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Western Governors approve policy resolutions on stronger state-federal relationship, radioactive waste, coal combustion residuals, water quality and more

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Western Governors formally approved seven new policy resolutions on the state-federal relationship, states' share of royalties and leasing revenues, water quality, tax-exempt federal lands, and storage and disposal of radioactive waste at the Western Governors' Association 2016 Winter Meeting at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, California.

Under the American construct of federalism, powers of the federal government are narrow, enumerated and defined. The powers of the states, on the other hand, are vast and indefinite. Over time, however, the balance of power has shifted from the states toward the federal government.

The inauguration of a new Administration presents an unusual opportunity to realign the state-federal relationship. Western Governors are eager to work in true partnership with the federal government and call upon the Administration to engage them in the development and execution of policy that impacts state authority. Governors and states have knowledge, perspectives and competencies that should be brought to bear in federal decision-making processes.

The resolutions adopted today by Western Governors are informed by their dedication to the protection of their constitutional prerogatives. WGA Policy Resolution 2017-01 (LINK) articulates specific policy on the state-federal relationship and suggests a framework for its realignment.

The seven new policy resolutions formally approved include:

  • Building a Stronger State-Federal Relationship: In the absence of Constitutional delegation of authority to the federal government, state authority should be presumed sovereign. Each executive department and agency should have a clear and accountable process to provide states with early, meaningful and substantive input in the development of regulatory policies. Where authority has been delegated by the federal government to the states, states should be granted the maximum administrative discretion possible and should be treated as co-regulators. It is time for a thoughtful review of the extant Executive Order on Federalism. Governors support the reestablishment of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
  • States’ Share of Royalties and Leasing Revenues from Federal Lands: The federal government has codified in law several historic agreements and programs to compensate western states for costs associated with the presence of tax exempt federal lands within their borders. The federal government must honor its statutory obligations to share royalty and lease payments with states and counties. States, as recipients of revenues from these programs and agreements, should be provided meaningful and substantial opportunities for consultation in the development of federal policy affecting those revenues.
  • Tax-Exempt Federal Lands and Secure Rural Schools: The federal government must honor its historic Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) agreement with states and counties in the West to compensate them for tax-exempt federal lands within their borders. Predictable and adequate payments under PILT and Secure Rural Schools’ programs are vital to providing state and county public goods and services, such as roads, emergency response, and wildlife and natural resources protection. The payments should not be subject to federal sequestration.
  • Water Quality in the West: States have jurisdiction over water resource allocation decisions and are responsible for balancing state water resource needs within the objectives of the federal Clean Water Act. Western Governors recognize the importance of the Safe Drinking Water Act, its standards for drinking water contaminants, and adequate federal support for states’ missions to meet federal drinking water system requirements. Western Governors also urge adequate federal funding and support of states’ efforts to address water quality.
  • Storage and Disposal of Radioactive Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel: Governors must be consulted about federal activities involving the transportation, storage or disposal of radioactive waste within a state’s borders, and no radioactive waste storage or disposal facility should be located within the geographic boundaries of a western state or U.S. flag island without the written consent of the Governor.
  • Financial Assurance Regulation: Reclamation of western mines and facilities managed by other industries is needed primarily to protect adjacent waters. It is therefore appropriate and consistent with Congressional intent to recognize the states’ primary role in regulating impact of facility reclamation – including associated financial assurance requirements. Western Governors believe that states have financial assurance regulatory programs in place that are working well and they should not be preempted or duplicated by any EPA program.
  • Regulations of Coal Combustion Residuals: Western Governors agree with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) assessment in 2015 that coal combustion residuals (CCRs) should be regulated as non-hazardous waste under subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Western Governors support safe, beneficial use of CCRs and call on EPA to work with states and stakeholders to develop a national framework for advancing beneficial use. Western Governors also support legislative changes to amend subtitle D of RCRA to allow CCR permit programs adopted by states to operate in an efficient, flexible, and protective fashion – in lieu of a federal program.

Western Governors enact new policy resolutions and amend existing resolutions on a bi-annual basis.  All of WGA’s current resolutions can be found on our Policies Page.

Learn more about the work of the Western Governors by reviewing our policy outreach and visiting the blog. You can also sign up for e-mail updates and follow the Western Governors' Association on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.