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Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields

How Will Gale Norton Run the Interior Department?

Aired February 3, 2001 - 5:30 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: From Washington, EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS. Now, Robert Novak and Mark Shields.

MARK SHIELDS, CO-HOST: I'm Mark Shields. Robert Novak and I will question the second-most controversial Bush cabinet member.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: She is secretary of the interior, Gale Norton.


NOVAK (voice-over): Only John Ashcroft for attorney general produced more negative votes for confirmation in the Senate than Gale Norton. She was approved by a 75 to 24 vote, with Democrats split down the middle. Approval came after opposition from environmentalist groups and after a spirited Senate debate.

SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE (D), MINNESOTA: Her record strongly indicates she will heavily tilt that balance away from conservation, away from preservation of the environment, away from environmental protection, away from being trustee for the land, away from understanding what a sacred duty we have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She will, indeed, provide the kind of consultation that has been lacking in this past administration on important issues, such as the designation of lands for conservation areas or monuments and some of the other issues on which there has been little consultation with the stakeholders.

NOVAK: In opposing Secretary Norton's nomination, the Sierra Club called her James Watt in a skirt, a reference to President Reagan's controversial secretary of the interior. Fresh out of the University of Denver Law School, she worked for Watt's Mountain States Legal Foundation in Denver before joining the Reagan and the first Bush administration: first at the Agriculture Department and later at Interior.

She was elected attorney general of Colorado in 1990, serving the two terms limited by law.

Ms. Norton is the first woman to head the Interior Department.


NOVAK: Madame Secretary, welcome and congratulations.


NOVAK: Because of the very vigorous opposition to you, the criticism of your public record, do you think you are inhibited in some way from acting as you would have if you had had a straight, unanimous confirmation fight?

NORTON: Well, actually, I've had the opportunity, through this process, to really take the time to meet with people, to understand some of the issues. I've talked with many members of the Senate. I think we've found some common ground.

NOVAK: You're saying you are inhibited a little bit then, you would think?

NORTON: Oh, I don't know that I'm going to be inhibited. I think that I'm going to be having the opportunity to forge alliances with people, to work with people from all across the political spectrum.

NOVAK: Let me give you a specific then, Madame Secretary, and that is that in one of his midnight orders before he left office, President Clinton took out of production 58 million acres -- 58 million more acres of land, no logging, no roads. Are you going to take an action to restore those 58 million acres to protect productive private use?

NORTON: We are going to change the way in which we do business on those kinds of issues. Those actions came from Washington without consultation with people across the country. Much of that is Department of Agriculture land as opposed to the Department of the Interior. So it's not really my department.

But we're going to be working with people throughout the areas we're affected, with the states, with local governments, so that we can have a decision-making process that really involves people. It ought to...

NOVAK: Just -- go ahead.

NORTON: It ought to be better, because it is part of a consensus process. And that's my approach.

NOVAK: Well, just briefly, do you think some of that land that has been taken out of production -- it wasn't just in the last week -- will be restored to private use by extractive industries, for example?

NORTON: Well, certainly, we will be looking at the options so that we know what's available. I think we can have both a dynamic economy that does require energy development and use of resources at the same time that we can preserve and protect our resources.

SHIELDS: Madame Secretary, you have been an advocate in the past of corporate self-audit, where a company that is polluting turns itself in and then is immune from fines as a consequence of that act. Will you continue to promote that in your new position here in Washington as a part of federal policy?

NORTON: The misconception many people have is that that is an opportunity for polluters to get away with polluting. That's not what self-audit is about. It's about finding the problems that the regulators would never find on their own.

So it really, from a bipartisan basis in Colorado, when that law was passed, was based on the idea that people should be rewarded for coming forward with their problems and for working with government agencies to try to solve those. It is something that supplements regulation. It does not take the place of regulation.

SHIELDS: OK. It just makes it tough for me to understand. A corporation or the leader of a corporation, a CEO, his principal responsibility is to his or her stockholders and to maximize profits. Now, where does the self-audit, what's the incentive? And isn't that certainly a violation of the primary mission of a corporation?

NORTON: A corporation ought to be a good citizen, and by saying that if they come forward and work with the government regulators to try to solve problems, they can put their resources into solving the problem, that is something that makes sense. The concerns that legislators in Colorado had was that if you said, and on top of that, you're going to have to pay fines and penalties, even if you've been a good, responsible corporation trying to live within the laws, then companies would not come forward. They would just hide things.

So this is to encourage companies to come forward, reveal their problems and to solve those problems.

SHIELDS: Just so I understand, will this be part of your approach as secretary of the interior?

NORTON: Well, most of that really applies more to the pollution regulation type issues. It's certainly the kind of thing we'd like to look at in terms of a win-win situations, of changing the way that we do business so that we're all working together to try to solve problems.

