Saturday, December 13, 2008

ADN article recounts Rep. Don Young's history with House Natural Resources Commmittee


Young bumped from top House committee spot
RESOURCES: Longtime chair acknowledges taint from federal investigation.


WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Don Young, who wielded considerable power on the House Committee on Natural Resources in the 1990s as chairman and in recent years as its senior Republican, on Wednesday lost his top spot on the panel...

...It definitely is the end of an era, said Deborah Williams, an environmentalist who now heads Alaska Conservation Solutions. In the Clinton Administration, Williams worked for then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt as a top aide on Alaska issues while Young headed the Resources Committee. In that role, she often testified about Alaska-related matters at his committee meetings, and occasionally, sparred with him.

"When Don Young sought to advance the public good in that position, it was a pleasure to work with him and he was very effective," Williams said. "But again and again, when he sought to advocate for legislation or interests that were not in the public interest ... he was thwarted and spent a lot of energy and political capital on issues that did not advance."

Young took over the Resources Committee in 1995 after Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives in the 1994 elections. At that time, the Natural Resources Committee was renamed the House Resources Committee -- a signal that its focus would be less about conservation and more about resource development. At one of Babbitt's first meetings with Young at the helm, at a committee hearing on a federal wolf reintroduction program, he told Young: "Mr. Chairman, I have no doubt about who the alpha wolf is in this room."

Young held the chairmanship of the committee until internal House rules on term limits for committee chairmanships forced him to step aside for Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah. Hansen held the seat for two years before the Republican Young had mentored, Rep. Richard Pombo of California, took over as chairman.

Young then took over as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he oversaw the $286.4 billion highway spending bill in 2005 that included money for what became known as Alaska's "bridges to nowhere." It also earmarked $10 million for the now-infamous Coconut Road interchange study in Florida that, this year, prompted Young's colleagues to ask for a federal investigation into how it was inserted in the bill... (
Complete Story)

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