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Western Governors Warn Reliability of Electricity Grid at Risk (12/18/06)

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Western Governors Warn Reliability of Electricity Grid at Risk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2006

Contact: Doug Larson, Western Interstate Energy Board, 303-623-9378, ext. 201

DENVER -- Western Governors today expressed concern that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will undercut the reliability of the Western power grid by denying funding for Western Interconnection Reliability Centers.

A recent FERC decision means the West must rely on voluntary contributions to fund grid reliability centers. Throughout the six-year Congressional debate that led to the enactment of Section 215 of the Federal Power Act, the Western Governors Association strongly supported mandatory funding of grid reliability instead of strictly voluntary contributions.

Our core belief then and now is that the reliability of the power grids should not be based on the voluntary action of market participants, the governors said in a letter to FERC. The letter was signed by Govs. Mike Rounds (S.D.), WGA Chairman and Dave Freudenthal (Wyo.), WGA Vice Chairman, on behalf of the association.

The Governors noted that in other regions, FERC voted to pass on the costs of reliability centers to consumers through the transmission tariffs of regional transmission organizations or dominant transmission owning utilities. However, no such entities cover the entire Western Interconnection.

In urging approval of mandatory funding of Western reliability centers, the Governors emphasized that Congress recognized in enacting Section 215 that there are regional differences that the Commission needs to accommodate.

The Governors urged the Commission grant the Western Electricity Coordinating Councils (WECC) petition for rehearing of the Commission's denial of Section 215 funding for Reliability Centers. They also expressed their concurrence with the conclusion of the Western Interconnection Regional Advisory Body (WIRAB) that continued reliance on voluntary funding of Reliability Centers is discriminatory and not in the public interest.

The WECC is the industry reliability organization covering the entire Western Interconnection. WIRABs membership is composed of appointees of the governors and Canadian premiers whose states and provinces are part of the Western Interconnection. It was established in April under the Federal Power Act to advise FERC on reliability issues.

For more information on transmission and reliability issues, visit the WGA Web site at www.westgov.org or the WIEB Web site at www.westgov.org/wieb.

The Western Governors Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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New plan released by state, federal and county heads will make forests more resilient to wildfire (12/7/06)

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New plan released by state, federal and
county heads will make forests more resilient to wildfire

Diverse coalition of stakeholders develop ambitious plan to prevent wildfires, thin forests, restore lands and aid communities.

Embargoed for Release
1 p.m. (PST) 
December 7, 2006

Contact: 
Lori Faeth, Office of Governor Napolitano, 602-542-1334
Jim Caswell, Office of Governor Risch, 208-334-2189
Paul Orbuch, Western Governors' Association, 303-623-9378
Jennifer Plyler, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 202-205-1777
Shane Wolfe, Department of the Interior, 202-208-6416
Paul Beddoe, National Association of Counties, 202-942-4234
Mike Long, National Association of State Foresters, 850-488-4274 

Henderson, Nev. A new implementation plan designed to improve forest health and reduce wildfire risks nationwide was endorsed today by the Western Governors' Association, U.S. Departments of Agriculture and the Interior, National Association of Counties and National Association of State Foresters.

On hand for the announcement were Gov. Mike Rounds (S.D.), WGA Chair; Gov. Dave Freudenthal (Wyo.), WGA Vice Chair; Under Secretary of Agriculture Mark Rey; and Kathleen Clarke, Director of the Bureau of Land Management for the Department of the Interior.

The new implementation plan builds upon a 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy agreed to in 2001 that set ambitious goals to prevent and suppress wildland fires, thin forests to reduce hazardous fuels, restore ecosystems, and assist communities in protecting themselves and in developing their forest-based economies. A wide range of stakeholders, including WGA's Forest Health Advisory Committee, helped develop the original strategy and new implementation plan.

Gov. Rounds noted that the West and the nation have come a long way over the past six years in understanding the dangerous conditions that were created in our forests after a century of fire suppression. But much more remains to be done, a fact accentuated by the tragic deaths of 23 firefighters this fire season.

This plan reemphasizes the importance of collaboration in our effort to make our forests more resilient to wildfire by reducing hazardous fuels, Rounds said. In addition to healthier forests, we plan to provide greater safety to nearby communities and the firefighters protecting those communities.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, commenting on the plan said, "We've really opened productive channels of communication with all our partners and accomplished a great deal. With a record 9.4 million acres burned in 2006, we are reminded that we have more work to do together. The updated 10-Year Strategy reinforces our goals and updates the tasks to reflect the current environmental and social challenges.

Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, who serves as WGA's co-lead for forest health, was unable to attend today's meeting, but praised the latest effort I'm pleased that governors and the federal agencies incorporated the expertise and perspectives of all stakeholders who care deeply about the health of our nation's forests, Napolitano said. The individuals on WGA's Forest Health Advisory Committee represent small communities, environmental organizations, industry and government. They all played a role in developing this plan, and they will all play an integral role in ensuring its effective implementation.

Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Lynn Scarlett, who chaired the Wildland Fire Leadership Council in 2003-2004 and helped craft the new plan, praised the collaborative effort to update the plan.

The revised plan provides goals and measures so that we can track our progress in improving forest health and reducing risks to communities, said Deputy Secretary Scarlett. Forest and rangeland health depend upon science, collaboration and a clear roadmap. This plan brings all these elements together.

National Association of Counties' President Colleen Landkamer, Commissioner, Blue Earth County, Minn., said, County officials across the country look forward to working with our state and federal partners to further reduce the risk of wildland fire. We are particularly pleased with the emphasis on finding locally driven, collaborative solutions to the continuing challenges our communities face.

Julia Altemus, Resource Specialist for the Montana Logging Association, was a stakeholder that participated in the consensus-based process.

"The 10-year Strategy has given government, industry, communities and interest groups a framework under which we are getting work done on the ground in a collaborative fashion rather than spending time in a courtroom, Altemus said. We can clearly make more progress, and this new plan, with its emphasis on collaboration and the need to reduce hazardous biomass from the landscape, is welcomed."

Laura McCarthy, Western Fire and Forest Restoration Program Director for The Nature Conservancy, also participated in developing the plan.

"Altered fire regimes -- too much, too little, or the wrong kind of fire -- are one of the greatest threats to the West's plants, animals and local communities, McCarthy said. "This plan helps address that threat by encouraging new and better science to guide the restoration of overgrown forests and burned lands across the West."

The plan A Collaborative Approach for Reducing Wildland Fire Risks to Communities and the Environment: 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy Implementation Plan and a letter to Congress from the Governors, Counties and Secretaries can be found on the Web at: www.westgov.org.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Governors Tell FERC Transmission Reform Needed to Improve Efficiency, Ensure Access for Intermittent Energy Sources (11/30/06

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Governors Tell FERC Transmission Reform Needed to
Improve Efficiency, Ensure Access for Intermittent Energy Sources

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 30, 2006 
Contact: Doug Larson, 303-623-9378

DENVER -- Western Governors have urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to adopt transmission reforms that would promote more flexible use of the existing transmission system and provide greater access for generators of intermittent energy, such as wind, so they can get their product to market.

