Environmental community opposes Norton as Interior Secretary

Leaders of the nation's top environmental organizations announced their opposition to Gale Norton as interior secretary at a joint press conference today and urged the U.S. Senate to reject her nomination.

Jan. 12, 2001--INTERNET WIRE -- Leaders of the nation's top environmental organizations - including the president of Republicans for Environmental Protection - announced their opposition to Gale Norton as interior secretary at a joint press conference today and urged the U.S. Senate to reject her nomination.

Norton, a protege of James Watt, the controversial Reagan administration secretary of interior who was forced to resign, supports oil drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, believes polluters may have the "right" to pollute, and believes polluters should be allowed to police themselves (also known as "self-auditing"). Throughout her career she has been an active member of anti-government Libertarian organizations and anti-environmental groups.

At Friday's press conference, a more than a dozen environmental groups released a new League of Conservation Voters survey that shows her anti-environmental views are overwhelmingly at odds with American public opinion. By a 2-to-1 margin, Americans want administration nominees who are committed to protecting the environment.

The environmental groups also released a detailed report that revealed Norton:

has a long record of opposition to federal land and wildlife stewardship and instead favors logging, drilling, grazing and mining interests; does not support a strong role for federal enforcement of environmental laws; endorsed eliminating the Bureau of Land Management, selling off fish and wildlife refuges and transferring public lands to private parties; believes taxpayers should pay the private sector to comply with environmental laws; has called the fundamental environmental protections for surface mine reclamation unconstitutional; and is a confirmed Libertarian whose views on environmental stewardship are at odds not only with prevailing public sentiment, but with mainstream Republican Party positions.

Representatives from the environmental organizations made the following statements about George W. Bush's nomination for interior secretary:

"They say you can judge people by the friends they pick. Well, Gale Norton could have publicly distanced herself from the extreme anti-environment wing that inhabits a dark corner of our Grand Old Party," said Martha Marks, president of Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP America). "Instead she has embraced the views and leaders of those organizations that want to open our wildlife refuges to polluting development, stymie the recovery and protection of endangered species, and squander the gifts of public lands bequeathed to the American people by previous generations."

"Gale Norton has devoted her life to undermining the mission of the agency she has been nominated to lead," said Greg Wetstone, program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Her nomination is a direct challenge to even the most basic land and wildlife stewardship and a slap in the face to the overwhelming majority of Americans who favor protecting our endangered natural resources."

"In nominating Gale Norton to be interior secretary, President-elect Bush has selected a staunch anti-environmentalist, and broken his pledge to work in a bipartisan fashion for the good of the country," said Bill Meadows, president of the Wilderness Society. "Her career-long support for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - the most treasured wildland in America -- reflects a land management philosophy that favors the few over the majority and corporate interests over our children's natural heritage."

"Gale Norton would be a natural disaster as interior secretary. Her extremist agenda clashes with mainstream Americans who love our national parks and wild lands," said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. "Norton's nomination is a giant reward to the oil, gas and mining interests that helped fund President-elect Bush's campaign."

"Gale Norton is a wolf in sheep's clothing - an undercover operative for industries that want to plunder our public lands," said Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth.

"Clearly, this appointment is intended to satisfy only the extremist right-wing element of Mr. Bush's party, a segment that has been aching to open up our public lands to massive resource exploitation, including the crown jewel of our wildlife sanctuaries, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife.

"Gale Norton's environmental enforcement record as Colorado attorney general shows that, time after time, she sided with mines and mills instead of public health and the environment," said U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) Executive Director Gene Karpinski. "The public has repeatedly said they want more, not less, environmental protection. Ms. Norton is the wrong person for the job."

Norton is registered to lobby Congress and the Colorado State Legislature on behalf of NL Industries of Houston, Texas," Physicians for Social Responsibility Executive Director and CEO Robert Musil. "NL Industries was once known as National Lead Company, a defendant in cases involving scores of Superfund sites and a dozen cases about children's exposure to lead paint. Senators should be mindful not only of Norton's anti-environmentalism but especially of her views opposing children's health. They must reject her nomination as secretary of the interior. The land, water and health of our children have too few advocates already. The mining, timber and petroleum industries already have more than we need."

"American voters decidedly support stronger environmental and public lands protections and enforcement of environmental laws, a position Gale Norton has spent a career opposing," said League of Conservation Voters Education Fund President Deb Callahan. "Since polling clearly shows that broad majorities of Americans favor protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas drilling, safeguarding national parks from development and protecting national forests from the ravages of road building, Norton's actions as interior secretary would be a direct affront to the wishes of the American people."

"Americans deserve an interior secretary who has demonstrated an unswerving commitment to public stewardship and the protection of fragile ecosystems on land and in the sea," said Barbara Jeanne Polo, executive director of the American Oceans Campaign. "We are convinced Ms. Norton does not meet this standard."

For more information on Gale Norton, go to www.SayNoToNorton.org.

American Oceans Campaign, Alaska Wilderness League, Community Rights Counsel, Defenders of Wildlife, Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund, Endangered Species Coalition, Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, The Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, The Wilderness Society

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