Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service

Project Prologue

Chemical Weapons Incineration

Chemical weapons incineration was a hotly debated topic in Utah prior to the Leavitt administration. Dennis Downs, former Director of the DEQ Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste, the agency that regulates the Incinerator, worked on this issue from the very beginning.  “At what is now known as the Deseret Chemical Depot in Tooele County, there was a stockpile of chemical weapons, including nerve agents and mustard agent. These chemical weapons had been stored there for many years–starting clear back to the 1940’s. The State of Utah had approximately 43% of the nation’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, secured, stored and monitored in earthen bunkers in the south area of the Tooele Army Depot, now designated Deseret Chemical Depot (DCD).” These chemical weapons and agents were never used by the military in combat, but the stockpiles were built up in case they were needed. In conjunction with an international treaty on chemical weapons destruction, the commitment was made by the federal government to destroy all of those weapons. Because of the extreme risk, due to the types of chemical agents involved and the deterioration of the weapons and containers, two decisions had been made prior to the Leavitt administration: 1) the (more…)


Air Quality

A major success of collaborative government and working with stakeholders was the Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP). This initiative involved reducing regional haze in the West by reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and fine particle pollution, all air pollutants that diminish visibility. Since regional haze is, by its very nature, a regional problem, the solution depends on a regional state and tribal collaborative effort. Ursula Kramer recounted, “The WRAP spent significant amounts of time developing the regional collaboration approach. Developing a mission statement, bylaws and organizational structure that were acceptable to the many stakeholders was challenging, but the finished product showed the time and effort was well spent.  The organization is so effective that WRAP has expanded and is still working today.” The WRAP partnership board included the governors of states and the governors of tribes.  Governor Leavitt was adamant that tribes should have a place at the table.  Ursula Kramer explained the situation: “Reduced visibility and regional haze problems were directly impacting the tribal lands, so it was appropriate to involve them.” The tribes did not have air quality data, but the National Park Service had a lot of data for tribal land. In addition to (more…)


Enlibra Principles Implemented at the DEQ

Enlibra is a neologism (from the Latin word for balance) created by the Western Governors’ Association to describe their approach to environmental stewardship.  The core principles of Enlibra are as follows: National Standards, Neighborhood Solutions – Assign Responsibilities at the Right Level Collaboration, Not Polarization – Use Collaborative Processes to Break Down Barriers and Find Solutions Reward Results, Not Programs – Move to a Performance-Based System Science for Facts, Process for Priorities – Separate Subjective Choices from Objective Data Gathering Markets Before Mandates – Pursue Economic Incentives Whenever Appropriate Change A Heart, Change A Nation – Environmental Understanding is Crucial Recognition of Benefits and Costs – Make Sure All Decisions Affecting Infrastructure, Development and Environment are Fully Informed Solutions Transcend Political Boundaries – Use Appropriate Geographic Boundaries for Environmental Problems Dianne Nielson, former Executive Director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), recalls, “The Enlibra principles were a natural fit for the work being done at DEQ. Working with all the stakeholders to find solutions and identifying issues early in the process were essential in resolving environmental problems. The Enlibra principles were part of every employee’s performance plan at DEQ.  The Leavitt Administration also removed a level of staff (more…)



Dianne Nielson explains receiving the news of the Olympics: “When Salt Lake City was awarded the bid, we had already been working on an environmental platform for the Olympics. And, Sonja Wallace was involved in that discussion, along with business leaders and individuals from Salt Lake City and the State who had been working on an environmental platform for the Games. As we focused on planning for the Olympics, we realized that it was critical to have a good working relationship for environmental and health issues across federal state and local responsibilities.” Sonja Wallace, former DEQ Environmental Scientist, worked with the Environmental Public Health Alliance (EPHA) and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) Environment Committee (EC). She recalls her experience: “I chaired and worked on many sub-committees. SLOC’s EC had the energy and water subcommittee, which made many recommendations about energy efficiency and water conservation elements that SLOC could implement for efficiency at the venues. The transportation sub-committee looked at air quality issues, idling buses, and various inversion problems. There was also a solid waste sub-committee. This group made the recommendation that the games should strive for a zero waste goal for the Olympic venues. This meant that within all (more…)


Envision Utah

Envision Utah engages people to create and sustain communities that are beautiful, prosperous,  healthy and neighborly for current and future residents. In 1997, Envision Utah brought together community leaders and neighbors to talk about what they valued in their communities. By providing choices, including the tools to evaluate different scenarios, people could decide how they wanted their community to grow.  Ursula Kramer said in regards to Envision Utah, “In Utah, Governor Leavitt took that on and made it a success. Larry Miller co-chaired the initiative with the Governor.  It was very clear that the Governor himself said that we are going to do this and we are going to make this a success. It’s another great example of a really collaborative process.” Today, there are many communities, within and outside Utah, involved in Envision planning. Envision Utah continues to enable communities to decide what they want their future to be.


Lessons Learned

Looking back, Utah is way ahead of other states in reaching across agency lines and working together.  Utah’s way of doing business is to actually practice principles such as collaboration at all levels.  Agencies set standards that many states can learn from.  Agencies that struggle with collaborative approaches prefer to use top down regulation; however, this is generally not successful.  Without collaboration,  if projects hit snags and controversial issues, the parties have no working relationships to solve problems. Without trust and a commitment to work together to solve problems,


Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service