Studies show that many Western transmission paths operate at full capacity for only short, seasonal periods during the year. The Western Governors' Association, in a letter to FERC, said a new category of transmission service called conditional firm would allow generators of intermittent energy to obtain long-term guarantees to transmission lines during the off-peak periods. Guaranteed access to transmission is essential for intermittent generators to obtain financing for their projects.

The governors also support re-dispatch reforms to promote more efficient use of the transmission system. Depending on the minute-to-minute power flows over the transmission grid, generators in different parts of the grid can be ramped up or ramped down to increase the capacity of grid to move more and lower-cost power. This re-dispatch of generation can lower costs to consumers.

We believe that conditional firm transmission service and re-dispatch are important services to fully utilize the existing transmission grid and to enable new intermittent generation resources to reach markets, the governors said. Greater use of the existing transmission system is a necessary complement to the concerted effort of Western Governors to expand the Western transmission system.

The governors' adopted a policy resolution earlier this year supporting the new rule. The policy was based on recommendations developed by stakeholders who participated in WGA's Clean and Diversified Energy Advisory Committee. The rule change was one of several recommendations the committee made to develop 30,000 megawatts of clean and diversified energy resources, and to ensure the region will have secure, reliable transmission for the next 25 years.

A copy of the letter, the governors' resolution and the advisory committee's report are available on the Web at www.westgov.org.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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WGA awarded grant to boost bioenergy development and rural economies (10/13/06)

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WGA awarded grant to boost bioenergy development and rural economies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 13, 2006 
Contact: Gayle Gordon 720-273-9577

DENVER - The U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy have awarded the Western Governors' Association $290,000 to develop policies and strategies that will advance bioenergy as a clean, renewable energy source and also boost rural economies.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman made the announcement Wednesday during a national conference they are hosting called, Advancing Renewable Energy: An American Rural Renaissance. The Secretaries announced $17.5 million in grants for 17 research, development and demonstration projects that will help make bio-based fuels cost-competitive with fossil fuels in the commercial market.

WGA's Chair, Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, welcomed the news, saying Western governors are working to advance bioenergy derived from such things as forest and farming residues and dedicated energy crops. Earlier this year, the governors launched their Clean and Diversified Energy Initiative ( CDEi), which is focused on electricity needs. They will now expand on that work to include transportation fuels and thermal energy development.

We believe there is a very direct link between state and regional policies that will encourage the use of bioenergy resources and the actual deployment of new technologies, Rounds said. The goal is to provide cost-effective and environmentally beneficial alternatives to fossil fuels and, at the same time, provide a big boost to rural economies.

A team led by WGA will work with state energy offices, academia, the agricultural community, industry, environmental groups, and the public to determine what contribution bioenergy can make to increase development and use of alternative energy sources by 2015. A policy framework will then be developed for reaching the identified goals. The team proposed by WGA includes University of California-Davis, Kansas State, and bioenergy experts from the private sector and federal government.

Western governors who serve as leads for the CDEi and/or for the transportation fuels initiative are Govs. Rounds, Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif.), Bill Richardson, (N.M.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Brian Schweitzer (Mont.), Brad Henry (Okla.), Christine Gregoire (Wash.), and Dave Freudenthal (Wyo.).

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Congress moves on drought bill aimed at better forecasting and mitigation; Bill based on recommendations of Western Governors (9/27/06)

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Congress moves on drought bill aimed at better forecasting and mitigation; Bill based on recommendations of Western Governors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 27, 2006
Contact: Shaun McGrath, Western Governors' Association, 303-623-9378

DENVER -- Western Governors today commended Congress for moving rapidly forward on a drought bill that would dramatically improve the ability of states and communities to forecast, monitor and mitigate the impacts of drought.

The bill passed by the House last night includes many of the recommendations made by the Western Governors' Association in its 2004 report, "Creating a Drought Early Warning System for the 21st Century: The National Integrated Drought Information System." The report was developed in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The House measure was approved by a voice vote. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is scheduled to take up the bill today.

In a letter sent to members of Congress earlier this month (House letter -- Senate letter) , the Western Governors' Association urged them to pass this critical piece of legislation expeditiously. WGA leads for drought issues are: Govs. Mike Rounds, S.D., WGA Chairman; Bill Richardson (N.M.); Brian Schweitzer (Mont.); and Janet Napolitano (Ariz.). The bill sponsors in the House and Senate are Rep. Ralph Hall (Texas), Rep. Mark Udall (Colo.), Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Sen. Pete Domenici (N.M.).

The Western Governors believe that improved drought monitoring and forecasting is fundamental to a proactive approach toward drought and water shortages, the WGA letter stated. NIDIS will allow policy-makers and water mangers at all levels of the private and public sectors to make more informed and timely decisions about their water resources in order to mitigate or avoid the impacts from droughts.

Quoting statistics provided by NOAA, the governors said the federal government spends $6 to 8 billion a year responding to drought. In addition, an average of $1 billion a year has been spent on wildfire suppression over the past six years.

The President's National Science and Technology Council issued a report last year entitled, Grand Challenges for Disaster Reduction, which emphasizes the importance of better drought warning systems. The report stated: Compared to all natural hazards, droughts are, on average, the leading cause of economic losses.

A copy of the WGA letter, the NIDIS report and state-by-state statistics for many Western states suffering from the impacts of this year's drought are available on the WGA Web site at www.westgov.org.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Western Governors laud efforts to expand IGCC technology development in the West (8/16/06)

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Western Governors laud efforts to expand 
IGCC technology development in the West

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 16, 2006

Contact: Rich Halvey (303) 623-9378

DENVER -- Western Governors today applauded Xcel Energy on its plans to develop an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle facility in Colorado that will produce cleaner energy while capturing carbon dioxide and preventing it from entering the atmosphere.

Xcel's announcement is an important step in meeting the clean and diversified energy goals of Western Governors, said South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, Chairman of the Western Governors' Association. Xcel's efforts and those of Basin Electric, which recently launched a feasibility study for an IGCC project in South Dakota, are major developments on the clean energy front.

Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, WGA Vice Chairman, also praised the Xcel announcement. An IGCC plant, which converts coal to gas for fuel, has never been built at high altitude.

The deployment of IGCC at higher altitude using Western coal is necessary to ensure the West can take advantage of our immense coal resources while protecting the environment, Freudenthal said. Deploying advanced, clean-coal technologies is an important complement to the energy efficiency and renewable energy investments needed to secure the West's energy future.

On June 19, Governor Freudenthal joined forces with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to advance the deployment of IGCC technology in the West through provisions in the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005. Wyoming is the largest coal producing state in the nation and California is one of the largest energy consuming states. On July 17, the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority also began soliciting proposals to demonstrate the use of Wyoming coal in gasification facilities.

IGCC power plants turn coal or other fossil fuels into a clean-burning gas, which is then used by a turbine to generate electricity. This low emission technology also facilitates the cost-effective capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide, rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. Earlier this year, BP and Edison Mission Group announced a first-of-its-kind IGCC project near Los Angeles that will gasify petroleum coke and use the carbon dioxide to enhance oil production in the area.

