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[GreenYes] Norton Appointment
    Friday, January 19, 2001  
InfoBeat - Norton: Will protect environment
Associated Press Writer

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Gale Norton called herself ``a passionate
conservationist'' at her confirmation hearing Thursday and said she
would enforce environmental protections as head of the Interior
    The top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Committee said after the hearing he doubted opponents could block
Norton's nomination. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said he
anticipates Norton will get all 50 Republican votes and, ``I will
assume she'll have some Democratic votes as well.''
    Norton said her critics had misinterpreted her writings to
portray her as an enemy of the environment. She said she prefers
collaborating with state and local governments and ``the people who
feel closest to the land,'' but does support protecting endangered
species and fighting pollution.
    ``I am both a conservative and a conservationist. I see no
conflict there,'' said Norton, a former Colorado state attorney
general. ``In fact, I am a compassionate conservative and a
passionate conservationist. I believe that, too, is entirely
    Norton said she had pursued polluters during her eight years as
Colorado's top law enforcer, putting some in prison and suing to
block a bankrupt mine operator from abandoning efforts to fight
water contamination.
    She also disavowed as poorly worded comments that she made at a
1989 symposium that ``we might even go so far as to recognize a
homesteading right to pollute.''
    ``The idea of a right to pollute is not something that I
support,'' Norton said.
    She later added that she did not believe private property rights
trumped all environmental regulations.
    ``You cannot use your property in a way that harms your
neighbors,'' Norton said.
    Committee Democrats said they were encouraged by Norton's
answers but that they had not decided whether to support her.
    ``You have to convince me in these hearings that as you provide
flexibility to states and other parties, that your bottom line will
be unwavering _ that all environmental laws will be enforced,''
said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
    Senators questioned Norton for about two hours Thursday and
scheduled a second round for Friday.
    If confirmed, Norton would be the first woman to head the
Interior Department, which oversees about a third of the nation's
land and most federally owned mineral and petroleum resources.
    Environmentalists contend Norton's writings and legal work
supporting private property rights and public land uses such as
mining and oil drilling show an ``anti-environmental agenda.'' That
phrase appeared in an ad in Thursday's Washington Post paid for by
the League of Conservation Voters.
    ``I think it is a gross defamation of a public servant,'' said
Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., holding up a copy of the ad.
    Norton said she had seen the ad and some of the other criticism
of her by environmental groups.
    ``It doesn't hurt my feelings because it doesn't sound like
me,'' Norton said.
    Three members of Greenpeace USA were arrested Thursday morning
after two used ropes to dangle outside the third floor of Interior
Department headquarters holding a banner reading, ``Bush and
Norton: Our land, not oil land!''
    Some environmentalists said they were upset senators did not
press Norton harder at Thursday's hearing.
    ``It was a bunch of softballs,'' said Brent Blackwelder,
president of Friends of the Earth.
    Norton told the senators she would sell her stock in Prima
Energy, a Denver-based company with oil and natural gas wells
overseen by the Interior Department in Colorado and Wyoming. Her
financial disclosure report says Norton owns between $1,001 and
$15,000 in Prima Energy stock.
    Norton said she also would get rid of a tax-sheltered annuity
left over as a benefit from her four years of work for the Mountain
States Legal Foundation. The conservative group has sued the
Interior Department repeatedly to block monument designations and
other environmental restrictions, and environmentalists have
criticized Norton for her ties to the group.



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