Chenault picked to lead House oil-gas panel, co-chair resources committee

Posted: Friday, November 15, 2002

House District 34 Rep. Mike Chenault of Nikiski, about to begin his second two-year term in the Alaska House of Representatives, has been tapped to co-chair the House Resources Committee. He also will chair the House Special Committee on Oil and Gas.

Rep. Hugh Fate of Fairbanks will be the other Resources co-chair.

Chenault also was named to the House Rules Committee and the Community and Regional Affairs Committee.

The prestigious assignments were handed out last week when Republicans met to organize themselves for the first session of the 23rd Legislature.

Freshman District 33 Rep. Kelly Wolf of Soldotna was named vice chair of the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee. Carl Morgan of Juneau was named chair.

Wolf also will join Chenault as a member of the Resources Commit-tee and will hold seats on the House Health, Education and Social Services Committee and on the House Special Committee on Education.

Another freshman lawmaker, District 35 Rep. Paul Seaton of Homer, was named vice chair of the Special Committee on Education. He also was named to the Health, Education and Social Services Committee as well as to the House State Affairs Committee.

Pete Kott of Eagle River was named Speaker of the House. Lisa Murkowski of Anchorage will be Majority Leader.

Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, the current Minority Leader, said the Democrats have yet to make their committee assignments.

Regarding his assignments, Chenault said sitting on Resources and Rules will be hard but satisfying work.

"I think I will be fairly happy with the committees I'm on now," Chenault said. "There will be a lot of resource issues coming down from the administration and from the Legislature. And sitting on Rules will give me more insight on what we will put of floor and the effect they will have on the citizens of Alaska."

Chenault said he had hoped to get on the House Finance Commit-tee, but that didn't come his way. Generally, though, he said he got assignments in areas on which he expressed interest.

His position on the House Resources Committee might prove advantageous for Kenai Peninsula industry and projects. Like many others, Chenault believes the state's permitting process for things such as oil and gas drilling are in need of reform. He'll likely see legislation cross his committee table to do just that.

"Will I have some input into possibly streamlining the permit process? I hope so," he said. "As long as projects are environmentally sound ... and we are comfortable with proceeding, we need to work to see those projects started and see some benefit from them."

Calls to Wolf and Seaton were not returned by Thursday afternoon.

Senate Republicans have named party members to leadership positions, but Senate Majority Press Secretary Ron Irwin said the rest of the Senate committee assignments wouldn't be made until after the election is certified. That is not expected until Nov. 29, according to the Alaska Division of Elections.

Ten-year legislative veteran Sen. Gene Therriault of North Pole will be Senate President. Sen. Ben Stevens, R-Anchorage, will serve as Senate Majority Leader.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Cowdery of Anchorage was chosen Senate Rules Committee chair, Sen. Lyda Green of Wasilla will co-chair Senate Finance focusing on the operating budget, while Sen. Gary Wilken of Fairbanks will be the other co-chair focusing on the capital budget.



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