Governor Freudenthal noted that the progress we are seeing in IGCC technologies will enable broader use of this technology throughout the region. The West needs to seek all opportunities to expand the deployment of this technology.

In June, WGA approved a broad-based set of proposals for meeting future electricity needs by expanding the use of advanced coal technologies and renewable energy resources and by increasing energy efficiency. The governors' policy resolution was based on the recommendations developed by more than 250 stakeholders and published in the WGA report entitled, Clean Energy, A Strong Economy and a Healthy Environment.

The goals, which the group found could be met or exceeded, are to develop an additional 30,000 megawatts of clean energy by 2015; increase energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020; and ensure secure, reliable transmission for the next 25 years.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Western Governors Call on Congress to Act Swiftly On Disaster Assistance for Farmers and Ranchers (7/31/06)

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Western Governors Call on Congress to Act Swiftly On Disaster Assistance for Farmers and Ranchers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 31, 2006

Contact: Kevin Moran or Shanna Brown, (202) 624-5402

DENVER -- As drought and other severe weather conditions continue to devastate Western farms and ranches, Governors today called on House and Senate leaders to act swiftly on measures that will provide meaningful relief.

The letter from the Western Governors' Association was signed by Govs. Mike Rounds (S.D.), WGA Chair; Dave Freudenthal (Wyo.), WGA Vice Chair; Janet Napolitano (Ariz.); Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif.); Bill Owens (Colo.); Linda Lingle (Hawaii); Jim Risch (Idaho); Kathleen Sebelius (Kan.); Brian Schweitzer (Mont.); Dave Heineman (Neb.); Bill Richardson (N.M.); Kenny Guinn (Nev.); John Hoeven (N.D.); Brad Henry (Okla.); Ted Kulongoski (Ore.); Jon Huntsman, Jr.(Utah); and Chris Gregoire (Wash.). Govs. Rounds and Hoeven drafted the initial letter and circulated it to their colleagues for consideration.

Following is the text of the letter sent by the Western Governors' Association to House and Senate leaders and chairs of the appropriations committees in both chambers:

We, as Governors representing Western states, are writing on behalf of farmers and ranchers suffering drought and other natural disasters.

For some time now, farmers and ranchers throughout the Western United States and other parts of the country have been either suffering or recovering from drought and other severe weather conditions. The current record setting heat wave in many of our states will impose considerable burdens on agriculture. Current forecasts in some areas are predicting more dry weather, with little promise of relief. These weather conditions, in combination with increased production costs, are taking a terrible toll on our farmers and ranchers, and their livestock and crops. In order to continue to provide America with quality, affordable food under these conditions, disaster assistance legislation is imperative.

It is vitally important that Congress passes legislation this year providing meaningful disaster relief to help farmers and ranchers through these disaster conditions.

We, the Western Governors, strongly encourage you to support disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers who have suffered severe losses due to these natural disasters.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Western Governors Encourage National Guard Troops and their Families to Enroll in TRICARE Health System (7/28/06)

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Western Governors Encourage National Guard Troops
and their Families to Enroll in TRICARE Health System

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 28, 2006

Contact: Chris McKinnon, 303 623-9378

Western Governors are encouraging their National Guard and Reserve members and their families to begin enrolling in the expanded TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) program. Congress expanded TRS to provide healthcare to more National Guard and Reserve Members. Enrollment opens on August 1, 2006.

The TRICARE system, a managed care program of the U.S. Department of Defense, was created in the early 1990s as a better way to provide health care services for active duty military personnel and their families and for military retirees and their families. It receives its funding as part of the annual defense budget, which is approved by Congress and signed by the President.

In June, Western Governors adopted a policy resolution regarding the need for a comprehensive health care solution for National Guard personnel. In the resolution the Governors urge employers to assist their Guard and Reserve employees with their cost share for TRICARE healthcare services and they support efforts to increase the federal share of premium costs of National Guard enrollees in TRICARE.

The Governors applaud the healthcare providers in the Western Region that currently accept TRICARE patients and urge more providers to join in serving the nation's citizen soldiers. In addition, the Governors have encouraged the federal government to streamline the process for health care providers to become TRICARE providers.

TriWest Healthcare Alliance administers the TRICARE Program for National Guard troops and families in 21 western states. Currently, an extensive network of providers exists in each state to provide for the healthcare needs of the men and women in uniform - a total of 105,000 providers across the West. The TRICARE program is divided into three roughly equal regions, but the West is fortunate to have nearly half of the 220,000 providers in the national network.

The TRICARE Reserve Select program expands the benefits to all selected reserve guardsmen and reservists, rather than limiting coverage solely to those who have been activated for more than 90 days supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Noble Eagle. Effective October 1, 2006, every member of the National Guard will have access to TRICARE healthcare coverage on a cost-share basis.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Western Governors Encourage Wind Energy Producers to Help the Region Achieve Cleaner and More Diverse Energy Portfolio (7/18/06)

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Governors Encourage Wind Energy Producers to Help
the Region Achieve Cleaner and More Diverse Energy Portfolio

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 18, 2006

CONTACT: Karen Deike at 303-623-9378 or Doug Larson at 303-573-8910

(Broomfield, Colo.) Wyoming Governor and Western Governors' Association Vice Chairman Dave Freudenthal today challenged leading wind energy companies to help the region develop new clean and diverse energy resources. Governor Freudenthal was speaking before the National Wind Coordinating Committee Leadership Forum. Western Governors have established a goal of generating 30,000 megawatts of new clean and diverse electricity generating capacity by 2015 from a combination of wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and clean coal resources.

Some of you may wonder why the Governor of the largest coal producing state and the fifth largest and fastest growing gas producing state in the nation cares about wind energy. Wyoming cares because the market is demanding cleaner and more diversified electricity generating resources to help stabilize energy prices said Governor Freudenthal.

The National Wind Coordinating Committee is a consensus-based collaborative formed in 1994 to identifies issues that affect the use of wind power, establish dialogue among key stakeholders, and catalyze appropriate activities to support the development of environmentally, economically, and politically sustainable commercial markets for wind power.

Western Governors adopted a broad set of policy recommendations in June to encourage the region to work together to ensure a cleaner and more diverse energy portfolio. But Freudenthal indicated that while Governors can make recommendations, it will take action by federal agencies, state regulators, developers of clean generation resources, county officials, environmental organizations and new transmission line developers to implement them.

The Governors ratified the notion that more diversity in electric generation would be good for their citizens and their states' economies, including developing a lot more wind power and the transmission lines and reforms that wind needs to serve more consumers, said Ron Lehr from the American Wind Energy Association. The Governors asked for help to implement their recommendations to make it happen, and this forum will do just that.

Implementing the action plans you will be considering at this meeting will require a degree of collaboration among governments and the private sector we have not often seen. Western Governors solicit your participation and will lend our support to the actions needed to achieve a clean and diversified energy system in the West said Governor Freudenthal.

