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Letters/Testimony

LETTER: Governors request comment period extension on BLM proposed rule

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Western Governors sent a letter on March 15, 2016, to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze requesting a comment period extension for BLM's proposed rule, "Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation." Given the complexity of the proposed rule, which will have far reaching impacts on the oil and natural gas industry and states hosting that industry, Western Governors expressed, "The current timeframe is inadequate and will not allow thoughtful analysis of this proposed rule and its impact on industry and the economies of Western states."

COMMENTS: Use of state data and expertise in ESA listing methodology

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Western Governors submitted comments on Feb. 16, 2016, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on its proposed methodology for prioritizing status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings on petitions for listing species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Governors emphasized that the FWS should utilize state data and expertise, highlighting, "They have developed a tremendous body of science and expertise on these resources. States conduct research and on-the-ground analysis of species’ status." Their analysis and recommendations were guided by their existing policy resolutions, included in the comments.

COMMENTS: Protecting Water Quality From Forest Road Discharges

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Western Governors sent comments on Feb. 12, 2016, in response to the Environmental Protection Agency's request for Information on Existing Programs That Protect Water Quality From Forest Road Discharges. The comments highlighted states' federally-recognized authority to manage and allocate water within their boundaries. The outreach explained, "Clean water is essential to strong economies and quality of life. In most of the West, water is a scarce resource that must be managed with sensitivity to social, environmental and economic values. States are in the best position to manage the water within their borders because of their unique understanding of the values."

COMMENTS: Exceptional Events Proposal and Draft Guidance

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Western Governors sent comments on Feb. 3, 2016, to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed rule, Treatment of Data Influenced by Exceptional Events, under the Clean Air Act, and the related Draft Guidance on the Preparation of Exceptional Events Demonstrations for Wildfire Events that May Influence Ozone Concentrations. The outreach noted, "Western Governors recognize the critical importance of maintaining air quality in our states and the western region and appreciate the opportunity to work with EPA to achieve this," and provided relevant WGA policy resolutions to help guide the rules.

LETTER: WGA supports shared renewable energy lease revenues

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The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on Feb. 2, 2016, to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee leadership to communicate Western Governors’ longstanding support for the sharing of revenues derived from renewable energy leasing on federal lands with impacted states and counties. The letter expressed the Western Governors' appreciation of the Committee’s consideration of the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2015 (S. 1407), which would enact such revenue sharing. The letter noted, "Western states look forward to helping meet the current and future energy needs of the United States while ensuring protection of our precious natural resources."

LETTER: National Wild Horse and Burro Program

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Western Governors sent a letter on Jan. 27, 2016, to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze requesting additional information and clarification regarding the BLM's administration of the National Wild Horse and Burro Program. Western Governors believe that burgeoning wild horse and burro populations, paired with the inability of federal agencies to adequately manage these populations, presents an urgent concern for western rangelands and ecosystems.

COMMENTS: FEMA Individual Assistance for Major Disasters

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Western Governors sent comments on Jan. 8, 2016, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on the proposed rule on Factors Considered When Evaluating a Governor’s Request for Individual Assistance for a Major Disaster. The Governors urged the Agency to reconsider the system for evaluating and providing access to disaster programs and make Individual Assistance more readily accessible to homeowners affected by wildfires and other types of major disasters that are increasingly affecting Western states. The comments also noted, "FEMA should work directly with states and territories to jointly identify state’s or territory’s individual and common disaster risks and needs, and the best ways for determining the necessity and provision of federal disaster assistance."

LETTER: Governors request Interior establish preference for state-based mitigation programs

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Western Governors sent a letter on Dec. 1, 2015, to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell requesting that the Department of the Interior (DOI) establish a preference for state-based mitigation programs where they meet or exceed core DOI mitigation requirements. "Existing state programs ensure that regional and state resources are consistently and strategically implemented at the landscape scale," the Governors wrote in a letter signed by WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, WGA Vice Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Co-Chairman of the Sage Grouse Task Force. "This preference would allow funding to be invested in conservation instead of redundant planning. It reduces uncertainty and costs to industry, private landowners and other implementers of mitigation projects."

