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Posted on  

January 30, 2001

U.S. Senate to confirm interior, EPA nominees

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator-designate, New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, responds to a question during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Capitol Hill.

Moving swiftly to complete President George W. Bush's Cabinet, the U.S. Senate was expected on Tuesday to easily confirm his controversial choice of Gale Norton for interior secretary despite fierce opposition from environmental groups.

The Senate was also poised on Tuesday to back New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), clearing the way for a final showdown over Bush's most hotly contested nominee, John Ashcroft as attorney general.

Both Norton and Whitman have drawn fire from green groups, fearful they will roll back environmental protections put in place by the Clinton administration. Republicans countered that the Bush team would usher in a new approach to land conservation that would protect wildlife as well as industry, and ensure that the United States has adequate oil supplies.


A former Libertarian who was elected in 1990 as Colorado's attorney general, Norton will be the first woman to lead the Interior Department, responsible for managing nearly half a billion acres (200 million hectares) of federal land.

Outraged by her nomination, environmental groups led by the Sierra Club launched a television, radio and newspaper advertising campaign deriding Norton as an "anti-environmental extremist." They said Norton was ill-fit for the Interior post.

Confronted by Democrats at her confirmation hearing, Norton defended her environmental credentials, calling herself a "passionate conservationist" and assuring senators she was "fully committed" to enforcing U.S. environmental laws. "I am both a conservative and a conservationist. I see no conflict there," Norton told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It voted 18-2 last week to confirm her nomination.


In comparison to Norton, there was little organized opposition to Whitman's nomination, though some green groups criticized her for cutting New Jersey's environmental budget and reducing fines against polluters.

During her confirmation hearing, Whitman promised tough enforcement of EPA regulations that affect U.S. businesses ranging from car makers to livestock farmers.

Like Norton, Whitman promised to review environmental regulations imposed by the Clinton administration. Specifically, Whitman said she would review fuel rules aimed at curbing sooty particles spewed from diesel-powered trucks.



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