In a Senate hearing yesterday that had Democrats lining up on one side, Republicans on the other, President-elect Bush’s choice for Interior secretary, Gale Norton, described herself as a both a “compassionate conservative and a passionate conservationist” and sought to soften some of her most controversial stands in the past. Norton disavowed a 1991 speech in which she said property owners in some cases had the “right to pollute,” telling members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that “the idea of a right to pollute is not something I support.” She said she no longer believes that the Endangered Species Act and Surface Mining Act are unconstitutional. She also seemed to recant on past statements of hers that there was no scientific consensus on the threat of global warming. Environmentalists were not impressed with Norton’s testimony and are campaigning vigorously to derail her nomination.

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