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Daily News Archive
From January 10, 2001

Bush's Pick for Secretary of the Interior Could Weaken Environmental Protections

President-elect Bush's decision to pick Gale Norton as Secretary of the Interior, could weaken environmental protections if nominated. Norton is opposed by several environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, and the organized labor union AFL-CIO.

The Associated Press (AP) states that Norton favors the government paying landowners for losses incurred through government regulations that limits use of the landowner's land to protect wetlands or endangered species. In 1989, reports the AP, as a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, Norton stated "compensation 'provides fairness to the person who is harmed by … government action' and causes bureaucrats to examine what effect their regulations will have on their budget. Another approach, she argued, was to assume a 'reasonable right to use our property. … We might even go so far as to recognize a homesteading right to pollute or make noise in an area.'" Norton has also recommended expanding domestic oil and natural gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and voluntary compliance which allows polluters to avoid legal trouble if they turned themselves in and cleaned up the polluted area.

Norton is also listed as a lobbyist for NL Industries with the Colorado Legislature. NL Industries, formerly known as National Lead Co., based in Houston, Texas, is listed as a defendant in at least 14 federal environmental and personal injury lawsuits filed over the past two years, states the AP. The cases involve Superfund or other toxic waste sites, plus class-action lawsuits from people allegedly poisoned by lead paint. Norton is currently employed with a law firm, Brownstein Hyatt & Farber, that lobbies for 45 clients in Washington, some with politic interests before the Interior Department.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold hearings on January 18, 2001 on President-elect Bush's nominations for Norton as Secretary of the Interior.