Secretary of Interior Gale Norton
Interior Choice Sends a Signal on Land Policy
December 30, 2000 By DOUGLAS JEHL
WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 As a young lawyer in President Ronald Reagan's
Interior Department, Gale Norton was part of an unsuccessful effort
to persuade Congressional Democrats to open Alaska's National
Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.
Now Ms. Norton is poised to plunge back into that bitter fight,
this time as interior secretary under another Republican president
who has accused Democrats of doing too much to lock up natural
resources in the name of conservation.
With President-elect George W. Bush vowing to allow oil companies
access to the wildlife refuge, and most Democrats aligned strongly
against the plan, the battle over new oil drilling in Alaska is
shaping up as a defining controversy for the early months of the
Bush administration. And in naming Ms. Norton, 46, as his steward
of the nation's public lands, Mr. Bush has sent a strong signal
that what he has in mind and not only in Alaska would indeed
mark a sharp shift in course.
Except for the choice of John Ashcroft as attorney general,
Bush cabinet selection so far may create more opposition than this
one. It was unclear how actively environmental groups might fight
to block Ms. Norton's nomination, but the Sierra Club, in
particular, commands a broad membership and has shown a willingness
to spend large amounts of money in such political battles.
A former protégé of James Watt, Mr. Reagan's
secretary, Ms. Norton has long been an outspoken advocate of
granting states, localities and even private corporations a greater
voice in environmental decisions that under Democratic leadership
have been mostly the preserve of the federal government.
"She believes very much that less regulation is better,
the best control is at the lowest level of government possible,"
said Matti Allbright, who served as Colorado's deputy attorney
general under Ms. Norton. "I don't think she's going to push around
those who are trying to come up with their own solutions."
In a hint of the turnabout that seems to be under way, those
were celebrating Ms. Norton's appointment most loudly today
included groups like the oil industry and off-road enthusiasts, who
have complained that their views about federal lands were being
ignored under the Clinton administration.
At the Cato Institute, a research organization in Washington
is a vigorous opponent of federal regulation, Jerry Taylor,
director of natural resource policy, said he and other fellows were
"popping Champagne" in celebration of Mr. Bush's choice.
"The appointment of Gale Norton is a throwing down of
against the constituency who believes that the federal government
needs to lock up more land or wall off existing land from further
economic exploitation," Mr. Taylor said.
By contrast, the loudest complaints came from the environmental
groups that most often came out as winners in Mr. Clinton's big
decisions, and who warned that the choice of Ms. Norton would
presage a return to darker times.
"Our view is that this is James Watt in a skirt,"
Mattison, the national spokesman for the Sierra Club, suggesting
that Ms. Norton might prove as unsympathetic to conservationists as
Mr. Watt, who hired her at the Mountain States Legal Foundation
after she left the University of Denver.
As interior secretary, Mr. Watt outraged environmentalists
fronts, in particular by trying to bypass Congressional
restrictions in order to allow oil and gas exploration in protected
areas of the West. Mr. Watt was seen as sympathetic to the ranchers
and miners who in the late 1970's had waged what they called a
Sagebrush Rebellion against federal authority, and he could be
personally provocative, at one point ordering, for reasons of
political symbolism, that the buffalo on the Interior Department
seal, which had always faced to the left, face to the right
As attorney general, Ms. Norton was a strong advocate of
Colorado's "self-audit" law, which lets companies conduct voluntary
audits to determine whether they are complying with environmental
requirements. The law gives businesses immunity from litigation and
fines if they report and correct the violations, and it and others
like it have faced strong opposition from the Environmental
Ms. Norton later moved on to serve in the Agriculture Department
and then in the Interior Department, where she oversaw legal issues
involving endangered species and public lands.
In 1990, she was elected attorney general in Colorado, where
defeated a three-term incumbent, and where she won re-election four
years later. Ms. Norton lost a 1996 bid for the United States
Senate when she was defeated in the Republican primary, and left
office in 1998 under Colorado's term-limits laws. She has since
been employed as senior counsel at Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber, a
leading Colorado law firm.
Ms. Norton and her husband, John G. Hughes, a commercial real
estate broker, live in Highlands Ranch, Colo., a suburb south of
Ms. Norton has been a firm champion of the view that federal
should be passed down to the states and other interests.
