President George Bush nominated Steve Johnson, the acting head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to the top job today. 

“Steve Johnson is a talented scientist and a skilled manager with a lifelong commitment to environmental stewardship,” Bush said in announcing his nomination today at the White House Washington.

Johnson, 53, has served as the agency's acting director since Michael Leavitt, the former Utah governor who headed the EPA for a year, left the post earlier this year to become secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

If confirmed by the Senate, Johnson would be the EPA's 11th head, the third to serve under Bush and the first career EPA employee to serve as director. He would lead the push for Bush's ``Clear Skies'' legislation that's been stalled in Congress since it was introduced in 2002.

The legislation would revamp U.S. air pollution laws, creating a “cap-and-trade” system that allows utilities that exceed pollution limits to trade credits with utilities below the limits. The proposed rule would change the standards for emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury. Environmentalists say it would lower existing federal standards.

Johnson has worked at the agency for 24 years. Before becoming acting director he was an assistant administrator in the office that implements pesticide and pollution prevention laws. He is the first career scientist to lead the agency. 

Bloomberg News