NOVAK: Madame Secretary, President Bush during the campaign was quite clear that he wanted to start drilling for oil in the Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, ANWR, and you support that policy. Since there's a long lead time before you actually bring up some oil, when do you start drilling?

NORTON: ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, is something that can only be used for oil and gas exploration if Congress is convinced and if the president is convinced that that can be done in a responsible environmental way. It cannot be done until Congress approves it.

But we're going to be looking at the options for being sure that's done in an environmentally responsible way.

There are all kinds of things that you can do to have -- for example, the drilling only taking place in the dead of winter, only on ice roads as opposed to asphalt across the tundra, being sure that the drilling is done with very little space on the surface reaching a lot of space underneath...

NOVAK: So when do you go to Congress with that proposal, would you say?

NORTON: That will be soon, but we don't have a specific timetable yet.

SHIELDS: Bob pointed out in the question that the projections are that it'll be 10 years before we get real oil out of ANWR, and yet, we sit here and look at California. Right off the shore of California, there are rigs. There's oil. And yet, there's no offshore drilling. Tell me, it's not a political decision that prevents us from drilling off the shore of California, is it?

NORTON: The people of California have said they do not want drilling off of their coast, as have the people of Florida. And President Bush has said that he would honor the moratorium that exists on drilling off of California and Florida. But it is a long-term issue to deal with the energy problem. The people of California know already how much of a problem that we have in providing energy over the long run.

SHIELDS: During his campaign, then Governor Bush pledged $4.9 billion to restore our national parks, as he put it. In view of the projected burgeoning surplus in the -- in the budget, can you assure us that we'll get even more for our national park restoration under the -- under the Bush administration?

NORTON: Well, the surplus in the budget also needs to take into account, to ensure that Social Security is saved, that we have -- we're starting to pay down our national debts and that tax cuts are available. There are things that we need to look at, but certainly, we want to be sure that the national parks are being taken care of. Those are the places that Americans really most treasure. And those are a high priority to be sure they are well taken of.

SHIELDS: My partner and I have to take a break right now. But we'll be back in just a minute to ask the new secretary of the interior about California, her philosophy and the future.


NOVAK: Secretary Norton, there has been, for the past generation, what some people would call a war waged against the West by the federal government, bureaucrats, the regulators, against ranchers, farmers and the extractive industry. Are you going to do anything, and if so, what are you going to do to end that war on the West?

NORTON: There's a real impression in the West that people in Washington don't listen. We have seen so much of just a concern that their interests are not even being heard. So I think that one of the biggest changes is going to be involving local people in the decision- making process. I really think that one of our best resources are people, people with ideas, people with the knowledge of the land, who can help us tailor things.

If we want to provide both a dynamic economy and protect our resources, one of the best ways to do that is making sure that, on a case-by-case basis, we're making the best decision for that particular land.

NOVAK: During the six years that she was here Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth of Idaho fought the regulators and the bureaucrats on behalf of Western interests. Do you think she's going to be happy with you in Interior? What would your guess be?

NORTON: Oh, I'm sure that there are probably going to be people across the board who will have concerns about me. I'm sure that people at both ends of the spectrum will probably be unhappy with me. We'll see.

SHIELDS: One of your predecessors, Jim Watt, called an ardent promoter of private development of public land, was sort of encouraged to leave the Reagan administration. And yet, you were a protege of his at an early point in your career.

How would we look for you to differ from Jim Watt beyond stylistically? I mean, philosophically, what would be the differences in policy between Gale Norton and Jim Watt?

NORTON: I'm very much my own person. I have, for the last 20 years, had experience working with governments. I was part of the Department of Interior during the Reagan administration when we worked on restoring the California condors. As attorney general of Colorado, I've worked to be sure that we protect endangered fish species in the Colorado River, that our lands were taken care of, that we had stewardship (UNINTELLIGIBLE) lands within our own state-owned lands.

I believe that we need to protect and preserve our natural resources.

SHIELDS: And on another point that you have been identified with, the takings question, the policy that the federal government or any government must compensate any private institution when a policy is imposed that requires that institution to take a different approach than it would have. And for example, under the takings theory, wouldn't the companies that were required under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to change their policies as far as welcoming in members of the public, wouldn't they have to be compensated under a liberal reading of the takings policy?

NORTON: Actually, the U.S. Supreme Court has defined when takings -- when compensation needs to be paid. And that kind of situation is not at all the type of situation that requires compensation.

What you're really talking about is when someone has lost almost all the ability to use their property. I believe that some of the best stewards of our resources are our farmers and ranchers, the people who really know and understand the land. What we need to do is to minimize the conflicts in our programs by trying to provide incentives for them to care for endangered species instead of hammering them if they have an endangered species on their property. We have to encourage them, through some incentives, to use their property in a way that's going to be helpful for that species.

SHIELDS: Economic incentive?

NORTON: That is something that President Bush has proposed and done it successfully in Texas. And I think we can carry that forward on a national basis.

