EPA chief likens his job to bad bungee jump


WASHINGTON -- President Bush's top environmental adviser has sharply criticized the administration's handling of the recent Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, saying it was slow to engage crucial issues, late in assembling a delegation and unwilling to devote sufficient resources to the meeting.

The criticism by William K. Reilly, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the chief of the U.S. delegation at Rio, was made in a memorandum that he circulated to 12,000 agency employees two weeks ago.

"For me personally, it was like a bungee jump," Mr. Reilly said in the memorandum. "You dive into space secured by a line on your leg and trust it pulls you up before you smash into he ground. It doesn't typically occur to you that someone might cut your line."

Mr. Reilly has often been in conflict with Vice President Dan Quayle and other top officials who have sought to temper environmental policies advocated by the EPA director.

Despite the tone of the memorandum and its wide circulation within the agency, Mr. Reilly denied in a telephone interview yesterday that he intended to resign.

"I'm just communicating to my own people about something that was a very severe disappointment to them," Mr. Reilly said. "Their concern was how, in a country that brought the best environmental performance record to Rio, did we manage to become the focus of such criticism."

Whatever Mr. Reilly's intent, the memorandum is likely to provide new ammunition for Gov. Bill Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, and Sen. Al Gore, his running mate.

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