She is a member of the board of the Independence Institute,
Colorado-based organization that describes itself as a champion of
the free market and which introduced her in 1996 as a "hero of
devolution." As attorney general, Ms. Norton succeeded in
persuading the Bush and Clinton administrations to modify rigid
environmental cleanup regulations to accelerate the cleanup of
hazardous wastes at Rocky Flats, a nuclear weapons site, and at the
Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a manufacturing point for chemical weapons.
But Ms. Norton's opposition to top- down solutions also made
considerable frustration, her associates said, when her espousal of
Colorado- born solutions ran headlong into federal opposition. In a
1996 speech, Ms. Norton criticized what she said had been the
Clinton administration's challenges to Colorado's self-audit
approach, including what she said had been a threat to cut off
millions of dollars in federal assistance "because we had the
audacity to adopt something in environmental area."
"We'll have the opportunity to do battle once again on
of the state being able to make its own decisions," she said, and
then continued: "Just as free markets triumphed over communism, we
are in a time when the intellectual debate is shifting; when we are
part of the framework that will make these things happen; when we
can be part of the intellectual battle that shift power from
Washington back to states and local communities."
In interviews today, several former associates described Ms.
Norton as a person who was willing to compromise to seek consensus.
David Kopel, a Democrat who said that Ms. Norton's conservative
background prompted some trepidation within the Colorado attorney
general's office, said she had instead proven herself to be
"conservative with a small `c,' in that she is cautious and not
inclined to push radical solutions."
"She's able to work very well across partisan barriers,
think that's precisely what that agency needs," said Christine
Gregoire, a Democrat who is the attorney general in Washington
State, and who chose Ms. Norton to represent Colorado and other
states in what became the $206 billion national tobacco settlement,
the largest legal settlement in history.
Phil Carlton, a tobacco industry attorney in those negotiations,
said Ms. Norton had distinguished herself among his adversaries in
that she was willing to listen to both sides of the issue.
Among the most enthusiastic responses to Ms. Norton's selection
was from the Independent Petroleum Producers Association, whose
5,000 members represent 85 percent of the oil wells drilled in the
United States. It said that Ms. Norton "understands the issues in
the West where federal land so dominates access to the natural
resource base," and that it was "looking forward to working with
her to address the energy supply problems that are so significant
in our nation today."
Below excerpted from the NY times opinion section:
Gale Norton, the former Colorado attorney general, chosen
brings considerable familiarity with environmental issues but also
a reputation as a dedicated property rights advocate with deep
reservations about the Clinton administration's aggressive efforts
to enlarge federal protections for wilderness and wildlife.
Nortons political pedigree is deeply disturbing. She has
been associated with two of the worst Interior secretaries in the
department's history, James Watt and Donald Hodel, both appointed
by Ronald Reagan. As a young attorney she was hired by Mr. Watt for
a staff position at the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a sort of
right-wing answer to the Sierra Club that favors traditional
Western economic interests like ranching, mining and forestry, and
has litigated vigorously against the Endangered Species Act and
other basic federal statutes that the Interior Department is sworn
to uphold. In the mid-1980's Ms. Norton served as associate
solicitor at Interior, where she helped craft the legal basis for
Mr. Hodel's efforts to open the coastal plain of the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. Mr. Bush promised
during his campaign to ask Congress to open the plain for drilling,
and in Ms. Norton he has an enthusiastic ally.
January 9, 2001
Dear Members of Friends of Animals:
Recently, President-elect George W. Bush nominated Gale A.
Norton for the
position of Secretary of the Interior. Friends of Animals opposes Ms.
Norton's nomination for the following reasons:
If the United States Senate approves Gale Norton for service
President-elect George W. Bush's Administration, we can expect devastating
effects for American animals of the wild and their natural habitats:
Ms. Norton will coordinate the destruction of 19.2 million acres
the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which is the center of the last
untouched Arctic ecosystem in North America. Animal rights and
environmental organizations have urged President Clinton to safeguard the
region to protect it from uncertainties of the Bush administration. The area
boasts hundreds of thousands of caribou, bears, oxen, wolves, over 160
species of birds, and other arctic animals. The destruction of this home to
millions of animals will only benefit the interests of major oil companies,
drilling for what the U.S. Geological Survey estimates to be a paltry
6-month oil supply (3.2 million barrels) for American consumers.
