Last week, we reported on rumblings that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) might not seek reelection next year, at least in part because committee chair term limits mean he can’t be at the helm of the House Resources Committee in the next Congress. We brought the issue to the attention of Young’s staff who lazily batted it away as baseless speculation, pointing out that Young has already told Alaska newspapers he will seek another term.

Case closed? Well, not exactly.

At least not according to Kevin Harun, Alaska project director for Conservation Strategies. Harun, who spends his days organizing at the grassiest of grassroots levels in the Land of the Midnight Sun, argues that Young’s claim to be running again is a ruse intended to freeze other candidates and clear a path for his chosen successor, state Senate Pres. Drue Pearce (R).

“Looking at some of the signals, one of the things we found this year is that Young announced [for reelection] really early. We wondered, what is happening there?” Harun says. “They are grooming Pearce for Young’s seat. … Things could happen very quickly here.”

The theories don’t end there. The other Alaskan intrigue concerns Sen. Frank Murkowski (R), who is said to be eyeing a gubernatorial bid down the road. Murkowski also is rumored to have an anointed successor: his daughter Lisa Murkowski, a member of the state House.

Harun, who is working to develop environmentally friendly candidates from the city council level on up, says that another Sen. Murkowski would not necessarily be the end of the world for environmentalists in Alaska: “She’s probably the most reasonable Republican in the state legislature,” he says.

[As a reader service, Muckraker would like to point out that Lisa Murkowski recently backed a highly controversial (okay, not really) “potty parity” bill in the Alaska House. The bill would require new public buildings to include more toilets in women’s rest rooms to limit those long lines women must endure while guys brazenly breeze in and out of the men’s room.]

Although things appear pretty grim right now, Harun believes that when the current, all-GOP, all-conservative Alaska delegation begins to retire, things could perk up considerably for green candidates in the nation’s largest state.

“Despite the fact that our congressional delegation is so bad on environmental issues, Alaskans do care a lot about the environment. We just don’t have the leaders stepping forward and saying, ‘We are going to take these three on.'”

Information Overload?

We know you are simply dying to find out the worst possible scenario should an accident occur involving dangerous chemicals stored at a facility near you. You may get your wish.

On June 21, facilities that store hazardous chemicals are required, under the 1990 Clean Air Act, to file reports with the EPA detailing what could happen if there were an accident involving the substances they house.

EPA is then required, under the Freedom of Information Act, to post all the doomsday scenarios (or “Risk Management Plans”) over the Internet. The FBI, the Clinton administration, and EPA, however, all worry that dumping so much data out onto the ‘Net could provide a road map for terrorists looking to wreak major havoc with minimal effort. Torching a huge propane tank, for example, might achieve that end. So the Clinton administration is backing efforts currently underway on Capitol Hill to craft legislation that would delay, or at least filter, the release of the raw data.

These efforts, largely spearheaded by Republicans, are being fought by some congressional Democrats, including Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) in the Senate and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) in the House. Environmental groups that want to get all the data out about who is storing what, where, and the disasters that could potentially happen, are also pushing for full disclosure.

Word has it that a compromise is being painstakingly pulled together in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chaired by Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.). A committee source said efforts were underway to mollify all sides and that committee staffers were hashing through proposals from Sens. Lautenberg, Chafee, Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and James Inhofe (R-Olka.), trying to come up with language that would be acceptable to the Clinton administration while getting the information out without creating undue security risks. All in all, a monumental undertaking.

Welcome to Goretopia

Bogus websites purporting to endorse one political candidate or another are increasingly ubiquitous and almost universally lame. We came across one site recently, however, that is worth a look for those who enjoy a little Al Gore humor (and who doesn’t?).

With the caveat that some of the jokes are a bit off-color, we suggest you take a look at http://allgore.com, particularly the section on goretopia: http://allgore.com/goretopia.shtml.

Names in the News

EPA Assistant Administrator for Policy David Gardiner becomes senior policy adviser to the White House Task Force on Climate Change … Roger Ballentine becomes deputy assistant to the president for environmental initiatives … Amie Brown leaves the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to become an analyst at the Society of American Foresters.

Muckrakers Make Mistakes Too

Well, we made it to our ninth column without having to unveil a corrections and clarifications policy. Truth be told we would like to never unveil a corrections and clarifications policy. But we are in the business of accuracy (as well as rampant rumor mongering) and an alert reader points out that we incorrectly described Frank Jordan as a former Republican mayor of San Francisco in last week’s column. The office of mayor in San Francisco is non-partisan.