lake City.  One had a bumper sticker that read, “Earth First … We’ll Mine the Other Planets Later.”  The other said: “Save the Earth … Kill Yourself.”  Leavitt says, “Someplace between those two lies the reality of the environmental debate.”

He concluded there had to be a better way of doing this.  He came up with eight points that he felt could serve as a starting point for discussion and creating solutions.

He outlined these points in a speech he gave to the Western Governors’ Association on June 29, 1998, titled “The Environment: A Down to Earth Approach,” from which the following is taken:

National Standards/Neighbourhood Strategies – Assign Responsibilities at the Right Level

The federal government is responsible for setting environmental standards for national efforts. These standards should be developed in consultation with the states and in the form of scientifically-justified outcomes. National standards for delegated programs should not include prescriptive measures on how they are to be met. States should have the option of developing plans to meet those standards and ensuring that the standards are met.

Planning at the state level is preferable because it allows for greater consideration of ecological, economic, social and political differences that exist across the nation. A state can tailor its plans to meet local conditions and priorities, thereby ensuring broad community support and ownership of the plans. States can also work together to address conditions and issues that cross their boundaries.

It is appropriate for the federal government to provide funds and technical assistance within the context of a state plan to achieve national standards. In the event that states do not want to develop their own plans, the federal government should become more actively involved in meeting the standards.

Collaboration, Not Polarization – Use Collaborative Processes to Break Down Barriers and Find Solutions

The old model of command and control, enforcement-based programs is reaching the point of diminishing returns. It now frequently leads to highly-polarized constituencies that force traditional actions by governmental authorities without first determining if they are the most effective ways to protect environmental values.

Successful environmental policy implementation is best accomplished through balanced, open and inclusive approaches at the ground level, where interested public and private stakeholders work together to formulate critical issue statements and develop locally-based solutions to those issues. Collaborative approaches often result in greater satisfaction with outcomes, broader public support, and lasting productive working relationships among parties.

Additionally, collaborative mechanisms may save costs when compared with traditional means of policy development, and can lessen the chance that an involved party will dispute a final result. To be successful however, and given the often local nature of collaborative processes, private and public interests must provide resources to support these efforts.

Reward Results, Not Programs – Move to a Performance-Based System

Everyone wants a clean and safe environment. This will best be achieved when government actions are focused on outcomes, not programs, and when innovative approaches to achieving desired outcomes are rewarded. Federal and state policies should encourage “outside the box” thinking in the development of strategies to achieve desired outcomes.

Solving problems rather than just complying with programs should be rewarded.

Science for Facts, Process for Priorities – Separate Subjective Choices from Objective Data Gathering

Competing interests usually point to the science supporting their view. It is best to try to reach agreement on the underlying facts surrounding the environmental question at hand before trying to frame the choices to be made. Using credible, independent scientists can help in this process and can reduce the problem of “competing science” but it may not eliminate it. There comes a time in the collaborative process when the interested stakeholders must evaluate the scientific evidence on which there may be disagreement and make difficult policy decisions.

Markets Before Mandates – Replace Command and Control with Economic Incentives Whenever Appropriate

While states and most industries within the states want to protect the environment and achieve desired environmental outcomes at the lowest cost to society, many federal programs require the use of specific technologies and processes to achieve these outcomes. Reliance on the threat of enforcement action to force compliance with technology or process requirements may result in adequate environmental protection.

Such prescriptive approaches, however, reward litigation and delay; cripple incentives for technological innovation; increase animosity between government, industry and the public; and increase the cost of environmental protection. Market-based approaches and economic incentives which send appropriate price signals to polluters would result in more efficient and cost-effective results and may lead to quicker compliance.

Recognition of Benefits and Costs – Make Sure Environmental Decisions are Fully Informed

The implementation of environmental policies and programs should be guided by an assessment of the costs and benefits of different options and a determination of the feasibility of implementing the options. The assessment of the feasibility of implementing options should consider the social, legal, economic, and political factors and identify a viable strategy for addressing the major costs.

Solutions Transcend Political Boundaries – Use Appropriate Geographic Boundaries for Environmental Problems

Many of the environmental challenges in the West span political and agency boundaries. Challenges may be circumscribed by specific transboundary water or air sheds, and their solutions may better be defined by the geography of certain markets or biologic factors rather than by the geography of a single political jurisdiction. Recognizing these factors, voluntary interstate strategies as well as other partnerships may be an important tool in the future.

Change a Heart, Change a Nation – Environmental Understanding is Crucial

Governments at all levels can develop policies, programs and procedures for protecting the environment. Yet the success of these policies ultimately depends on the daily choices of our citizens. Beginning with the nation’s youth, people need to understand their relationship with the environment. They need to understand the importance of sustaining and enhancing their surroundings for themselves and future generations.

If we are able to achieve a healthy environment, it will be because citizens understand that a healthy environment is critical to the social and economic health of the nation.

Government has a role in educating people about stewardship of natural resources. One important way for government to promote individual responsibility is by rewarding those who meet their stewardship responsibilities, rather than imposing additional restrictions on their activities.

http://archive.li.suu.edu/docs/ms122/SP/ms122SP19980629.pdf

Leavitt had his policy. Now, it needed a name – a word or phrase that would succinctly answer the question, “What is your environmental policy?” He admired the way the word “perestroika” efficiently captured the definition of that social movement. One morning, on his way to the capitol building, he stopped by the Salt Lake County library and started looking through a Latin dictionary.

