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Former Interior Secretary: Attitude of ‘Mutual Problem Solving’ With Oil Industry Under Bush

The Washington Independent

By Andrew Restuccia 7/20/10 12:52 PM

Former Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton told a congressional panel today that the department, under her tenure, saw its relationship with the oil industry when permitting and licensing offshore drilling projects as one “of mutual problem solving.”

Norton’s remarks came during a House Energy & Commerce Committee joint-subcommittee hearing on the Interior Department’s involvement in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Norton, who served as Interior secretary from 2001 to 2006 under President Bush, took a job with Royal Dutch Shell after resigning, leading to a Department of Justice probe.

“They also wanted to work with the expertise that industry had. Industry was at the cutting edge, coming up with new technologies every day. You can’t just sit back and be distant from that,” Norton said, responding to a questions from Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif) about whether it was the Bush administration’s policy to give less oversight to the oil industry. Dirk Kempthorne, who served as Interior secretary from 2006 to 2009, said that was “absolutely not” the administration’s policy.

Democrats took advantage of the opportunity at the hearing to raise question about the Bush administration’s oversight of the oil industry. Current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who has also come under fire for the way his department regulated the industry, will also testify before the panel today.

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