New Alaska Congresswoman Mary Peltola won a seat on the House Natural Resources Committee, where Speaker Raúl Grijalva said she would sometimes disagree with her fellow Democrats.
“I think she brings a perspective — and it’s not just an Alaskan Native perspective, it’s an Alaskan perspective — for us,” said Grijalva, D-Ariz.
The Resources Committee examines issues of paramount importance to Alaska: oil development. Oceans and fishing. Federal land management. Native affairs. Peltola’s predecessor, the late Don Young, served on the committee for decades and was its chairman.
Next week, the resources committee will consider a rewrite of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the law governing fishing in federal waters. Before he died in March, Young worked there with Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif.
Grijalva claimed that Peltola, even before she was in office a full day, had already exerted influence on her.
“Because there were areas of dispute that had not been settled,” Grijalva said. “She came in and basically set them up.”
He named one area of conflict he says is now resolved: bycatch, when anglers accidentally catch one type of fish while targeting another.
Peltola wants new bycatch limits on ocean trawlers, a fleet she says is contributing to the decimation of salmon runs on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers. The trawling industry rejects this theory.
Josh Wilson, Peltola’s acting director of communications, said via text that she was not ready to discuss the Fisheries Bill negotiations and “doesn’t like to jinx it”.
In a long series of votes Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Huffman, chair of the Resources Subcommittee on Maritime Issues, took his seat next to Peltola in the House chamber. The two engaged in what appeared to be light conversation for at least 10 minutes.
She won’t find a smooth ride with Democrats on the Alaska Oil Extraction Committee, Grijalva said. Peltola supports some projects they adamantly oppose, including ConocoPhillips’ Willow project and drilling on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“Our caucus hasn’t supported the Willows in the past, even when the Dean was promoting them,” Grijalva said, referring to Young.
Grijalva says Peltola won’t always get what she wants, and neither does Don Young.