The National Wind Coordinating Committee Leadership Forum continues tomorrow.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Gov. Freudenthal to Address Regional Forum on Wind Energy, Smart Transmission Planning (7/5/06)

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Gov. Freudenthal to Address Regional Forum on 
Wind Energy, Smart Transmission Planning

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 5, 2006

CONTACT: Karen Deike at 303-623-9378 or Doug Larson at 303-573-8910

DENVER, COLO. -- Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, Vice Chairman of the Western Governors' Association, will deliver the keynote address at a regional conference this month in Denver that will result in action plans for increasing the use of wind energy and other clean energy resources through better use of the existing transmission system and expansion of the grid.

WGA and the National Wind Coordinating Committee are cosponsoring the July 18-19 conference, entitled, Leadership Forum: Implementing Transmission Recommendations in the West. At their Annual Meeting in Sedona, Ariz., earlier this month, Western Governors adopted a broad-based set of recommendations for dramatically increasing clean and diversified energy resources and ensuring the region has adequate transmission to deliver those resources to customers. This is the first major conference aimed at implementing those recommendations.

Recent studies show significant economic, hard dollar benefits to both supplier and buyer states from diversifying electric generation resources and increasing efficiency in the West, Freudenthal said. This means we could lower costs for consumer states and increase revenues for producer states across the region.

Freudenthal said every diversity scenario for the West requires more robust transmission systems to move the diverse resources from places like Wyoming, where they are abundant, to loads in cities where they are in demand. The governor is scheduled to deliver the luncheon address on July 18 at the Omni Interlocken hotel in Denver.

An agenda and registration information are available on the Web at: http://www.nationalwind.org/events/transmission/western/2006. Advance materials will be sent only to registered participants.

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About the Western Governors' Association:

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human resources, economic development, international relations and public management. Additional information about WGA is available on the Web at www.westgov.org.

About the National Wind Coordinating Committee (NWCC):

A consensus-based collaborative formed in 1994, the National Wind Coordinating Committee (NWCC) identifies issues that affect the use of wind power, establishes dialogue among key stakeholders, and catalyzes appropriate activities to support the development of environmentally, economically, and politically sustainable commercial markets for wind power (www.nationalwind.org).

 

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Gov. Rounds Elected WGA Chair, Emphasizes Energy Independence, Workforce Development, Technology (6/13/06)

Published on .

Gov. Rounds Elected WGA Chair, Emphasizes
Energy Independence, Workforce Development, Technology

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 13, 2006

Contact:  Karen Deike (303) 623-9378

SEDONA, Ariz. -- Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota was elected Chairman of the Western Governors' Association today, and Gov. Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming was elected Vice Chairman.

Rounds succeeds Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, who concluded the Association's Annual Meeting with the adoption of policy resolutions on a number of issues, following up on the earlier approval of policies on clean and diversified energy, transportation fuels for the future, global climate change and managing the West's limited water supplies.

Rounds praised Napolitano's leadership on regional and national issues, pointing out her leadership with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah in developing a comprehensive framework for immigration reform.  Napolitano said WGA will continue to take a lead in urging Congress to take action on comprehensive immigration reform this year.

Gov. Rounds said during the next year he will focus on issues under the banner of Making the West the Best.

The West is already the best in many ways, but we are no longer unchallenged, Rounds said.  Where we are ahead€¦ we must stay ahead.  Where we are behind, we must move faster forward than every other region of the world. Where we are being challenged€¦ we must meet each challenge with greater innovation, more productivity and inspiring motivation for ourselves and our next generations.

Gov. Freudenthal said:  I look forward to working with Governor Rounds to move forward with the aggressive agenda set for the Western Governors.  This organization continues to be a national example of bipartisan cooperation on issues important to the region and the nation.

Rounds said he will emphasize three areas during the next year.

  • Accelerating Energy Independence for the West
  • Creating the Best Workforce in the World, and
  • Leading the World in Technology

Building on what we already have in energy production in the West and adding new sources of energy, we must accelerate Western energy production for American energy independence, he said.  We must use the excellent information developed by WGA's Clean and Diversified Energy Advisory Committee, and we must improve and increase the output of our current sources of energy as we develop and expand our alternative sources of energy.

Rounds said our Western economy needs a workforce that not only fills projected job needs, but also is so good that it causes the creation of many, many more high-paying jobs in the West.

He stressed that education and workforce must be viewed as the same continuous process, transforming today's students into tomorrow's valuable employees and leaders who will create a world-leading Western economy.

We can make the West the best by transforming our own students into the very best workforce and by bringing the world's best students here and then convincing them to stay here, he said.  That's the kind of innovation and job-creating immigration that no one will want to stop.

Rounds also emphasized the importance of technology creating the best technology and capitalizing on it through commercialization.

Making the West the best in technology also means integrating the latest technology into our educational delivery systems in addition to our business practices,  he said.

Among the new policy resolutions adopted today was one offered by Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer that recognizes the economic opportunities in restoring environmental degradation that has occurred in the past on federal lands.  While many Western states currently fund environmental protection and restoration activities, the resolution calls on the federal government to emphasis restoration activities West-wide through partnership and federal funding.

The governors also adopted a strong statement supporting states' authority during an emergency and rejected consolidation of responsibility to the Department of Defense.

The policy stated that the governor, as the elected representative of the citizens of any state, has the responsibility to direct resources to a local community during a disaster.  Supplanting a governor's command and control of the National Guard during a disaster will not improve emergency response.  The federal government has an important role in support of these elements, but taking command of this traditional state function is not an appropriate role for the federal government.

The Governors also adopted a resolution identifying their priorities for farm bill legislation, a law Congress is expected to rewrite.  The governors noted that Western states have diverse and unique needs, but as a group, their priorities will focus on conservation, energy, specialty crops, research, and rural development.

Copies of the resolutions are available on the WGA Web site at www.westgov.org.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Governors Approve Recommendations for Managing Limited Water, in Face of Tremendous Growth, Drought (6/12/06)

Published on .

Governors Approve Recommendations for Managing Limited Water,
in Face of Tremendous Growth, Drought

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2006

Contact:  Karen Deike (303) 377-6787

SEDONA, Ariz. -- Western governors today adopted broad-based recommendations and strategies for managing the region's limited water resources in face of tremendous growth.  They also discussed best practices for conserving public lands and communicated their priorities on specific issues via satellite with Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne.

Over the last decade many Westerners have witnessed remarkable change: new industries and jobs, tremendous growth, ever increasing commute times to jobs, said Gov. Janet Napolitano, Chair of the Western Governors' Association, which is holding its Annual Meeting here through Tuesday.

We are working together to analyze and respond to the impacts of this growth on land, wildlife, water, housing communities, transportation and jobs, she said, noting that sustainable land and water practices have been a priority for her as Chair.  Western governors are demonstrating real leadership in identifying actions we can take as states, as a region, and by working together with the federal government the largest single landowner in the West.