LETTER: Governors support comprehensive, Western drought legislation

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Western Governors sent a letter on Nov. 24, 2015, to Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources leadership commending their efforts to craft comprehensive Western drought legislation. The letter signed by WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and WGA Vice Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock conveyed the position of Western Governors on water resources management, shared their policy resolution Water Resource Management in the West, and conveyed policy solutions for the Committee to consider. Among other things, the Governors proposed the creation of a budget-neutral federal loan program that will make it possible for Western states to secure financing on reasonable terms to complete important water resources management projects.

LETTER: Governors share policy positions on wildfire management with Senate committee

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The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on Oct. 29, 2015, to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in advance of its Nov. 5, 2015, hearing entitled, “Wildfire: Stakeholder Perspectives on Budgetary Impacts and Threats to Natural Resources on Federal, State and Private Lands.” The outreach communicated relevant policy positions of Western Governors, including two policy resolutions, and requested that the correspondence be placed in the written record of the hearing. 

LETTER: Governors highlight importance of abandoned mine cleanup liability

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Western Governors sent a letter on Oct. 20, 2015, to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to convey the Governors’ position on liability issues associated with abandoned mines. The Governors requested that WGA Policy Resolution 2013-05Cleaning Up Abandoned Mines in the West be included as part of the record for the upcoming Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment “Abandoned Mines in the United States and Opportunities for Good Samaritan Cleanups” hearing.

LETTER: Surface Transportation Board and Positive Train Control

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Western Governors sent a letter on Oct. 15, 2015, to House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure leadership to reiterate support for reauthorization and reform of the Surface Transportation Board. The Governors also expressed concern about the looming deadline for implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) and urged Congress to pass an extension of the PTC implementation deadline that includes clear performance metrics for the railroads. The letter noted: "Jobs, the economy and the quality of life depend on high quality transportation infrastructure to safely move goods and people. Transportation infrastructure in the West is strained by increased movement of goods and people as well as by underinvestment in new and existing infrastructure needed to keep pace with growth and change."

LETTER: Governors support streamlining of federal mine permitting process

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Western Governors sent a letter on Oct. 7, 2015, to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee expressing support for legislative efforts to ensure timely access to domestic minerals vital to the nation’s economy and national security. The Governors shared their frustrations with federal regulatory complexities pushing minerals development to move elsewhere and urged the Committee to help streamline the federal mine permitting process.

COMMENTS: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revisions to the Regulations for Petitions

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Western Governors submitted comments on Sept. 18, 2015, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on its "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revisions to the Regulations for Petitions." The Governors expressed support for the Services’ work to refine the petition process and promote utilization of state data and expertise and advocated for state agencies to have a minimum of at least 60 days to provide information to petitioners, while also looking forward to a higher level of engagement with petitioners and the Services in evaluating the status of species.

LETTER: Clean Air Act Exceptional Events Rule

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Western Governors sent a letter on Aug 27, 2015, to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy to request that EPA engage in substantive consultation with states in the pre-proposal stages of revisions to the Clean Air Act (CAA) Exceptional Events Rule. The letter explained, "Western Governors and air regulators from WGA states are concerned that the Exceptional Events Rule does not adequately address factors over which states have little or no control." The governors cited naturally-occurring events outside the control of states such as wildfire, high winds and volcanic activity that present challenges to meeting the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for criteria pollutants under the CAA. 

LETTER: Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act

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Western Governors sent a letter on Aug. 27, 2015, to co-sponsors of the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act (H.R. 2358). The letter expressed support for the bipartisan legislation, which is intended to ensure reliable electricity service and reduce the risk of fires and fire hazards caused by inadequate vegetation management in power line rights-of-way on federally managed public lands. The governors emphasized the region's ties to the legislation, noting, "One of our forest management priorities is fire prevention, particularly as we enter wildfire season. Reliability of the region’s electrical transmission grid is also a critical interest."

