ANCHORAGE - Rep. Don Young on Wednesday said he will continue pushing for development of Alaska's oil and mineral deposits as the highest-ranking minority member on the House Resources Committee. Meanwhile, the committee's new Democratic leadership is hinting at a departure from industry-friendly policies.
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Young said his top-tier issues will include fighting Democrats' efforts to permanently close the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and working for completion of a pipeline that would siphon natural gas out of the North Slope.
"Serving as the top Republican on the resources committee will be essential in fighting the anti-growth agenda the new leadership will seek to advance," said Young.
Nicholas J. Rahall II, D-West Virginia, will take over as chairman of the committee when the Democrats assume control of Congress next month. The outgoing chairman is Richard Pombo, R-Calif., who tried to increase oil and gas drilling, reduce protection of endangered species and privatize public lands.
Young, who headed the committee from 1995-2001, believes the two can maintain a civil working relationship despite their divergent views.
"We're good friends, but there will be some areas where we won't be able to work together," Young said. "I will be his worthy opponent and think I will be quite successful in heading off some disastrous positions in the legislative process."
Among Rahall's top goals are reform or repeal of Republican legislation and Bush administration policies giving oil and gas companies breaks on royalty payments. He wants to rewrite the Mining Law of 1872 to put environmental controls on gold, silver and other hard-rock mining, and extract royalty payments from mining companies.
Young said he opposes any revision of the mining law because it would discourage companies from investing in Alaska and hurt his goal of expanding the state's job base.