The governors adopted recommendations prepared by the Western States Water Council, entitled: Water Needs and Strategies for a Sustainable Future. They include:

  • Examine the role of water policy relative to sustainable growth.  States should identify water requirements needed for future growth and develop integrated growth and water supply impact scenarios that can be presented to local decision-makers.
  • Analyze state needs and identify strategies to meet future demands. For example, better integration of vast amounts of data is needed, and the National Drought Information System, which Congress is considering and WGA supports, could be instrumental.
  • Identify water infrastructure needs and promising strategies for meeting them.  Stable federal funding and flexibility for states to address their priorities is key.
  • Identify means to resolve Indian water right claims in ways that provide water to tribes, while minimizing disruption to existing non-Indian uses.
  • Describe potential ramifications of climate change on Western water resources, and develop recommendations to assist states in preparing for these impacts, including drought preparedness, flood control and data collection.
  • Work with federal agencies to develop a protocol for improving coordination and cooperation in protecting aquatic species under the Endangered Species Act within the framework of state water laws.

The Governors also released a report, Collaborative Conservation Strategies:  Legislative Case Studies from Across the West. It examined results and lessons learned from a number of efforts to address growth and development while protecting wilderness.

Secretary Kempthorne said as a former governor, he recognizes success in Washington depends on working with governors and finding common ground.  Specifically, he said he will work with states on issues related to endangered species, including strengthening the role of states in management.

Both the water and land conservation reports and the WGA resolution on ESA are available on the Web at www.westgov.org.

The meeting concludes tomorrow with a discussion of state preparedness for a potential outbreak of avian flu.  The governors will also adopt policy resolutions and elect a new chair and vice chair.

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The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific.  Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

Western Governors Adopt Policies on Clean, Diversified Energy, Global Climate Change and Transportation Fuels (6/11/06

Published on .

Western Governors Adopt Policies on Clean, Diversified Energy,
Global Climate Change and Transportation Fuels

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 11, 2006

Contact:  Karen Deike, 303-377-6787

SEDONA, ARIZONA -- Western governors today committed to take action on a number of fronts to bring on-line substantially more clean and diversified energy resources, improve energy efficiency and ensure there is adequate transmission available at a reasonable cost well into the future.

They also said the country could help reduce its reliance on unstable foreign oil supplies by supporting additional research and development of cleaner, alternative transportation fuels.   Additionally, they called for a full and vigorous discussion regarding the reduction and mitigation of greenhouse gases, adaptation policies and other global climate change measures.

On the opening day of the Western Governors' Association Annual Meeting, the governors backed a broad-based set of proposals for meeting future electricity needs.  The policy resolution is based on the recommendations developed over the past 18 months by more than 250 stakeholders, whose work is outlined in the WGA report released today entitled, Clean Energy, a Strong Economy and a Healthy Environment. The goals, which the group found could be met or exceeded, are to develop an additional 30,000 megawatts of clean energy by 2015; increase energy efficiency 20 percent by 2020; and ensure secure, reliable transmission for the next 25 years.

The resolution adopted by the governors was brought forward by Govs. Janet Napolitano (Ariz.), WGA Chair; Bill Richardson (N.M.) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif.), who proposed the initiative two years ago; Dave Freudenthal (Wyo.); and Mike Rounds (S.D.), WGA Vice Chair.

We are grateful to all those who dedicated so much time to this remarkable effort and worked hard to find common ground, Napolitano said. The Western governors believe the actions identified will help protect our region from energy shortages and price spikes, improve the balance of energy resources used to produce electricity, encourage more energy-efficient practices, and mitigate the environmental impacts of power generation.

Gov. Freudenthal moderated the discussion among the governors and panelists.  Speakers at today's session included Joseph T. Kelliher, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Jeff Sterba, Chairman, President and CEO of PNM Resources and representatives from government, the environmental community and industry.

The Governors urged FERC to build a partnership with Western states to make more efficient use of the existing electric transmission grid, expand the grid to enable the region to tap remote, diverse generation, and work closely with the Western Interconnection Regional Advisory Board to ensure grid reliability.

The recommendations are cross-cutting and recognize the value of and need for reliable power generation from many sources, including cleaner-burning coal, wind, geothermal, solar and biomass, Freudenthal said.

Gov. Schwarzenegger said the recommendations address difficult and profound challenges.  When we work together, these ambitious goals are 100 percent attainable.  They're too important for us to do anything but work together.

Gov. Rounds said governors will consider measures most appropriate for their states by encouraging regulators, policymakers, utilities, transmission operators and other stakeholders to eliminate barriers to greater utilization of clean energy resources.

There is much we can do within our states, but federal action also is needed to reach our mutual goals for secure, reliable energy within our region and across the country, Rounds said.  Western governors will work with Congress and the Bush Administration to see these recommendations are implemented.

The governors identified the following federal policies and legislation needed:

  • Provide for a long-term (10 year) extension of the production tax credit for all renewable energy technologies, with complementary polices for consumer-owned utilities and tribes;
  • Provide tax credits for energy efficiency investments;
  • Raise the cap on the residential investment tax credit to $10,000 for renewable energy or distributed generation systems;
  • Support improvements in national appliance efficiency standards;
  • Encourage adequate funding for state programs, including energy efficiency, clean generation and storage technology research, development and demonstration;
  • Encourage federal agencies to collaborate with Western states and regional organizations on facility siting and infrastructure planning, consistent with sound, sustainable environmental practices;
  • Extend the federal tax credit for Integrated Gas Combined Cycle facilities for five years and provide a tax credit program for carbon capture and sequestration for at least five years;
  • Support increased federal support and tax incentives for the construction of multiple pilot facilities that demonstrate IGCC in the West at high altitude using Western coal; and
  • Encourage proactive, transparent, stakeholder-driven regional transmission expansion planning, defer to existing regional and sub-regional processes that meet such standards, and reform imbalance penalties to allow for greater use of the existing transmission system.

On the transportation fuels front, the governors said the country must reverse its over-dependence on volatile foreign oil supplies in ways that can benefit both the environment and the regional economy.  Among the measures the governors called for are:

  • expand economic opportunities through the production and distribution of domestic renewable fuels to all regions of the West;
  • diversify the country's reliance on petroleum and natural gas as feedstocks for petrochemicals by developing biofuels and coal-derived compounds;
  • evaluate alternative transportation fuels' impacts, seeking to reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions and improve air quality and the environment;
  • consider carbon capture and sequestration in evaluating the production costs of coal-to-liquids as well as other transportation fuel alternatives;
  • encourage distribution of alternative fuel refining and refueling facilities throughout the nation;
  • promote the inclusion of higher renewable content blends in existing transportation fuels;
  • promote policies that result in more fuel-efficient vehicles and incentivize consumers to purchase hybrids or other fuel efficient vehicles to reduce our per vehicle consumption of transportation fuel.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer (Mont.), a cosponsor of the transportation fuels resolution, said Energy independence is the most important challenge facing this nation and Washington is debating everything but is not directly addressing this challenge. Today, Western Governors are helping to set a new direction to position this region which is rich in coal and biomass resources to develop alternative transportation fuels. We need the federal government to step up to the plate to meet this challenge or get out of the way.

Govs. Richardson, Schwarzenegger and Napolitano also offered a policy resolution on regional and national policies regarding global climate change. The governors stated their support for local, state, regional, and national programs to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that is consistent with scientific research and will not significantly harm the U.S. economy.

The West is where the action is for clean energy, reducing emissions, and new energy jobs and growth, Richardson said.  I appreciate the Western governors' strong support for these trend-setting energy and climate initiatives.

