Johnson, who has been with the EPA for 24 years, became the agency’s acting administrator on Jan. 26 when then-chief Mike Leavitt left to become the new secretary of health and human services.
The president announced Johnson’s nomination at a ceremony in the White House Roosevelt Room.
“He knows the EPA from the ground up and has a passion for its mission,” Mr. Bush said.
If the Senate confirms him, Johnson will be the first professional scientist to head the agency and its 11th administrator, according to the Associated Press.
“If confirmed, it will be my distinct privilege to serve you and our nation to continue to advance an environmental agenda while maintaining our nation’s economic competitiveness,” he said at Friday’s ceremony.
The president said one of Johnson’s top jobs would be to “lead federal efforts to ensure the safety of our drinking water supply,” saying the EPA has “an important role in the war on terror.”
Johnson will also likely tackle another element of President Bush’s environmental agenda, namely his “Clear Skies” plan for curbing power plant pollution, but not carbon dioxide emissions, the main greenhouse gas linked to global warming.
Court challenges are looming over a revised Clean Air Act rule that requires older industrial plants and refineries to add pollution controls if they expand. In an effort to make the rule less cumbersome to plants seeking to upgrade, the EPA changed the rule to say a facility can spend up to 20 percent of total replacement costs without triggering new pollution controls. Environmentalists view the change as a relaxing of clean air rules and a gift to the industry.
Also, under court order, the EPA is due to introduce this month the first national cap on mercury emissions, reported the AP.
Johnson’s background at the agency includes working in pesticides and toxic substances.