Gale Norton Lurves the Environment

In fact, the former Secretary of the Interior loves nature so much, she joined up with Royal Dutch Shell. A cynic might ask what Ms. Norton did for Shell while serving as Secretary from 2001-2006, but a realist could readily answer: anything Shell wanted. I mean, any thing. Ms. Norton apparently learned a lot by being an assistant to Regan era Interior Department under James Watt.

Ex-Interior Secretary Norton Is Hired as Counsel for Shell –

Royal Dutch Shell PLC said it hired former U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton to serve as a counsel for the Anglo-Dutch oil company.

The move comes amid rising scrutiny in Washington of the department’s dealings with the oil industry.

The hiring of Ms. Norton comes at a tough time for her former agency. With the Democratic takeover of Congress, leading lawmakers have signaled they will closely scrutinize the Interior Department’s policies for collecting oil-and-gas royalties from public lands.

The Minerals Management Service has come under particular criticism after agency omissions excused the oil industry from paying royalties on Gulf of Mexico leases from 1998 and 1999. A Government Accountability Office report said the omission by the MMS cost taxpayers $10 billion.

Shell, historically one of the biggest industry players in the Gulf of Mexico, was one of five oil companies that reached an agreement with the MMS Dec. 14 to pay royalties on the 1998 and 1999 leases.

She does have prior experience screwing the environment…

Before being named Interior Secretary in 2001, Norton was senior counsel at Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber, P.C., a Denver-based law firm. The firm was listed with the U.S. Congress as a lobbyist for NL Industries, formerly known as National Lead Company.

also, at the occasion of her stepping down to spend more time with Jack Abramoff’s family of criminals, the Sierra Club issued this press release:

As Interior Secretary, Gale Norton was an unpopular symbol of unpopular policies. Americans do not believe their public lands should be sold to the highest bidder, and they don’t believe in privatizing their parks, forests, monuments. While the symbol of those unpopular policies may be leaving, we don’t expect those unpopular policies to change.

Unless the Bush administration reverses direction, her replacement will merely be a different fox guarding the hen house. Considering that the administration is currently lobbying to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and our coasts to destructive drilling, it’s hard to imagine that the next Interior Secretary will be allowed to promote smart energy solutions that protect sensitive lands, waters and wildlife habitat.

“Having previously represented oil, mining, and timber companies in her private life, Norton consistently gave those gave those interests special treatment while pulling agencies she oversaw away from their role as stewards of the land. Her policies were opposed by ranchers, hunters, anglers and other conservationists and the faith community.

”Thankfully, significant pieces of her agenda were blocked by Congress, courts, and by public outrage. For example her attempts to open the Arctic Refuge to drilling were repeatedly rejected by Congress and the American people.

and don’t forget:

an example of a nonbribe for which the Honorable Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, will not spend one hour in jail. The Chicago Tribune reported this week that on June 3, 2003, Hastert held a fundraising event at Signatures restaurant, the deluxe Washington watering hole that Jack Abramoff appears to have run at a loss to corrupt federal officials.

At Hastert’s bash, Abramoff, who picked up the cost of the affair, also donated $20,000. One week later the Honorable Hastert sent Interior Secretary Gale Norton a letter asking her to go along with one of Abramoff’s Indian casino gambling schemes. Money changed hands, favors were done. But this is not a bribe, this is legal, this is OK. This stinks, and there is no law against it.

Robert Kennedy Jr. writes:

In October 2001 Interior Secretary Gale Norton, responding to a Senate committee inquiry on the effects of oil drilling on caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, falsely claimed that the caribou would not be affected, because they calve outside the area targeted for drilling. She later explained that she somehow substituted “outside” for “inside.” She also substituted findings from a study financed by an oil company for some of the ones that the Fish and Wildlife Service had prepared for her.

In another case, according to the Wall Street Journal, Norton and White House political adviser Karl Rove pressed for changes that would allow diversion of substantial amounts of water from the Klamath River to benefit local supporters and agribusiness contributors. Some 34,000 endangered salmon were killed after National Marine Fisheries scientists altered their findings on the amount of water the salmon required. Environmentalists describe it as the largest fish kill in the history of the West.

Mike Kelly, the fisheries biologist on the Klamath who drafted the biological opinion, told me that under the current plan coho salmon are probably headed for extinction. According to Kelly, “The morale is very low among scientists here. We are under pressure to get the right results. This Administration is putting the species at risk for political gain. And not just in the Klamath.”

Roger Kennedy, former director of the National Park Service, told me that the alteration and deletion of scientific information is now standard procedure at Interior. “It’s hard to decide what is more demoralizing about the Administration’s politicization of the scientific process,” he said, “its disdain for professional scientists working for our government or its willingness to deceive the American public.”

I could go on, but you get the general idea. Too bad the modern Republican party doesn’t believe in conservative values anymore, you know, like conservation of our planet.

OK, one more tidbit, from Eyal Press:

At the heart of the controversy lies a drilling method known as coal-bed methane extraction, a technique pioneered in the late 1980s that enables companies to suck natural gas out of the coal seams that lie buried beneath the San Juan Basin and other formations. Beginning under the Clinton Administration, the federal government pushed to expand production of this comparatively clean-burning fossil fuel, although Clinton also protected millions of acres of public land from drilling. The Bush Administration, by contrast, has called for removing all “restrictions and impediments” on domestic development, code language for opening dozens of pristine natural habitats to unfettered leasing.

…But the Blancetts, like many Western ranchers, are not taking the Bush Administration’s policies lying down. Earlier this year, after the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a Resource Management Plan authorizing the creation of nearly 10,000 new oil and gas wells on public land in the San Juan Basin–where an estimated 19,000 producing wells already exist–Tweeti filed suit against Gale Norton and the Interior Department, accusing the government of failing to balance resource extraction with conservation, recreation and other uses of federal land. Among the other plaintiffs in the suit are the Natural Resources Defense Council, several Navajo Indian chapters–who say they were never consulted about the drilling plans–and the San Juan Citizens Alliance, a watchdog group based in nearby Durango, Colorado.

None of the plaintiffs claim that extracting coal-bed methane gas, which is used to heat millions of American homes each year, is an inappropriate use of public land. But under federal law, they note, the BLM is supposed to balance this objective with the interests of other users (hunters, ranchers) and insure that drilling is done in a way that does not wreak havoc on a precious public resource of value to all. “The federal lands that we have in the West are all of our heritage, all of our legacy,” says Tweeti Blancett, a feisty woman who has turned this issue into a personal crusade, and who is convinced the entire Rocky Mountain West will soon look like her ranch if landowners don’t fight back. “What’s happened here will happen throughout the American West if we don’t get the public to understand the issues.”

Coming from, say, a member of the Sierra Club, such a statement might not be terribly surprising–and would likely be ignored by Republicans, who long ago conceded the vote of avid environmentalists to Democrats. But Tweeti is no card-carrying Green. Four years ago, she not only voted for George W. Bush but served as the co-chair of his campaign in San Juan County, an area of New Mexico that is heavily Republican and crucial to the President’s hopes of winning this hotly contested swing state in November.

These days, she says, members of the Bush Administration don’t even return her calls. “What I didn’t factor in is the dollar sign, the billions,” she concludes. “They were not going to listen to me over the largest industry on the face of the earth and the billions of dollars they generate.”

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