The policy resolutions adopted today are available on the Web at www.westgov.org.

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The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 19 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific.  Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

Elected Officials from Western States and Counties Urge Senate Enactment of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (5/17/06)

Published on .

Elected Officials from Western States and Counties Urge
Senate Enactment of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2006

Contacts:
Amelia Jenkins, WGA, 303-623-9378, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
James Philipps, NACo Western Interstate Region, 202-942-4200, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

DENVER -- Western governors, legislators and county commissioners representing diverse constituencies from the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean have joined forces in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

The Western Governors' Association, Council of State Governments WEST, and NACo Western Interstate Region have sent a joint letter to U.S. Senate leaders saying their efforts to reach agreement have made enactment of a comprehensive immigration reform and border security legislative package a real possibility. They congratulated Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid for their leadership.

The text of the letter sent to the leaders today follows:

On behalf of elected officials across the West, we applaud your recent agreement to bring immigration legislation before the Senate again. Further, we are encouraged that your negotiations included an agreement on a conference committee process. Your efforts have made enactment of a comprehensive immigration reform and border security legislative package a real possibility.

As elected officials addressing the impacts of immigration at the local and state level we agree that any legislation must be comprehensive. Through our own processes, our colleagues have joined to support key principles that we believe should be part of any federal initiative.

These principles include, but are not limited to, increased border security and enforcement provisions; dedicated funding to state and local governments to offset costs associated with illegal immigration; enactment of a guest worker program; and reforming foreign worker visa procedures to reduce the delay of legal immigration processes. We uphold these common principles despite our region's political or geographic diversity.

Please rest assured that we appreciate the complexity and controversy associated with the immigration issue. However, it is our opinion that legislation must link the labor and marketplace demands, societal concerns, and the need to protect and enhance national security.

We stand ready to assist you in your efforts to move forward on a comprehensive legislative package and look forward to working with you on this important issue.

Thank you for your leadership.

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Western Governors: Current Drought Emphasizes Need for National Drought Information System (5/4/06)

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Western Governors: Current Drought Emphasizes Need for National Drought Information System

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 4, 2006
Contact: Kevin Moran, 202-624-5402

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With a quarter of the United States already facing moderate-to-extreme drought conditions, Western Governors today urged Congress to take action this year on the National Integrated Drought Information System Act, a proactive measure that will minimize the impacts and costs of drought.

The Western Governors' Association's leads for drought are Govs. Janet Napolitano (Ariz.), WGA Chair; Mike Rounds (S.D.), WGA Vice Chairman; Brian Schweitzer (Mont.); and Bill Richardson (N.M.).

Duane Smith, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, testified today on behalf of WGA and the Western States Water Council before the House Science Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards.

We are already seeing the impacts of drought in 2006, Smith said. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there have been 32,988 fires between January 1 and April 24 on 2,195,768 acres. This compares to the 5-year average for this time period of 23,639 fires on 485,308 acres.

We know from our past experiences, the costs of response efforts to drought have been staggering. On average, the federal government spends $6-8 billion on drought response.

Western governors and the water council say creation of the National Integrated Drought Information System would improve drought monitoring and forecasting, which is fundamental to a proactive approach to addressing not only drought, but also water shortages.

It also would allow policy-makers and water managers at all levels of the private and public sectors to make more informed and timely decisions about water resources in order to mitigate or avoid the impacts from droughts, Smith said.

NIDIS will provide water users across the board- farmers, ranchers, utilities, tribes, land managers, business owners, recreationalists, wildlife managers, and decision-makers at all levels of government- with the ability to assess their drought risk in real time and before the onset of drought, in order to make informed decisions that may mitigate a drought's impacts.

The Western states believe that enactment of NIDIS will help move the country toward a proactive approach that will avoid conflicts and minimize the damage caused by future droughts, thereby saving taxpayers money, Smith said.

The House measure is sponsored by Reps. Ralph Hall (Texas) and Mark Udall (Colo.). Sponsors of a similar Senate bill are Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Pete Domenici (N.M.). Information related to WGA's drought policy can be found on the Web at WGA Policies.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 18 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Western Governors Offer "Unqualified Support" to Kempthorne Nomination for Interior Secretary (5/3/06)

Published on .

Western Governors Offer "Unqualified Support" to Kempthorne Nomination for Interior Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2006

Contact: Karen Deike, 303-623-9378

DENVER -- Following is the text of a Westerm Governors' Association letter sent to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources today expressing "unqualified support" for Gov. Dirk Kempthorne to serve as the next Secretary of the Interior. His confirmation hearing begins Thursday. The letter was signed by Govs. Janet Napolitano (Ariz.), WGA Chair, and Mike Rounds (S.D.) Vice Chairman, on behalf of their colleagues. The letter was sent to committee members and addressed to the chairman, Sen. Pete Domenici, and ranking minority member, Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

"Dear Senators Domenici and Bingaman:

"On behalf of the membership of the Western Governors' Association, we are writing to express our unqualified support for Governor Dirk Kempthorne's nomination to be the next Secretary of the Interior. Governor Kempthorne was elected Idaho's 30th Governor in 1998 and was re-elected in 2002. As Governor, he has put forward initiatives to foster rural economic development, improve overseas marketing of Idaho products, and promote greater integration of the state's scientific, educational, and business communities. Idaho's children have also been his priority. He has established a range of programs to ensure that Idaho's children are healthy and well educated.

"Governor Kempthorne has actively participated in the Western Governors' Association throughout his tenure and served as our Chairman in 2001. He is currently or has been a leader on a number of key WGA issues including forest health, Endangered Species Act reform, energy policy and drug policy.

"He has been particularly active on our forest health efforts. In response to the devastating wildfires that struck Idaho and many other western states in the summer of 2000, Governor Kempthorne worked closely with the Governor of Oregon to develop the 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy: A Collaborative Approach for Reducing Wildland Fire Risks to Communities and the Environment. He brought together his colleagues, the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture, local and tribal governments and a wide range of stakeholders to fundamentally shift our nation's approach to addressing forest health. He has worked effectively to implement this Strategy both through WGA and as the sole representative of all the Governors on the Wildland Fire Leadership Council.

"The Western Governors believe Governor Kempthorne possesses extraordinary leadership skills and a keen understanding of public lands issues. He is highly qualified to become the 49th Secretary of the Department of the Interior. We urge the Senate to confirm him expeditiously and look forward to working closely with him thereafter.

"Thank you for your consideration of our views."

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 18 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Western Governors: Border Communities Burdened with Illegal Immigration Enforcement Should be Reimbursed (4/3/06

Published on .

Western Governors: Border Communities Burdened withIllegal Immigration Enforcement Should be Reimbursed

Comprehensive Reform Supported as Senate Continues Debate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2006

Contact: Kevin Moran (202) 624-5402 or Paul Orbuch (303) 623-9378

DENVER -- The federal government's failure to adequately secure the border with Mexico has forced border communities to do the work for them at an enormous cost, and Western Governors said today comprehensive illegal immigration legislation must provide reimbursement for those costs.

