logo

News 2015

Executive Director's Notebook: WGA's 'Top 10 Bipartisan Policy Efforts in 2015'

Published on .



By Jim Ogsbury

Prescribed FireAs the curtains close on 2015, it’s a good time to reflect on what was a dynamic and successful year for Western Governors. Although it’s impossible to capture the breadth and scope of their accomplishments in a brief year-end blog post, I am pleased to share some illustrative highlights in the following (second annual) list of "Top Ten Bipartisan Policy Efforts."

1. Fire Borrowing: “Fire borrowing” refers to the raid by federal agencies of accounts for forest health and fire prevention activities to fund firefighting efforts when fire suppression accounts run dry. The Governors' persistent work on this issue resulted in a significant "win" in the FY 2016 omnibus spending bill. (More)

Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Eloy Inos dies

Published on .

Northen Marianas Island Gov InosNorthern Mariana Islands Gov. Eloy Inos died Dec. 28, 2015, at the age of 66.

Inos became the eighth Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands in 2013, after previously serving as Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Finance.

The governor’s Press Secretary Ivan Blanco told the Pacific Daily News that Inos had been battling diabetes; the governor had been under care in Seattle since November. Blanco did not know the exact cause of the Governor’s death.

Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres, who served as Lieutenant Governor under Gov. Inos, has assumed the office.

In nearby Guam, Gov. Eddie Calvo ordered flags (More)

Western Governors' News: Idaho's wildfire recovery, South Dakota criminal justice reforms, Utah's education-focused budget

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association offers a monthly roundup of news showcasing the work of Western Governors in economic development, natural resources, education, health and safety, and other areas. Here is what the Western Governors have been working on lately:

20151217 rei mou signingAlaska Gov. WalkerALASKA Gov. Bill Walker renewed the state's liquefied natural gas agreement with a Japanese energy company.

ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey directed additional funding to domestic violence shelters throughout the state.

CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order to bolster the state's drought and wildfire response.

COLORADO Gov. John Hickenlooper announced (More)

Western states top business tax climate report; Oregon job growth highest in two decades

Published on .

taxclimateWestern states earned high marks in the 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index. The ranking compiled by the Tax Foundation enables business leaders, government policymakers and taxpayers to compare states’ tax systems. Seven western states populated the top 10 of the research organization's list, with Wyoming, South Dakota and Alaska claiming the top three spots.

The Index shows how well states structure their tax systems to enhance the competitiveness of a state’s business environment. "The modern market is characterized by mobile capital and labor, with all types of businesses, small and large, tending to locate where they have the greatest competitive advantage," the study notes. "The evidence shows (More)

Western Governors applaud passage of Surface Transportation Board overhaul

Published on .

STB LogoWestern Governors applaud today's (Dec. 10) passage by the House of legislation overhauling the Surface Transportation Board (STB). When added to last week's approval of a comprehensive 5-year transportation bill, the future looks brighter for the maintenance and expansion of western transportation infrastructure. 

The Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015 (S. 808), passed previously by the Senate and expected to be signed by President Obama, reauthorizes appropriations for the STB through 2020, expands the board from three members to five and makes it an independent agency, outside the purview of the Department of Transportation. (More)

Governors Mead, Otter, Sandoval share what the West means to them

Published on .

Otter Mead SandovalGovernors, from left: Butch Otter, Matt Mead, Brian Sandoval

Western Governors Butch Otter (Idaho), Brian Sandoval (Nevada) and Matt Mead (Wyoming) took part in My West, a special session on the second day of the Western Governors' Association 2015 Winter Meeting in Las Vegas, Nev. The Governors each shared their affection for, and personal connection to, the region. Or, as Gov. Mead said: "What it means to us to be of the West, part of the West, to be a Western Governor." (See the Governors' stories)

WATCH VIDEO: Western Governors' Species Conservation and ESA Initiative

Published on .

Got 90 seconds? Watch this video to learn about upcoming workshops and other outreach for the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative. The Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead enables states to share best practices in species management and explore how to improve the efficacy of the Endangered Species Act. Learn more on the initiative website.

Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Western Governors open Winter Meeting with wildfire, transportation sessions

Published on .

PSS 4290 640x426Governors, from left: Matt Mead, Steve Bullock, Butch Otter, Brian Sandoval

MEDIA COVERAGE: Read stories by Ken Ritter of the Associated Press and Ben Botkin of the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the meeting.

Cybersecurity, wildfires and transportation topped the first day of the Western Governors' Association 2015 Winter Meeting in Las Vegas, Nev.

Western Governors, led by WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, took part in the day's sessions, including Butch Otter (Idaho), Steve Bullock (Montana) and Brian Sandoval (Nevada). (Learn more about the meeting)

Western Governors request Interior establish preference for state-based mitigation programs

Published on .

Sage GrouseWestern Governors have requested 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 Dec. 1 letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. 

The letter was prompted by the Bureau of Land Management’s Final Environmental Impact Statement and Land Use Plan Amendment (FEIS/LUPA) documents for Greater sage-grouse conservation. (More)

Western Governors offer water resource management solutions to Senate ENR committee leadership

Published on .

Western Governors recently conveyed their position on water resources management and offered policy solutions to leadership of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Drought Forum Vertical LogoThe Nov. 24 letter to Senators Lisa Murkowski and Maria Cantwell, signed by WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and WGA Vice Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, commended the Committee for its efforts to craft comprehensive, Western drought legislation and offered WGA as a resource.

The letter also communicated policy solutions for the Committee to consider, pointing to the Western Governors' Drought Forum and the WGA Policy Resolution,Water Resource Management in the West.

The outreach emphasized that Western states are "impacted by water shortages because of extended drought conditions and insufficient infrastructure to assure adequate water supplies." The Governors added that "this challenge has both regional and national aspects, including how best to meet the need for (More)

Western Governors to discuss transportation, healthcare, cybersecurity at Winter Meeting

Published on .

Wyoming Gov Matt MeadGov. MeadCybersecurity, healthcare and maintaining the Western transportation infrastructure are just some of the issues Western Governors will tackle Dec. 4-5 at the WGA 2015 Winter Meeting in Las Vegas.

WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead will host fellow Governors Steve Bullock (Montana, Vice Chair), Butch Otter (Idaho), and Brian Sandoval (Nevada) at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas. (More)

Western News: Hawaii's reef restoration plan, Nevada's newest marketing campaign, West Coast's tallest tower

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association offers a monthly roundup that showcases the latest policy, progress and news from Western states. Here is this month's report:

  • coralHawaii coral reefRenewable energy: Learn more about a California company's plan to build one of Montana's first utility-scale solar plants.
  • Rural sprawl: Find out what Colorado is doing to "Jump-Start" its urban-rural economic divide.
  • Reef Restoration: Hawaii is gathering information to create a comprehensive coral reef management plan.
  • Wildlife Cam: Watch the viral video of (More)

Executive Director's Notebook: Hard-working Governors keep an exhausting pace

Published on .



Gov Hick 2Gov. John HickenlooperBy Jim Ogsbury

Representing Western Governors as the Executive Director of WGA is an honor. But it’s also exhausting, because the Governors work relentlessly to improve conditions for the West and its residents. The last ten days illustrate the point.

A week ago Friday, Gov. John Hickenlooper hosted a WGA Sponsor luncheon at the historic Colorado Governor’s Mansion in Denver. In the course of his remarks, the Governor – a former chair of WGA and the immediate past chair of the National Governors Association – spoke of WGA’s recent success with respect to developing and promoting bipartisan public policy. He compared the Association to his teenage son Teddy, a budding baseball player. When Teddy was younger, he kept hitting pop flies because he didn’t have sufficient arm strength to follow through on his swing. But in the past couple of years, he has acquired a great deal of muscle, and now he’s consistently hitting line drives. In like fashion, WGA has recently gained a good deal of strength and is using it to power policy line drives right up the middle. (More)

Gov. Mead launches Species Conservation and ESA Initiative workshops by urging collaboration, good intentions

Published on .