LETTER: Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015

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Western Governors sent a letter on Aug 21, 2015, to leadership in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to request expedited consideration of the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015. The letter cited previous outreach by the Governors that noted "the actions of the Surface Transportation Board have significant impact on the economies of all states and on commerce. The governors also called attention to WGA Policy Resolution 2015-05: Transportation Infrastructure in the Western United States and urged the committee to work to pass the legislation.

LETTER: WGA offers resources to House Energy and Commerce Committee

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The Western Governors' Association (WGA) sent a letter on Aug. 3, 2015, to House Energy and Commerce Committee leadership to commend them for their effort to craft comprehensive bipartisan energy legislation. The letter highlighted, "The West truly is the energy breadbasket of the country, with regional energy production coming from a diverse range of sources including petroleum-based sources, coal, hydroelectric generation, renewable sources including wind, solar and geothermal electricity generation, and nuclear power generation." The letter thanked the committee for considering the views of the Western Governors and called attention to relevant WGA resources and reports.

LETTER: WGA offers resources to Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

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The Western Governors' Association (WGA) sent a letter on July 17, 2015, to U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources leadership to commend them for their effort to craft comprehensive bipartisan energy legislation. The letter highlighted, "The West truly is the energy breadbasket of the country, with regional energy production coming from a diverse range of sources including petroleum-based sources, coal, hydroelectric generation, renewable sources including wind, solar and geothermal electricity generation, and nuclear power generation." The letter thanked the committee for considering the views of the Western Governors and called attention to relevant WGA resources and reports.

LETTER: WGA promotes sharing of renewable energy lease revenues

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The Western Governors' Association (WGA) sent a letter on June 11, 2015, to U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources leadership reiterating the Western Governors’ longstanding support for the sharing of revenues derived from renewable energy leasing on federal lands with impacted states and counties. WGA emphasized the costs that states and counties incur from the development and operation of such projects and explained, "Shared lease revenues from renewable energy development can be used by state and local agencies to support land, water and wildlife conservation in affected areas."

LETTER: National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act

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Western Governors sent a letter on June 11, 2015, to co-sponsors of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (S. 1110), bipartisan legislation that would, if enacted, expand National Forest trail maintenance efforts in the West. The letter highlighted the importance of well maintained Forest Service trails to western states' recreation industries. The governors emphasized, "Our highest priority regarding our nation’s forests is to improve forest health in order to reduce wildfire threat and improve watersheds and habitat."

TESTIMONY: Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

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James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association, testified on June 2, 2015 before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The testimony shared the perspective of the Western Governors regarding the wide-ranging consequences of drought and highlighted their policy actions to combat water scarcity. The testimony also provided an overview of the Western Governors' Drought Forum and its efforts to share best practices for water management and drought response.

LETTER: Governors encourage passage of Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015

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Western Governors sent a letter on May 27, 2015, to leadership in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to encourage the passage of the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015. The letter noted that Western states’ economies are greatly impacted by the movement of commodities by rail and supported a strong and independent Surface Transportation Board. The governors explained: "Reauthorization of the Board is overdue. Making it an independent board with broader membership and greater transparency will benefit both shippers and the public as competing commodities place heavy demands on the rail system."

LETTER: Governors urge state consultation on EPA's methane emissions reduction proposal

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Western Governors sent a letter on May 20, 2015, to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy regarding EPA plans to propose a rule, under the Clean Air Act, to establish revised New Source Performance Standards for oil wells and for natural gas processing and transmission sources not otherwise currently regulated by EPA. The letter requested that the agency engage in meaningful consultation with states in advance of the release of its methane emissions reduction proposal. The governors wrote, "It is through early collaboration and consultation that EPA and western states can best work together...to protect western air resources while achieving the mandates and needs of both."

LETTER: Governors urge state consultation on BLM's methane emissions reduction proposal

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Western Governors sent a letter on May 20, 2015, to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze regarding BLM plans to propose a rule to address venting, flaring and leakage of methane from new and existing oil and natural gas wells on public land. The letter requested that the agency engage in meaningful consultation with states in advance of the release of its methane emissions reduction proposal. The governors reminded, "States and the BLM work together as co-regulators of oil and natural gas development activity, and some western states have already taken substantial steps to reduce atmospheric emissions of methane from oil and natural gas development operations."

