CQ Weekly: "Don Young Gets His Groove Back"
Jan 11, 2011
CQ WEEKLY – VANTAGE POINT
Jan. 10, 2011 – Page 90
Don Young Gets His Groove Back
By Margaret Kriz Hobson, CQ Staff
Alaska Republican Don Young , who lowered his profile during the 111th Congress amid questions about a Justice Department ethics probe, is making a comeback this year. Young, 77, will chair the newly revived House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, which he sees as an opportunity to dive into the issues he loves.
“I asked the chairman to resurrect the subcommittee, because I’m actively involved in the whole Native American area,” Young says. “I need a platform. I need the ability to be heard to a greater extent on issues that affect Alaska.”
Young in the past chaired the Natural Resources Committee, which he had renamed the Resources Committee, and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. In the first week of the new Congress, he has already reintroduced legislation to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas development, and he plans to bring back his proposal to transfer part of the Tongass National Forests to Sealaska, a southeastern state Native Corporation.
Energy development will be his primary focus. “I can predict one thing: By the first of July of this year, gasoline will hit $4 or more,” he says. “And there’s going to be screaming. And probably by August, it’s going to be $5, because world demand is going up.”
Meanwhile, he argues, the Interior Department is delaying offshore oil drilling and access to other federal lands. Congress, he says, should have opened the Arctic refuge to oil drilling 20 years ago. “But we didn’t do that,” he says, “and now we are behind the eight ball.”
Young’s pro-development priorities dovetail with the agenda of Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings of Washington state, who recently vowed to ease the nation’s unemployment woes by developing “America’s energy, water, timber and mineral resources in order to create new jobs here in the U.S., increase our economic competitiveness and become less dependent on foreign countries.”
Young’s re-emergence is bad news for Alaska environmentalists, his adversaries in the battle over logging and oil development in the state’s wildlands. Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska’s regional director for the Wilderness Society, said she fears that Young will use his new post to “open the doors to commercial development in areas that are currently protected for their unique wilderness and wildlife values” — places such as ANWR, the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and the Tongass.
Young, who has served 19 terms in the House, was the ranking Republican on Natural Resources but stepped down two years ago in favor of Hastings, after the Justice Department began investigating his ties to VECO Corp., an oil-services company. The investigation was concluded last summer without any charges, but by then Hastings was firmly ensconced as the senior Republican. When the GOP regained control of the House, party leaders scrambled to find a top job for Young.
The revived subcommittee has jurisdiction over the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the 562 federally recognized tribes and Alaska Native Corporations. Young wants to raise the profile of Indian issues and streamline the BIA. “Self-determination has been delayed and slowed down by the previous administrations,” he says. “There was a philosophy that the poor natives can’t take care of themselves. I’m saying that that’s not true and they’ve proven that. They’re not back in the 1700s. They can do a lot of good things on their own and with the BIA, as long as they’re not deterred” by the federal government.
Source: CQ Weekly
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