IMG 0711 Matt at podiumGov. MeadWyoming Gov. Matt Mead kicked off the first workshop of the Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative with a nod to the significance of wildlife in the West and a request to find the best way to employ state expertise to conserve it responsibly.

"Those of us fortunate enough to live in the West recognize that the West wouldn’t be the West without the wildlife that surrounds us. Unquestionably, it's one of the things that enriches our lives," said Gov. Mead, speaking at the start of the first regional workshop of his Chairman's Initiative for the Western Governors' Association at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyo. (Read more about the workshop)

Drought Update: Drought Monitor highlights West's ongoing struggle, California prepares to capture El Nino

Published on .

monitor1110The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report shows that every state in the West is still experiencing some level of drought. 

The monitor reports that despite recent Pacific moisture and storm systems bringing daily precipitation, 100% of both Oregon and Washington remain in moderate to extreme drought.

Furthermore, practically every part of California and Nevada  faces some level of drought, with nearly 45% of the former and 10% of the latter experiencing exceptional drought. 

The Drought Monitor report noted that in much of the West, (More)

Agenda set, website launched, livestream planned for first WGA Species Conservation and ESA Initiative workshop

Published on .

ESA Website Main PageThe Western Governors' Association launched the first of four workshops of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative on Nov. 12-13 at the Buffalo Bill Center for the West in Cody, Wyo.

WGA also has rolled out the website for the Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead. The website offers news about initiative Workshops and a Resources page with a variety of species conservation content. In the weeks to come, look for (More)

Western Governors' News: Arizona's big education funding package, Hawaii coastline conservation agreement, Utah's resident milestone

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association offers a monthly roundup of news showcasing the work of Western Governors in economic development, natural resources, education, health and safety, and other areas. Here is what the Western Governors have been working on lately:

hickgreenColorado Gov. HickenlooperALASKA Gov. Bill Walker accepted financial support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to address coastal erosion.

ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey signed an education funding package that will inject $3.5 billion into schools over 10 years.

CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency to mobilize additional resources in response to unprecedented tree die-off

(More)

Register now: Western Governors' Winter Meeting Dec. 4-5 in Las Vegas

Published on .

4 Seasons FountainFour Seasons Hotel Las VegasFive Western Governors have registered for the 2015 Winter Meeting of the Western Governors' Association Dec. 4-5 in Las Vegas to address the region's most important issues.

WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Vice Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter have indicated they will attend. (More)

Western Governors encouraged by PTC deadline extension, still seek long-term solution for transportation funding

Published on .

Western Governors support implementation of the safety technology, Positive Train Control (PTC), for freight and passenger railroads.

Multiple reviews – including one completed by the Government Accountability Office – have determined that Congress' original Dec. 31, 2015, deadline for nationwide implementation of PTC technology was not feasible for railroads.

Western Governors recently asked leadership of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to pass an extension of the PTC implementation deadline, in part to avert catastrophic consequences for railroads, as well as commuters and shippers who rely on rail transport.

So the Governors were encouraged when Congress (More)

Executive Director's Notebook: First 'Mission to WDC' a success

Published on .



House Hearing Mead and GovsWestern Governors at House Hearing, from left: Gary Herbert, Steve Bullock, Matt Mead, Dennis DaugaardBy Jim Ogsbury

WGA Chairman Matt Mead and Vice Chair Steve Bullock recently led the first-ever Western Governors’ Association “Mission to WDC.” They were joined by fellow Western Governors Jack Dalrymple, Dennis Daugaard and Gary Herbert for two full days of hearings, meetings and special events in the nation’s capital.

The Governors were warmly received on Capitol Hill by federal policy-makers eager to learn more about Western issues and gubernatorial priorities. Media coverage of the mission was extensive, and the Governors enjoyed great success in elevating the profile of their bipartisan policy agenda in Washington, D.C. (More)

Western states top report on overall economic performance; Utah most 'fundamentally sound'

Published on .

statesinnoWestern states earned the highest marks for economic performance in Enterprising States: States Innovatea study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Eight western states populated the top 10 for overall economic performance, with North Dakota, Texas, Utah, WashingtonColorado and Wyoming leading the national rankings.