Ms. Norton and Bush will undo federal regulations enacted by
Clinton administration and the current Secretary of the Interior, including
opening the ANWR and reversing the designation of certain land areas as
National Monuments, like the Giant Sequoia National Forest in Central
California. Additionally, Ms. Norton has openly criticized regulations made
by The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In a recent
interview with CNN, Senior White House Correspondent John King says that
Norton "is likely to have a much different approach than Interior Secretary
Bruce Babbitt has had...this is probably as about as much a 180-degree
change as you can get."
There will be a huge disparity among state treatments of issues
affecting the environment and endangered species. Some states will be more
lenient, others more strict. Protected lands and endangered species will
only be as safe as their state will allow; national standards will be too
lax to defend them.
According to Marlene Cimons and Marla Cone in a December 30th
article of the Los Angeles Times, California's environment and economy - one
of the most disputed in the nation - will experience the following changes
with Ms. Norton's influence:
-reallocation of water supplies; more for agriculture and businesses,
less for homes and wildlife.
-endangerment of a large number of endangered birds and other
whom Southern California is home
-expansion of offshore oil drilling
-the commercialization and mismanagement of Yosemite National Park
Americans will be more likely to face disasters like the Exxon-Valdez oil spill of ten years ago, whose oils remain scattered along the Alaskan shoreline today.
In her struggle to balance the needs of the environment with
the needs of
society and the economy by limiting the input of the federal government,
Gale A. Norton has become a threat to protected United States land and
wildlife. With her balancing act, the interests of companies always
outweigh those of wildlife and government protected lands. Please protect
America's wildlife and wilderness from senseless exploitation by opposing
the nomination of Gale A. Norton for Secretary of the Interior.
Please write or telephone your United States Senator to express
discontent with George W. Bush's nomination of Gale A. Norton for the
position of Secretary of the Interior. These are the people who will be
approving her nomination! Letters and calls must be received before Tuesday,
January 16, 2001 - the date Norton's hearings begin.
You may find specific Senate addresses online at:
or you may write your senator
at this address: United States Senate, Washington DC 20510. You may also
call the United States Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and an operator
will connect you with the Senate office you request.
Priscilla Feral, President Friends of Animals
NY Times, Bob Herbert, excerpt: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/08/opinion/08HERB.html
Gale Norton is Mr. Bush's pick to head the Interior Department,
which was the cue for environmentalists to run for cover. Almost as
soon as the announcement was made the wire services were crackling
with stories about her lobbying efforts on behalf of a lead-paint
manufacturer that is facing numerous lawsuits. The company was
identified as NL Industries of Houston. It used to be called the
National Lead Company.
According to The Associated Press, "The company said it
named a defendant in suits involving 75 Superfund or other
toxic-waste sites, plus a dozen lawsuits involving children
allegedly poisoned by lead paint."
Environmentalists were upset by that, and by the fact that
Norton's favored approach to the enforcement of environmental laws
is to have corporate polluters police themselves.
Interior Secretary -- former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton
The Sierra Club opposes Bush's selection of Gale Norton as Interior
Secretary. During the Reagan presidency, Norton served as associate
solicitor at the Interior Department under Interior Secretary James
Watt. In that capacity she authored and signed legal opinions in support
of drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and provided legal
advice on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's controversial approval of
Two Forks Dam. Norton has also called the government's handling of
endangered species cases as an example of excessive regulation.
Watt later hired Norton as a lawyer for the arch-conservative
States Legal Foundation, which often represents loggers, miners,
ranchers and water developers in fights against environmental groups.
Norton is also the founder and serves on advisory committee of the
Coalition of Republican Environmental Advocates (CREA), which is
considered by the Republicans for Environmental Protection (a legitimate
GOP environmental group) to be "a transparent attempt to fool voters who
care about environmental protection." Contributors to CREA include
several energy companies and associations representing the mining,
logging, chemical and coal industries.