Govs. Janet Napolitano (Ariz.), Chair of the Western Governors' Association, and Jon Huntsman, Jr. (Utah), co-lead for comprehensive immigration reform with Napolitano, urged the Senate to adopt an amendment offered by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) to the reform bill it is debating. It would establish a grant program administered through the Department of Homeland Security to assist local law enforcement agencies in communities of less than 50,000 people and within 100 miles of the U.S. borders of Mexico and Canada.

Our colleagues in the Western Governors' Association are seeking comprehensive reform of illegal immigration laws, and that includes support to smaller communities along the border saddled with law enforcement costs related to human smuggling, drug trafficking and car thefts, Napolitano said. Just having to incarcerate unauthorized immigrants in local correctional facilities is a large expense in and of itself.

Huntsman noted that a study by the Border Counties Coalition found the criminal justice expenses related to illegal immigration exceeds $89 million annually.

While the overall debate in the Senate has been contentious, there should be no debate that border communities are severely burdened by these costs and they should be reimbursed, Huntsman said.

The governors also sent a letter today to members of the Senate and House summarizing key provisions of a resolution they adopted unanimously in February. They include: 

Border Security and Enforcement - Substantially increase the number of border patrol personnel and enhance border security and surveillance through technological innovations. Authorize completion of a comprehensive database that will interface with state, national and international criminal and terrorist databases, and includes state-of-the-art privacy safeguards. Authorize construction of Western regional federal correctional facilities to house criminal aliens who have been apprehended and convicted in state criminal justice systems should be authorized. To the maximum extent possible, families that are detained should be kept together and kept separate from the general population in detention facilities. 

Reimbursement of Costs Incurred by States - In addition to localities, states have incurred enormous costs as a result of the failure to control illegal entries along our international borders. The Department of Homeland Security should either assume responsibility for detained individuals or compensate states for these costs. 

Labor Pool and Visa Reform - The governors support efforts to more than double the number of employment-based visas, and particularly efforts to increase them for the high-tech and bio-tech industries as well as for seasonal hospitality and agricultural workers. 

Enactment of a Guest Worker Program is Essential - A national temporary guest worker program should be established to supplement areas where there are documented shortages of U.S. workers. The governors support efforts to include a temporary guest worker program in the bill. They agree the sanctions that have been under discussion for undocumented individuals already residing in the U.S. such as fines, payment of back taxes, background checks, and demonstrating proficiency in learning English are appropriate and necessary. They oppose granting blanket amnesty to these individuals.

A copy of the governors' resolution and related information can be found on WGA's Web site at www.westgov.org.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 18 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Western Governors Urge Senate to Pass Comprehensive Bill on Illegal Immigration (3/27/06)

Published on .

Western Governors Urge Senate to Pass Comprehensive Bill on Illegal Immigration

Border Security, employment-based visas, guest worker program and state reimbursement critical pieces

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 27, 2006

CONTACT: Paul Orbuch, 303-623-9378

DENVER -- Western governors today urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass a comprehensive bill on illegal immigration that would improve border security and enforcement, increase employment-based visas, create a temporary guest worker program and ensure states are reimbursed for the enormous amounts they must spend to apprehend and incarcerate illegal immigrants.

Govs. Janet Napolitano (Ariz.), Chair of the Western Governors' Association, and Jon Huntsman, Jr. (Utah), serve as lead governors for immigration issues. In a letter to the Judiciary Committee's leadership - Sens. Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy - the governors thanked them for shepherding a comprehensive reform bill through their committee, which met again today.

As you know, the illegal immigration problem is greatly affecting many of our states. We all share the desire to alleviate the burdens it has placed on our state and local governments, our business and our citizens, the letter stated. We cannot overstate either the importance of this problem to our States or our desire to see Congress act on this pressing problem.

The letter summarized key provisions supported by Western governors:

Border Security and Enforcement - We support your efforts to substantially increase the number of border patrol personnel and to enhance border security and surveillance through technological innovations. We ask you to also consider adding language to authorize the completion of a comprehensive database that will interface with state, national and international criminal and terrorist databases, and includes state-of-the-art privacy safeguards. In addition, we believe that the construction of Western regional federal correctional facilities to house criminal aliens who have been apprehended and convicted in state criminal justice systems should be authorized. To the maximum extent possible, families that are detained should be kept together and kept separate from the general population in detention facilities. 

Reimbursement of Costs Incurred by States - States and localities have incurred enormous costs as a result of the failure to control illegal entries along our international borders. We support your efforts to require the Department of Homeland Security to either assume responsibility for detained individuals or to compensate States for these costs.

Labor Pool and Visa Issues - We support your efforts to more than double the number of employment-based visas, and particularly your efforts to increase them for the high-tech and bio-tech industries as well as for seasonal hospitality workers. 

Enactment of a Guest Worker Program is Essential - A national temporary guest worker program should be established to supplement areas where there are documented shortages of U.S. workers. We heartily support your efforts to include a temporary guest worker program in the bill. We agree that the sanctions that have been under discussion for undocumented individuals already residing in the US such as fines, payment of back taxes, background checks, and demonstrating proficiency in learning English are appropriate and necessary. We would oppose granting blanket amnesty to these individuals.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 18 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Western Governors adopt comprehensive framework for border security, immigration reform based in reality (2/28/06)

Published on .

Western Governors adopt comprehensive framework for 
border security, immigration reform based in reality

Swift action sought by Congress, Administration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2006

Contacts: 
Paul Orbuch (WGA) 303-623-9378 ext. 125
Jeanine L'Ecuyer (Gov. Napolitano) 602-542-1342
Mike Mower or Tami Kikuchi (Gov. Huntsman) 801-538-1000

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Western governors today called on Congress and the administration to approve a comprehensive national immigration policy that will strengthen security along the southern border, create a temporary guest worker program without amnesty to meet specific workforce needs, and provide reimbursement for local and state governments now filling the enforcement void.

The Western Governors' Association unanimously approved a policy resolution on immigration reform that they said is based in reality. It was sponsored by Govs. Janet Napolitano (Ariz.), WGA Chair, and Jon Huntsman, Jr. (Utah).

While illegal immigration is a national issue affecting our entire economy, Western states suffer a disproportionate financial burden on our health care, education, the environment and criminal justice systems, Napolitano said. The time for micro-steps and limited action is behind us.

Huntsman said, Our states are on the front lines of a tidal wave of illegal immigration. The debate in Washington has been polarizing and unhealthy, and we are asking the Administration and Congress to adopt this bipartisan framework and recommendations agreed to by the Western Governors' Association.

Among the governors proposals are:

Comprehensive Reform: The overarching purpose of reform legislation should be to protect and preserve the safety and interests of the United States and its citizens while recognizing the needs of Western industries to have a stable and legal supply of workers where there are no willing U.S. workers otherwise available.

Oppose Blanket Amnesty: While a complex issue, the governors do not support granting blanket amnesty to all undocumented persons and believe that appropriate sanctions should be part of any solution.

Reduce Delay for Legal Immigration: Congress is urged not to inadvertently create incentives for additional illegal immigration by creating unnecessary hurdles and lengthy delays for those who wish to immigrate legally for work or citizenship.

