EPA chief Whitman submits resignation letter

Cites desire to spend time with family

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Christie Whitman, who has often been at odds with the White House over environmental issues, submitted her resignation Wednesday as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Whitman said in a letter to President Bush that she was leaving to spend time with family.

"As rewarding as the past two-and-a-half years have been for me professionally, it is time to return to my home and husband in New Jersey, which I love just as you do your home state of Texas," she wrote Bush.

With Whitman's departure, Bush loses one of the most prominent women in his Cabinet -- a moderate former New Jersey governor selected by the president to help soften his image as a political conservative, particularly on environmental issues.

Whitman had a history of clashing with the White House, starting with the president's abrupt decision to withdraw from the international global warming treaty. She had been the administration's point person in rolling back environmental protections initiated by previous administrations.

As his re-election campaign gears up, Bush's senior staff and advisers consider the next few months as optimum time to leave the government; otherwise, they will be expected to remain aboard until after the 2004 election. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer announced Monday that he will resign in July.

Bush will be under pressure to replace Whitman with a nominee who will acceptable to his GOP supporters without alienating swing voters who tend to be wary of Republicans on the environment.

Whitman, a former New Jersey governor, said her resignation is effective June 27.

She met with Bush at the White House on Tuesday afternoon to inform him of her decision, the agency said.

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