Speaker Biographies


by - Rebecca W. Watson, Partner, Hogan & Hartson Law Firm, Denver, CO

  • Thomas Edison once said that if we did everything we were capable of doing, we would astonish ourselves. I think if someone could have given our next speaker her 2006 resume back when she and I both graduated from the University of Denver law school in 19-- let’s just say a few years ago, she would have been one astonished woman!
  • Three years as a high level advisor and Associate Solicitor in the Reagan Administration
  • Eight years as Colorado’s Attorney General and the first elected woman Attorney General in the state’s history
  • In 1992 she presents the televised nominating speech for the Republican candidate for President, Senator Bob Dole
  • In 1996 she runs for U.S. Senate from the State of Colorado
  • Now she ends five years as the 48 th Secretary at the Department of the Interior where she made history as the first woman Secretary in the Department’s 156-year history. And I might add, she is a member of a small club – women Cabinet members.
  • The next chapter of this astonishing and accomplished life is yet to be written.
  • As Secretary of Interior, Gale Norton had the lead on two key Presidential initiatives – the National Energy Policy and the Healthy Forest Initiative – which is why she is here speaking to us about the Administration’s renewable energy policy.
  • Secretary Norton is also the most articulate Administration spokesperson for cooperative conservation—the belief that if conservation is to be successful the government must involve those who live, love and work on the land.
  • As a Westerner, the Secretary has a keen appreciation for all the energy resources in states like Colorado – abundant sunshine, natural gas, coal, oil, the wind that blows across the eastern plains, hydropower and biomass. As a woman who loves to hike with her husband she also understands the condition of public lands, the risk of fire from too dense biomass.
  • As early as 2001, Secretary Norton was working on renewable energy policy at Interior. She held two Renewable Energy Industry Conferences, one in 2001 and the second in 2002. She appointed a Renewable Ombudsman in 2003. When President Bush announced the Healthy Forest Initiative in August 2002, Secretary Norton was quick to see the relationship between the Energy Policy and the Healthy Forest Initiative.
  • I think I know why. The Secretary’s political philosophy is market-based and libertarian in orientation. She is also a frugal person particularly when it comes to the tax-payers’ dollars. She looked at the condition of public lands, the challenge of wildfire and the state of the federal budget and she said there had to be a better way. “Let’s turn this biomass into something of value and get communities, nonprofits and industry to help us protect public lands from catastrophic wildfire.” The Interior Biomass and Bioenergy Program was born.
  • In fact, I even think she was ahead of the President in this area. I distinctly remember in one of our regular Tuesday afternoon meetings early in the history of the Healthy Forest Initiative where she challenged us to take a look at what Brazil was doing with biomass ethanol for transportation. I was a little puzzled by this Secretarial direction. I hadn’t really heard of what Brazil was doing with biomass ethanol as a fuel for automobiles and thought – what did that have to do with public land forests and rangelands? But what the Secretary was talking about was cellulosic ethanol before cellulosic ethanol was hip. Three years later the President of the United States highlights it in the State of the Union and now we all know about cellulosic ethanol and what it can do for transportation fuel. Secretary Norton was ahead of the curve in providing leadership for renewable energy policy at the Department of the Interior.
  • It is my great pleasure to introduce my friend and Colorado’s own, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton.