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Senior Chenault staffer calls Valdez gasline route 'crock of s--t'

Lee Revis

"What a crock of sh-t.”

Only the expletive was fully spelled out and sent directly to Valdez City Clerk Sheri Pierce from the official legislative email address of, Rep. Mike Chenault, Speaker of the House in the Alaska House of Representatives.

The email was sent to Pierce in reply to an email Pierce sent to all legislators and Gov. Sean Parnell on behalf of Valdez Mayor Dave Cobb. The email contained an electronic copy of a hard copy letter Cobb sent to Parnell’s Juneau office regarding the All Alaska Gasline Project.

“I was shocked to receive that,” Pierce said in a telephonic interview Thursday, “and offended.”

The Valdez Star sent an email enquiry to Chenault’s address asking “Is this the House Speakers official position regarding exporting Alaska’s natural gas from the North Slope through Port Valdez?”

The Valdez Star received this response from Chenault’s senior staffer, Tom Wright, “Hopefully you received a copy of the email I sent to Sherri Pierce apologizing for my actions. As I stated in the email to Ms. Pierce the reply was in Representative Chenault’s name but I accessed his email, as I normally do, and again, intended to forward the message. The reply was reactive and the response was mine and does not represent the Speaker’s position on the issue.

The Valdez Star did indeed receive a copy of Wright’s email apology, printed in full below.

Dear Sheri:

Please accept my apologies for the response which was inadvertently sent to you. I was forwarding the email to some of my peers and I hit reply rather than forward. If my language offended you again, please accept my apologies. The reply was not from Representative Chenault. The reply was in Representative Chenault’s name but I accessed his email as I normally do and again, intended to forward the message. The reply was reactive and the response was mine and does not represent the Speaker’s position on the issue. If you or Lee have any questions or need further information, please call at the work number listed below.

Again, my sincerest apologies.

Tom

Senior Staff -- Speaker Mike Chenault’s Office -- State Capitol, Room 208

Peirce said the email was still inappropriate regardless of the authorship or its intended audience.

“When I opened the email I was taken aback by the tone of his response,” she said.

At a special work session Wednesday night between the Valdez City Council and representatives from the city’s newly hired public relations firm, Walsh Sheppard, Cobb shook his head when asked about the reply from Chenault’s office.

“I’m not going to stoop to his level,” Cobb said. “but I’d like to.”

City officials, along with other public and private entities along the Richardson Highway corridor, have been locked in a high-stakes political battle over developing Alaska’s natural gas reserves on the North Slope.

Chenault is the sponsor of House Bill 4, a piece of legislation introduced in Juneau this January, which would authorize the construction of a natural gas pipeline to somewhere in the Anchorage or Kenai area that is opposed by supporters of the Valdez route. Valdez supporters say the plan laid out by the Alaska Gasline Port Authority provides a maximum benefit to all Alaskans, pointing to various recent studies they say back up their assertions, while HB 4 will mainly benefit Alaska’s large population hubs only as far as provided cheaper energy to consumers if passed, and does not increase state revenues as significantly as the Valdez route.

The preceding article was first published by the Valdez Star and is republished here with permission. To request of copy of the original emails sent from Chenault and Wright’s addresses, send a request to editor(at)valdezstar.net.