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Special Event

Environmental Groups Gather to Oppose Nomination of Gale Norton

Aired January 12, 2001 - 9:35 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you live now to Washington, D.C., a group of environmental groups gathering today to counter the nomination and come out in opposition to the nomination of Gale Norton as the next interior secretary.

This is Greg Whetstone. He is with the national resources defense council.

Let's listen.

GREG WHETSTONE, NATIONAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: ... assembled here today does not reflect simply that we think that Gale Norton would be a poor interior secretary. It is much worse than that. Gale Norton has devoted her life to undermining the mission of the agency she has been nominated to lead. And we have every reason to believe that she would continue this crusade as the secretary of interior with disastrous consequences for our forests, parks, wildlife and public lands.

Norton believes the taxpayers should compensate polluters for the cost of complying with environmental laws. She crafted the case for drilling in the Arctic in the mid-1980s, working with then-Interior Secretary Jim Watt. She has asserted in writing that the Endangered Species Act and the Surface Mining Act, two of the most important laws within the Interior Department's jurisdiction are unconstitutional. And her views of the law suggest that a long list of other environmental laws are unconstitutional as well.

She's a proponent of industry self-policing instead of enforcement of environmental laws. She is so extreme in her advocacy of state rights that she has actually lauded the efforts of the Confederate army.

Norton's philosophical opposition to environmental protection is all the more concerning because the record reflects, despite claims to the contrary from her defenders, that she will not enforce laws with which she disagrees. As Colorado's attorney general, she expressly refused to defend the state's racial preference laws in court, forcing then-Governor Romer to hire an outside attorney to handle the case. On the other side of that case was the Mountain State's legal foundation.

Given the choice of defending state and the laws passed by its people or lining with her mentor the former interior secretary, Jim Watt, she chose Watt. He how will she choose as secretary of interior?

But environment is only the beginning of Norton's fringe ideological views. Her radical views of diminished federal role extend to the handicapped, to civil rights and a variety of other areas. And it is a reflection of the fringe nature of those views that has brought here today with us officials from the AFL and also we're very lucky to have the chairman of the NAACP with us today, Julian Bond.

Some say that a nominee cannot or should not be defeated on the basis of philosophy or ideology. Is that really true? Is there no limit to the degree to which a nominee's commitment, ideology and philosophy are incompatible with the mission of the agency? Would we hire an anarchist for a Cabinet position, a communist, a Nazi?

If there is a line -- and I would submit for government to function there must be a line -- then it is clear that Gale Norton is on the other side of it. We urge you to look through the materials that you'll see here today, that we distributed. You'll see ample case, and there is more and more digging, I'm sure, to be done as you look at the groups with which she's affiliated. She's on the board of the Independence Institute, a variety of libertarian and extremist conservative beliefs.

In conclusion, on behalf of the 400,000 members of the Natural Resources Defense Council, we strongly urge the rejection of the nomination of Gale Norton for secretary of the interior.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Greg, very much.

Our next speaker is Deb Callahan. Deb is...

KAGAN: We were listening there to Greg Whetstone. He is with the Natural Resources Defense Council, just one of many environmental groups gathering today in Washington, coming out in opposition to the nomination of Gale Norton as the next interior secretary. She's getting a lot of heat as her past history as attorney general of Colorado, but Ms. Norton coming out being a very staunch defender of state's rights and also private property rights as well.

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