ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Alaska congressman, Rep. Don Young (R), was named Monday by Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan, (R) Wisconsin, to serve on the conference committee that will be tasked with trying to reach a compromises over differences between the House and Senate tax reform legislation, which includes a provision to allow oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Young also became Dean of the United States House of Representatives, following 88-year-old John Conyers' retirement announcement. After Conyers, Young is the second longest continuing serving member of the House, at 44 years of service.
In a press release, Young said, "There is still a long way to go in our unified effort to unleash Alaska's true energy potential, but I am committed to getting this across the finish line. "
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is also expected to soon name senators to the conference committee, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) Alaska, said after the GOP tax reform bill was approved that she wants to serve on the panel.
During a phone news conference Friday night, after the Senate vote on the tax bill, Murkowski said, "I've been working on this now for 15 years, my father (former governor and senator Frank Murkowski) worked on this for 22 years, and there are many people who are saying 'it's about darn time' that we're able to advance this."
After the vote, the president of the Wilderness Society vowed to fight the move to open up the ANWR Coastal Plain to exploration.
In a press release Friday night, Jamie Williams wrote, "This fight is not over. The oil industry and its allies in Congress may think they can sneak this past the American people, but communities across the country are speaking out every day. They are calling on principled leaders in Congress to reject this poison pill and oppose a tax bill that would drill the refuge."
Rep. Young expressed optimism Monday, but conceded that the battle is not over.
"Although we have faced many challenges and crossed many roadblocks, we as Alaskans have never been deterred. Our resilience and determination to win the day has never been stronger and I look forward to bringing Alaska the victory on ANWR they have long deserved," stated Young.