2001 Scorecard Vote
As the nation's primary steward of federal lands, the Secretary of the Interior is responsible for enforcing the laws that protect public lands and resources. In support of that mission, the secretary is expected to encourage scientific research, foster the sound use of energy, mineral, land, and water resources, and administer programs to conserve and protect fish and wildlife.
Environmentalists were strongly opposed to President Bush's nominee for this important position: Gale A. Norton. Norton's 20-year career as an attorney had been defined by strong opposition to the laws protecting federal lands, public resources, and wildlife. As a protégée of President Reagan's controversial Interior Secretary James Watt, both at the conservative Mountain States Legal Foundation and later in the Reagan Interior Department, Norton echoed her mentor's policies and consistently sided with extractive industries in legal and policy disputes.
During her tenure as attorney general of Colorado, she had favored policies that encourage businesses to regulate themselves and had defended a state law that allows polluters to avoid legal action if they report environmental violations and pledge to avoid future violations. The EPA had criticized the Colorado law because it keeps details of company actions confidential, preventing citizens and government agencies from investigating even egregious health and environmental violations.
During her confirmation hearing, Norton moderated her rhetoric but did not repudiate her previous positions on federal lands stewardship or her past suggestions that taxpayers should compensate polluters and developers for complying with environmental laws. These and other items in her public record persuaded environmentalists that Norton, far from being an advocate for public resources, would give industry free reign to exploit America's lands and waters.
Despite vocal opposition to her nomination from the environmental community, only two Senators--Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Charles Schumer (D-NY)--voted against it in the Energy committee. And on January 30, 2001, the Senate voted, 75-24, to confirm Norton to the post of secretary of the Interior (Senate roll call vote 6). NO is the pro-environment vote. Since taking office, Norton has strongly advocated drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and even misrepresented biological data to a Senate committee to support her pro-drilling arguments. She has rescinded new mining regulations designed to protect public lands from toxic pollution, responding to pressure from the mining industry. And she scuttled a plan to reintroduce grizzly bears in wilderness areas in Idaho and Montana--a plan that had the support of local conservation groups and some timber industry representatives--in part because of opposition from Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne.