White House officials tell Post that a Westerner to replace Norton | SummitDaily.com

White House officials tell Post that a Westerner to replace Norton

DENVER ” President Bush will replace outgoing Interior Secretary Gale Norton with another Westerner with pro-development views, The Denver Post reported Sunday.

“We will be looking West,” White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card told The Post in an interview. “She came to the job with a real appreciation of Western lands. … We will be looking for people who have the same appreciation.”

Norton, who resigned, Friday was popular with industry but criticized by many environmentalists who accused her of sacrificing the environment to speed up energy development.

The Bush Administration was sharply critical of the Clinton Administration, saying it had focused too much on preservation and put too many roadblocks in the path of development on public lands.

Industry and environmentalists agree Norton turned things around. The Bureau of Land Management, one of the agencies Interior controlled, had been unable to keep up with the demand for oil and gas drilling permits. Now it is issuing permits faster than companies can drill.

“The Bureau of Land Management has essentially become the bureau of oil and gas development,” said Dave Alberswerth, a public lands expert with the Wilderness Society.

Coal production and natural gas production on public lands increased respectively by 22 and 17 percent. Logging increased and snowmobilers were given more access.

“I hate to see her go,” said Kathy Hall of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “I think she’s done an absolutely fabulous job.”

“We did not want to see her go. She has done a fabulous job for the president,” said Card.

Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett will run the department until Bush names a replacement.

“It stands to reason that anyone the president wants to nominate won’t be someone the environmental community sees as a friend,” said Ana Unruh Cohen, an analyst with the Center for American Progress. “But his political capital is so low these days he may find it hard to find somebody the Senate will sign up with.”

Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com

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