Earthjustice Opposes Nomination of Gale Norton to Head Interior

Norton favors opening Arctic Refuge to drilling, favors property rights and reduced corporate responsibility


Brian Smith, Earthjustice (415) 627-6700

Responding to a long history of conflicts with even the most basic conservation measures, Earthjustice today officially denounced the nomination of Gale Norton as Secretary of Interior. “The incoming administration led the American people to believe they were out to choose moderate, centrist-type people for cabinet positions,” said Buck Parker, executive director of Earthjustice. “They missed the boat in choosing Gale Norton.”

Today, a coalition of conservation, environmental and labor organizations will gather at the National Press Club to announce their strong opposition to this nominee. “Earthjustice fully stands with our colleagues and friends who today are making the statement that this nomination is one to be taken as a severe threat to the environment,” said Parker.

Conservationists charge that Norton has an extended history of working against environmental measures while pushing diligently for increased private property rights and reduced responsibility for corporations that pollute. In addition, Norton has worked with and for such anti-environmental entities as former Interior Secretary James Watt and the Mountain States Legal Foundation.

“One need look no further for an example of Ms. Norton’s dangerous and unpopular views towards the environment than the arguments she supported in a 1994 Endangered Species Act case before the Supreme Court,” said Parker.

As then-Attorney General of Colorado, Norton argued that the Endangered Species Act could not and should not be used to prevent the destruction of essential habitat even if that destruction would lead to the death of endangered animals. Fortunately, the Supreme Court flatly rejected these extremist views.

“Gale Norton believes that private property rights and corporate bottom lines take precedence over our nation’s most treasured natural resources,” said Parker. “She is on record time and again favoring opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. She has demonstrated time and again little regard for endangered species and other wildlife. And we know that the majority of her views are extremist and drastically out of step with those of the American public. Ms. Norton is simply not fit to be the chief protector of our wild and free places and the fish and wildlife that depend on them.”

“We at Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund strongly oppose Gale Norton’s nomination as Secretary of Interior. We have serious doubts about Ms. Norton’s willingness to uphold the most rudimentary environmental laws of the United States and to carry out her duties as Interior Secretary.”

“In the event that Ms. Norton is confirmed, however, Earthjustice is prepared to fight, in court, any attempt by a Norton-run Interior department to roll back environmental protections or to undermine more than 25 years of environmental progress.”

“After an extremely difficult election that created a divided nation, we had hoped the Bush team would have had the sense to nominate a less controversial candidate for Interior Secretary. Earthjustice is still hopeful that Ms. Norton’s nomination will be withdrawn and that a wiser choice will be made.”

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