The report notes: "American innovation is flourishing across the country thanks to thoughtful governors who work with the business community to create a strong business climate in their states. The Enterprising States study is about championing the successes of these governors." (More)

Western Governors highlight importance of addressing abandoned mine cleanup liability

Published on .

House Transportation and Infrastructure CommitteeWestern Governors have conveyed their position on liability issues associated with abandoned mines to leadership of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The Oct. 20 letter to Representatives Bill Shuster and Peter DeFazio from Western Governors requested that WGA Policy Resolution 2013-05Cleaning Up Abandoned Mines in the West be included as part of the record for the Oct. 21 Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment hearing, “Abandoned Mines in the United States and Opportunities for Good Samaritan Cleanups." (More)

Western News: California's devastating mudslide, Idaho's shrinking rural communities, making Colorado's Gold King Mine a 'teachable moment'

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association offers a monthly roundup that showcases the latest policy, progress and news from Western states. Here is this month's report:

  • californiamudslideCalifornia mudslideMudslide damage: Learn more about the recent California landslide that trapped 200 vehicles.
  • Outdoor education: See the different ways Colorado schools are using the Gold King Mine spill as a teachable moment.
  • Spill Plan: State officials in New Mexico have released a draft plan to monitor the potential long-term effects of the Gold King Mine spill.
  • Urban sprawl: See why a new study has some concerned about (More)

First workshop of WGA Species Conservation and ESA Initiative will be Nov. 12-13 in Wyoming

Published on .

Gov Mead SpeakingGov. Mead

The first workshop of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative was held Nov. 12-13 at the Buffalo Bill Center for the West in Cody, Wyo.

The Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead creates a mechanism for states that will: share best practices in species management; promote and elevate the role of states in species conservation efforts, and explore ways to improve the efficacy of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Gov. Mead spoke at the first workshop, which featured a robust and bipartisan conversation regarding species conservation and the ESA. (Watch videos of all sessions)

WGA announces new policy advisor for water and agriculture

Published on .

lauraThe Western Governors' Association is pleased to announce the hiring of Laura Chartrand as Policy Advisor for Water and Agriculture.

Laura comes to WGA from the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, where she analyzed water resource issues affecting Tri-State’s 44 member cooperatives in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. She holds a law degree from the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver and has worked as an attorney covering a broad scope of issues, including water, public lands and endangered species. (Learn more about Laura)

EPA tightens national ozone standard, governors concerned about non-attainment due to outside factors

Published on .

epaThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Oct. 1 released a new standard for the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone, cutting the 2008 standard of 75 parts-per-billion (ppb) to 70 ppb.

Western Governors recognize EPA’s statutory responsibility to research and propose revisions to the ozone NAAQS to provide requisite protection of public health and welfare with an adequate margin of safety, but the Governors are concerned about what the revised ozone NAAQS may mean for their citizens.

Western Governors previously sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing western states' need for the EPA to provide states with timely implementation guidance and sufficient financial and technical assistance.

The revised NAAQS for ozone will mean that areas in the West will be found in non-attainment status, some of them as a result

E&E TV interviews North Dakota Gov. Dalrymple, Wyoming Gov. Mead on Clean Power Plan

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association policy mission to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 29-30 helped raise the profile of several significant western policy issues.

WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead was joined by Governors Steve Bullock (Montana, WGA Vice Chair), Jack Dalrymple (North Dakota), Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), and Gary Herbert (Utah) to engage with Congressional leaders at a briefing on Endangered Species Act reform before the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife and a hearing on state authority before the House Natural Resources Committee. See a recap of Day 1 and Day 2 of their visit.

