Grand jury focuses on Gale Norton and oil leases

By Laurie Bennett

October 13, 2009 at 10:34am

It’s all in the timing.

Government officials regularly take high-paying jobs in the business world without triggering criminal investigations.

But when you’re suspected of having granted favors to a future employer while still in office, you’re apt to become the focus of a grand jury investigation.

Gale Norton
Gale Norton

That’s the position former Interior Secretary Gale Norton is in.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed documents from Royal Dutch Shell in an investigation of corruption charges against Norton. The probe centers on the Interior Department’s grant of oil leases on federal lands to Shell.

The three leases allowed the company to extract shale oil on federal lands in the Piceance Basin of northwest Colorado. According to the Times, the leases could yield billions of dollars in profits for Shell.

As interior secretary, Norton oversaw the lease program. Nine months after leaving her government position in March 2006, she took a job as counsel in a division of Shell.

Norton has not responded to the Times‘ repeated requests for comment.

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