- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2001

The usual gaggle of liberal groups are squawking about the nomination of Interior Secretary-designate Gale Norton. Her support of states' rights has been used to paint her as nothing less than a racist, an offensive and utterly unsupported charge. Indeed, Mrs. Norton should be confirmed in part because of her philosophy of federalism, which forms the foundation of a distinguished career of promoting partnerships and policies which foster environmental protection.

The fact is that states' rights was trumpeted by liberals scarcely a month ago in the prelude to Vice President Al Gore's swan song. As noted by the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Gore's attorney, Lawrence Tribe, "became a champion of 'federalism.' He defended 'each state's right to organize its election' without interference from Washington."

Now, Mrs. Norton has consistently supported states' rights because she believes that it is the level at which the environment can be best protected. Mrs. Norton has criticized practices spawned by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the same reason, "The original goal of NEPA and of many other environmental statues was to forge a federal-state partnership in protecting the environment," she stated before the House of Representatives Committee on Resources. Yet, "federal agencies, such as EPA often pay lip service to state primacy, but in practice, the agencies have mastered the art of 'mission' creep' using their budgets and authorities to micromanage the 50 states."

Her belief in the partnership between state and federal powers led her to clean out the government's own stygian stables of environmental noncompliance in Colorado. Calling the Federal government, "Far and away the worst polluter in America," she vigorously pursued the the cleanup of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a former chemical warfare and pesticide manufacture facility, despite the Army's legal trench warfare against her efforts. She was a partner with the Sierra Club in a winning lawsuit against the Department of Energy.

Mrs. Norton believes that the public and the private sector should be partners in environmental protection. This has led to her work on tax credits, emissions trading and environmental self-audits, which permit companies to conduct voluntary examinations to discover if they have fully complied with environmental regulations, without fear that they will be punished for discovered violations that are promptly corrected.

Mrs. Norton has made partners of many organizations to make positive gains for the environment including the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy. This paper recently quoted Tina Arapkiles, the Sierra Club's southwest regional representative who said, "She (Mrs. Norton) was always willing to discuss things with us.

Of course, this is not what you hear from the Sierra Club today when ideological warfare is the name of the game. The Sierra Club together with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the AFL-CIO have launched a nationwide attack on Mrs. Norton. Brent Blackwater, President of Friends of the Earth said, "The nomination of Gale Norton amounts to a declaration of war on the environment," an absolutely absurd statement.

In her speech accepting the nomination, Mrs. Norton said, "I welcome the opportunity to work with President-elect Bush to preserve our wonderful national treasures, to restore endangered species and to help Americans enjoy the great outdoors."

Individuals who actually care more about protecting the environment than parading their political agendas should be pleased to support Mrs. Norton's nomination to be secretary of the interior.

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