The governors also took time to speak with media, including these two interviews on E&E TV.

daltv

E&E TV's OnPoint featured an interview with Gov. Dalrymple, during which he discusses a two-track approach on the Clean Power Plan and the shale oil industry's prospects amid recent price shifts. Watch it here.

tvmeadtv

E&E TV's OnPoint also highlighted Gov. Mead and the state of Wyoming. The governor discusses how Wyoming, as a major coal producer, plans to both comply with and litigate the Clean Power Plan and the potential role of natural gas, wind energy and emissions trading. Watch it here.

Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Western Governors tell House Natural Resources Committee states are the experts on resource management

Published on .

Gov Bullock House HearingGov. Steve Bullock (Courtesy House Natural Resources)

Media: The Salt Lake Tribune wrote about the House hearing, as did the Washington Examiner and KSFY TV in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Sept. 30, 2015: Four Western Governors testified before the House Natural Resources Committee at a hearing on Wednesday (Sept. 30), at which they highlighted the importance of recognizing state expertise in relation to resource management and energy development.

Western Governors' Association Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (WGA Vice Chair), South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert appeared before Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop of Utah on the topic, "Respecting State Authority, Responsibilities and Expertise Regarding Resource Management and Energy Development."

Gov Mead at House PanelGov. Matt Mead"We share the belief that solutions developed at the local level -- by the people who live in the state and are impacted the most -- are typically more effective and lasting than those developed by officials who live and work hundreds or thousands of miles away," said Gov. Herbert.

Gov. Bullock also advocated for increased state management over natural resource development. "We’ve aggressively pushed for constructive partnerships and active engagement with the federal government using our authority, expertise and research, and harnessing the incredible capacity of our citizens to work together collaboratively and problem solve.”

"We believe in states' rights," said Gov. Mead, speaking of the respect and collaboration that exists within WGA. "We wish for the federal government to show the same

Western Governors discuss ways to improve the ESA before Senate panel

Published on .

MEDIA COVERAGE: The Associated Press reported on the Senate Briefing (Governors: Make species delisting process more predictable) as did the Oil & Gas Journal and Gray TV. USAgnet reported on the Governors' meeting with the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Sept. 29, 2015: Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock kicked off two days of Capitol Hill appearances by Western Governors today by discussing ways to improve the Endangered Species Act (ESA) before the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife.

Bullock Profile with Mead CropGovernors Bullock, right, and Mead The governors appeared before Fisheries, Water and Wildlife Chairman Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska at the briefing, which also included remarks from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Director Dan Ashe. The topic: "Improving the Endangered Species Act: Perspectives from the Fish and Wildlife Service and State Governors."

The briefing was the first of two appearances by Western Governors this week in Washington, D.C., organized by the Western Governors’ Association (WGA). Four Governors will appear on Wednesday, Sept. 30, before the House Natural Resources Committee to discuss “Respecting State Authority, Responsibilities and Expertise Regarding Resource Management and Energy Development.”

meadfin

"We value our wildlife. It's part of our quality of life in the West, in many ways it's why we live there," said Gov. Mead, who as WGA Chairman has made improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the ESA his Chairman's Initiative. "But we also value our economy. It's hard to deal with the constant uncertainty caused by the ESA."

Gov. Bullock noted the importance of encouraging the voluntary work so critical to the recent decision not to list the greater sage-grouse. "The question increasingly is 'What more can be done to incent voluntary conservation to keep a species from being listed in the first place?' "

Gov. Mead echoed that sentiment by saying "The greater sage-grouse ruling

Drought Update: USGS examines low river flows, Oregon Gov. Brown declares drought in 25th county

Published on .

2015 droughtPhoto Courtesy of USGSHydrologic technicians from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are currently taking measurements from hundreds of streams and rivers across the West as part of a major low-flow study.

The large-scale study will measure stream flow and water temperatures in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington to document the severity of this year's drought.

"This year's warmer, drier weather provides a preview of how future droughts may impact water resources in the study area," said Chris Konrad, USGS hydrologist and study project chief. "The goal is to provide information to resource managers to help understand differences in how streams respond to drought and plan for future drought impacts throughout the region."

The data will be compiled and analyzed with a summary report of findings planned for publication in late 2016. Learn more

The Western Governors' Drought Forum is the Chairman's Initiative of