Don Young: Gulf spill 'not an environmental disaster'

After congressional hearings last week on the Gulf of Mexico oil blowout, Alaska Rep. Don Young downplayed the environmental effects of the massive spill and said the U.S. should focus instead on passing better laws and opposing the Obama administration's moratorium on new offshore drilling permits. Young's opponents for his House seat criticized his attitude, reports the Alaska Public Radio Network.

Young said: "This is not an environmental disaster, and I will say that again and again because it is a national phenomena. Oil has seeped into this ocean for centuries, will continue to do it. During World War II there was over 10 million barrels of oil spilt from ships, and no natural catastrophe. ... We will lose some birds, we will lose some fixed sealife, but overall it will recover."

Both Democratic and Republican opponents of Young lashed out at him.

Harry Crawford, Democrat: "The man is an ostrich. He has his head in the sand if he can't see that this is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, manmade disaster in history."

John Cox, Republican. "We know there's a problem. We know that this is a major disaster."

Republican Sheldon Fisher didn't endorse Young's rhetoric but agreed with him in spirit.

"After Exxon Valdez, we didn't stop shipping oil. ... We need to learn from this event and improve, and we shouldn't stop drilling for oil offshore."