NOVAK: Madame Secretary, in the Western lands, where the Interior Department has a greater presence, the members of the Senate, obviously Republicans, but some Democrats, Democrats from West of the Mississippi, tended to support your confirmation. Your opposition came from the East, the New England states, the Atlantic Coast states, some of the Midwestern states, where there's not much of an Interior Department presence. How do you explain that and did it surprise you?

NORTON: It's certainly true that most of the lands that the Department of Interior deals with are in the Western states, and there do tend to be regional differences in attitudes between people in different parts of the country.

We have the opportunity, I think, to show that the Department of Interior can help states in providing resources for having more public lands and estate-owned lands or local parks and so forth. That was part of what was in President Bush's campaign promise to fund the land and water conservation fund. And it's another opportunity for working together with states and local governments.

The Department of Interior has usually been focused on the West. I want to build alliances with states and local governments throughout the country so that we can all work together on conserving our resources.

NOVAK: Just briefly, the Antiquities Act was used to a great extent by President Clinton for taking just about whole states out of private production. Would you like to see the Antiquities Act either repealed or greatly amended to prevent any future president from making that kind of use of it?

NORTON: A big part of the Antiquities Act problem is what goes into the process leading up to a presidential proclamation. Certainly, this administration is going to be going through consultation and working with those most affected. That's not something required by the law, but that's something that certainly makes sense. And I would hope that any future president would take that into account.

SHIELDS: Madame Secretary, during the hearing for your confirmation, a 1996 speech you had given, in which you drew a parallel between your own battle for states rights and the struggle by Virginia soldiers on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War, was roundly criticized. And Secretary -- Senator Ashcroft, now Attorney General Ashcroft, got in trouble for his reference (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the Confederacy.

Would you think it's probably a pretty good idea, at this point, for conservative politicians to avoid analogies with the Southern side in the Civil War, while trying to make a larger point?

NORTON: Well, my point was that the good concept in our Constitution of federalism was tainted by its association with awful things like slavery. I think we should be clear that slavery is reprehensible...


NORTON: It was awful.

SHIELDS: In your defense, you made (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NORTON: And I think that that's really the point of this.

SHIELDS: And the enlargement of the federal power and authority during the Civil War, as a consequence of the Union's expansion and victory, right?

NORTON: That's right. It had an effect on our constitutional structure, on the way that we did things. I think there are very good reasons why we have a federal system, so that people from all over the country can have their state governments have input into the federal decision.

SHIELDS: We'll be right back. Robert Novak and I will be, with the big question for Secretary Gale Norton.


UNKNOWN MALE: Interior Secretary Gale Norton, the big question. Tell me, if you would, what policy initiative of your predecessor, Bruce Babbitt, do you most admire?

NORTON: I think he has done a great deal of progress with the Endangered Species Act. He has tried to work with the people who are affected by it and has provided what are called no surprises kinds of provisions so that when people make changes to adjust to an endangered species they know they can continue those on into the future without having the rules changed as they go through the process.

NOVAK: Regrettably, Madame Secretary, I'm going to ask you to give me the other side of the coin. What of the Babbitt legacy did you least admire?

NORTON: I think the fact that he cut states, local governments, local people out of the process. I really think that we've lost the ideas that they might have been able to provide to us. We want to capture that.

NOVAK: Gale Norton, thank you very much. NORTON: Thank you.

NOVAK: Mark Shields and I will be back with a comment after these messages.


SHIELDS: Bob, Secretary Gale Norton, when asked what she admired most about her predecessor, Bruce Babbitt, the Democrat, didn't stumble, didn't stammer, didn't stop. She came right forward and said she admired Bruce Babbitt's leadership on a very provocative item, the Endangered Species Act.

NOVAK: But what she didn't like about him was the disrespect for local customs and that came through her entire interview with us, that they're going to pay a lot more attention to the local people and they are going to go to Congress to start the long process of trying to get some oil out of Alaska.

SHIELDS: You think they mean the local corporate interests, Bob, or the local people? But let's get one thing straight, I thought Gale Norton in her presentation was measured, she was reasonable, she was moderate.

You can understand, in spite of that controversy swirling about her, why she won Senate confirmation.

NOVAK: You know, Mark, I knew Jim Watt and she's no Jim Watt. He came in here roaring for a fight. She didn't. But she's not Wally Hickel either, who was, I think, just Hickel-ized. He was moderated by the -- by the whole procedure of a confirmation fight. I think she's exactly the same person she was when she started the confirmation.

I'm Robert Novak.

SHIELDS: I'm Mark Shields.

NOVAK: Coming up in one-half hour, on "RELIABLE SOURCES," a look at a critical report on how CNN and the other networks performed on election night. And coming up at 7:00 p.m. on CAPITAL GAINS, John Ashcroft is confirmed, President Bush charms Democrats, and he unveils his faith-based initiative. The guest is Gary Bauer.

SHIELDS: Thanks for joining us.



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