TESTIMONY: Empowering State Management of Greater Sage-Grouse

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James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association, testified on May 19, 2015, on behalf of the Western Governors at the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on Empowering State Management of Greater Sage-Grouse. The testimony highlighted what has been accomplished through state leadership of greater sage-grouse management and explained why states should continue in this leadership role going forward. 

LETTER: State Regulation of Coal Combustion Residuals

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Western Governors sent a letter on May 15, 2015, to House and Senate leadership expressing support for congressional efforts to address problematic regulatory confusion created by the Final Rule for the Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) from Electric Utilities, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December, 2014. The letter explained, "EPA’s final rule produces an unintended regulatory consequence in that it creates a dual federal and state regulatory system ... This approach marginalizes the role of state regulation, oversight and enforcement." The governors emphasized that Western states have effective regulatory infrastructure in place to operate as the principal regulatory authorities over CCR.

LETTER: WGA recommends state experts for Invasive Species Advisory Committee

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The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on May 6, 2015, to the National Invasive Species Council regarding the development of a national early detection and rapid response (EDRR) framework. The letter provided recommendations of state experts to participate on the Invasive Species Advisory Committee subcommittee designing the EDRR framework and emphasized, "Our objective is to help ensure that the framework is designed to make optimal use of all available resources to combat invasive species."

COMMENTS: BLM proposed Knowledge and Values Study Regarding the Management of Wild Horses and Burros

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The Western Governors' Association submitted comments on May 1, 2015, to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on its proposed Knowledge and Values Study Regarding the Management of Wild Horses and Burros. The governors ask BLM to make a more compelling case for the agency's proposed study, clarify how surveying stakeholders will inform reliable benefit-cost analyses, and ensure that relevant state agencies are represented in focus groups and interviews.

LETTER: WGA urges registration of weed suppressive bacteria to combat invasive cheatgrass

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The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on May 1, 2015, to the USDA-Agricultural Research Service urging submission of materials to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to register the weed suppressive bacteria Pseudomonas fluorescens (ACK55) as a host-specific biopesticide agent for broad-scale application to combat invasive grasses. The letter emphasized the importance of ACK55 in suppressing cheatgrass, which fuels destructive wildfires and "crowds out native vegetation that provides important habitat to stressed species, such as the greater sage-grouse."

LETTER: WGA feedback on National Seed Strategy for Rehabilition and Restoration revisions

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The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on May 1, 2015, to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding the second draft National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration 2015-2020. The letter praised the BLM's collaboration with the Western Governors, noting, "We value this recognition of state expertise as you refine an interagency approach to seed supply and application strategies in land rehabilitation and restoration." The letter also commended changes in response to prior comments and offered further revisions for the strategy.

LETTER: State Collaboration in Addressing Rangeland Fire Risk

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Western Governors sent a letter on April 20, 2015, to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell regarding Secretarial Order 3336: A Set of Longer Term Actions and Activities, Draft Final Report, which addresses rangeland fire risk. The governors thanked Secretary Jewell for seeking input from states in the report, calling it an "important collaborative effort" and adding "we find many laudable steps to enhance federal coordination with the states and other partners on rangeland and fire management." The governors also offered additional comments on topics that included Enhancing Wildfire Fighting Resources, Fuels Management and Good Neighbor Authority. 

TESTIMONY: Western Governors' Association to Senate Appropriations

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The Western Governors’ Association (WGA) submitted the testimony of James D. Ogsbury, WGA Executive Director, on April 16, 2015, on behalf of the Western Governors to the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. The testimony provided comment on the appropriations and activities of the Bureau of Land Management , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Environmental Protection Agency.

TESTIMONY: James D. Ogsbury, WGA Executive Director, before House Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans

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James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), testified on April 14, 2015, on behalf of the WGA before the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans. The testimony shared the perspective of the Western Governors regarding recent federal water-related regulatory proposals, including the U.S. Forest Service's proposed directive on groundwater resource management and the proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to redefine the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.