He settled on combining en, which means “to move toward” with libra, which means “balance.”

Not everyone liked the name Enlibra, including members of Leavitt’s staff. Vicki Varela, deputy chief of staff, argued against it. The feedback she was receiving was that it was not proper Latin, that it sounded like “bad Spanish.” (At one of the governor’s spring galas, where Leavitt tended to roast himself, he sang, to the tune of “Maria,” from West Side Story, “Enlibra. I just made a word called Enlibra.”)

He started discussing the policy with Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon. Kitzhaber had a reputation for being a leader on environmental issues. As they shared their views on the environment and their experiences serving on the Grand Canyon Visibility Commission, they found many parallels. They agreed there ought to be a set of environmental principles for those in the middle.

Kitzhaber and Leavitt became the lead governors on the environmental policy of the Western Governors’ Association. They had scheduled appointments with the editorial boards of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to discuss the eight-point policy. But they had yet to settle on a name.

Kitzhaber and Leavitt met in front of the New York Times building 10 minutes before their editorial board meeting. On the hood of a taxi cab, they laid out slips of paper with potential names. They settled on Enlibra.

In 2003, Leavitt was appointed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Prior to his appointment, during his interview with President George W. Bush, Leavitt laid out his definition of The Bush Doctrine of Environmental Management. He clicked through the eight principles of Enlibra without using the word Enlibra. “It was the most brilliant answer I ever gave in the Oval Office,” he said.

When Leavitt was appointed administrator of the EPA, EPA career staff worried that Enlibra would be crammed down their throats, according to Leavitt’s former chief of staff Rich McKeown, so he soft-pedaled it. But wherever he went, he talked about the principles, which generated a lot of enthusiasm and were well received. The EPA came to see them as principles which aligned with the core philosophy of the agency.

Enlibra has remained an active position paper at the National Governors Association since 1999, and also at the Western Governors’ Association under the title “Principles for Environmental Management in the West.”

WESTERN STATES PRIMARY

During his tenure as governor, Leavitt noted how irregular and disproportionate the influence of some states was during presidential election primaries. He was concerned about the lack of political potency in the West. He felt that if he could get several Western states together, they could form a formidable group – one which would have enough electoral votes to exceed those of California.

Varela, Leavitt’s former deputy chief of staff, recalls, “Once the idea started circulating in the office, it just hit us over the head – obvious! Of course we should be doing this. I remember after the discussion had been going on for several months, we decided to do a Western states’ swing and visit with each of the governors, so we did that over about a two-and-a-half day period. John Price provided his plane. We went and made the case. I don’t remember anyone who disagreed with it. It was like, once the discussion was alive, everybody just said, ‘Of course.’”

Leavitt argued for a Western States Primary where Rocky Mountain states would vote on the same day. He went to Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, New Mexico, Idaho and Nevada to test his idea. The states were initially enthusiastic about the concept, but as time went on, the actual execution of the primary became more difficult.

One of the hurdles was the date of the primary. Tuesdays were already taken. The Jewish community objected to Saturdays. Holding the primary on a Friday posed problems for the Islamic community.

The second hurdle was getting states to sign on. States such as Arizona, for example, were content to have their own primaries.

Another hurdle was the financial commitment of $200,000 from each state. Some legislatures balked at the amount.

In the end, three states – Wyoming, Utah and Colorado – signed on, and on Friday, March 10, 2000, the first Western States Presidential Primary was held.

But by the time of the primary, George W. Bush had the Republican nomination sewn up, and Al Gore was close to securing the Democratic nomination, so voter turnout was low.

Eight years later, Governor Huntsman resurrected it.

While talking to states about the primary, Leavitt was also talking to the eight states about the idea for a full-accredited, online university (Western Governors University), which ended up being a more successful initiative.  (See the report about Western Governors University at http://leavitt.li.suu.edu/leavitt/category/western-governors-university/)


Leadership of Western Governors Association during the Leavitt Administration


YEAR
CHAIR VICE CHAIR WHERE ANNUAL MEETING WAS HELD
1993 Governor John Fife Symington III of Arizona Governor Bob Miller of Nevada Tucson, AZ
1994 Governor Bob Miller of Nevada Governor Michael O. Leavitt South Lake Tahoe, NV
1995 Governor Michael O. Leavitt of Utah Governor Ben Nelson of Nebraska Park City, UT
1996 Governor Ben Nelson of Nebraska Governor Ed Shafer of North Dakota Omaha, NE
1997 Governor Ed Shafer of North Dakota Governor Tony Knowles of Alaska Medora, ND
1998 Governor Tony Knowles of Alaska Governor Jim Geringer of Wyoming Girdwood, AK
1999 Governor Jim Geringer of Wyoming Governor Ben Cayetano of Hawaii Jackson Hole, WY
2000 Governor Ben Cayetano of Hawaii Governor Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho Honolulu, HI
2001 Governor Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho Governor Jane Dee Hull of Arizona Coeur d’Alene, ID
2002 Governor Jane Dee Hull of Arizona Governor Judy Martz of Montana Phoenix, AZ
2003 Governor Judy Martz of Montana Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico Big Sky, MT

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Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service