Border Security and Enforcement Provisions: Comprehensive national immigration reform should provide: full funding at the authorized level of the federal investment in law enforcement personnel and infrastructure along the border as set forth in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004; cutting-edge enforcement technology; better coordination of law enforcement efforts by federal agencies on both sides of the border; and the construction of Western regional federal correctional facilities to house aliens convicted in state criminal justice systems.

Labor Pool and Visa Issues: Foreign Worker Visa reform is a critical component of national immigration reform and an effective border enforcement strategy. Among the elements of this proposal are: full funding at the authorized level for both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor to process all employment-based visas in a timely manner; eliminate current visa backlogs and prevent future backlogs by making up to 90,000 additional employment-based immigrant visas available annually; increase the number of visas needed to meet U.S. industry demands, particularly in the high tech and bio tech industries and seasonal hospitality operations; streamline the processing of visas for seasonal agricultural employees.

Guest Worker Program: A national temporary guest worker program should be established to supplement areas where there are documented shortages of U.S. workers. The new temporary guest worker program should require proper background checks and screening by the federal government. Realistic steps, including measured and appropriate sanctions, should be taken to address the status of millions of undocumented individuals who already reside in this country. A new temporary guest worker visa program should reduce the need for illegal crossings, providing a safe way for workers to enter the country and return home to their families.

Realistic Enforcement: Current federal employer sanctions for knowingly hiring undocumented labor should be enforced. To that end, the federal government must adopt a secure, reliable and fast employment verification system accessible to employers electronically on a 24/7 basis.

Detention of Children: Detention facilities along the border must be designed and enforcement personnel must be instructed to alleviate the burden of separation on families detained at the border.

Financing and Reimbursements to States and Localities: The federal government must work closely with the states to provide immediate resources required to offset the enormous costs imposed upon the states as a result of the failure to control illegal entries along international borders. Of particular concern are the costs of incarcerating unauthorized immigrants who are being housed in state and local correctional facilities.

U.S. Foreign Policy Needs: The federal government should reduce illegal immigration by working with the Mexican and Latin American governments to generate economic growth, improve the standard of living and promote ownership in those countries. The government of Mexico should be urged to reduce illegal immigration by enforcing Mexico's immigration laws, thereby reducing the flow of non-Mexicans traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border with plans to enter the U.S. illegally. Measurable progress on these goals should be considered in Foreign Aid provided to these governments.

 

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 18 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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Western Governors, Forestry Leaders Create Online Information Center for Roadless Rule (2/15/06)

Published on .

Western Governors, Forestry Leaders Create Online Information Center for Roadless Rule

For Immediate Release 
February 15, 2006

Contact: Diane Denenberg
303.445.4365, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

DENVER - An online, one-stop clearinghouse for information on state actions related to federal roadless lands has been created by the Western Governors' Association and Western Forestry Leadership Coalition to assist governmental agencies, stakeholders and others track developments as state petitions are developed. The Web site, hosted by the Coalition, can be found at: www.wflcweb.org/roadless.

While not in uniform agreement about the value of the roadless rule, the Governors believe there is value in learning from the actions of other states, and they have urged state officials to coordinate closely with neighboring states that share roadless areas.

WGA and the Coalition are ideal partners in the education process for states and stakeholders as roadless petitions are developed, said Gov. Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, a WGA lead for forest policy. This is an important initiative for the West that deserves the full attention of all citizens and interests with a stake in the future of our national forests.

The final rule for roadless areas, issued in May of 2005, established a process for Governors to request the Secretary of Agriculture to change all or a portion of the management direction for roadless areas through state-specific rulemaking. Governors were given 18 months to submit their petitions.

Linda Goodman, USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Regional Forester and the Coalition Chair representing the federal government, said: Coordinating this information is the perfect role for the Coalition. The result should be that everyone interested in the process will make better decisions.

State Government Co-Chair and Guam Forester, David Limtiaco, believes that this is important for state forestry managers as well. Limtiaco said decisions made in this process will affect the health of neighboring, non-federal forests.

Gov. Janet Napolitano, WGA Chair and lead with Kempthorne on forest issues, said although the roadless rule is being challenged in court by a number of states, it is still imperative that we share information as the petition process moves forward.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 18 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. www.westgov.org

The Western Forestry Leadership Coalition is a unique state-federal partnership consisting of the 17 western State Foresters , 6 Territorial Foresters and the USDA Forest Service western Regional Foresters, Research Station, and Forest Products Lab Directors. www.WFLCweb.org

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WGA to Co-sponsor National Bioenergy Conference (2/10/06)

Published on .

WGA to Co-sponsor National Bioenergy Conference

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 10, 2006
Contact: Gayle Gordon, (303) 623-9378

DENVER -- The Western Governors' Association will cosponsor the second national Bioenergy and Wood Products Conference, Innovations in Restoring Forests and Strengthening Economies, March 14 - 16 in Denver. WGA co-leads for biomass and forest health issues are Gov. Janet Napolitano (Ariz.), WGA Chair, and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne (Idaho).

Teaming up with the WGA to host the event are the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Energy; the Intertribal Timber Council; National Association of Conservation Districts; National Association of Counties; National Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils; and Western Forestry Leadership Coalition. All interested parties from government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and academia are encouraged to attend the conference at the Hyatt Convention Center.

Using biomass makes sense for many reasons, Napolitano said. We can reduce the hazardous fuel build-up in our forests, improve our rural economies, and reduce our reliance on foreign oil by increasing the use of a renewable energy source at home.

Napolitano last year issued an Executive Order in Arizona called, Implementing Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in New State Buildings. It acknowledges the potential of developing thermal energy using forest biomass, while creating the economic incentives necessary to support commercial thinning of forests.
Gov. Kempthorne said, Forest health and the risk of wildfires continue to be a major concern in Idaho and across the West. Meeting participants will explore successes and innovations in woody biomass utilization and learn how strong partnerships are developing successful local strategies.

Expert presentations, field tours, displays, poster sessions and other activities will concentrate on utilizing woody biomass from public and private forests as a reliable supply for bioenergy production and wood products businesses. Attendees will explore woody biomass utilization within the contexts of energy diversification, wildfire management and homeland security.

Regional breakout sessions also will give participants the opportunity to network with leaders in the biomass industry from the West, Midwest, South and East. Attendees may sign up for field tours prior to and after the meeting. Tours include the Community Power Corporation in Lakewood, the Boulder County Heating Biomass Facility and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden.

For more information on the conference and to register online and make hotel reservations, visit the conference Web site.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 18 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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WGA Advisory Committee to Consider Array of Options for Increasing Clean Energy, Efficiency in the West (1/10/06)

Published on .

WGA Advisory Committee to Consider Array of Options for Increasing Clean Energy, Efficiency in the West

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2006

Contact: Rich Halvey, WGA (303) 623-9378

DENVER - The Western Governors' Association's Clean and Diversified Energy Advisory Committee (CDEAC) is set to consider an array of options for bringing on-line 30,000 Megawatts of clean energy by 2015, increasing energy efficiency 20 percent by 2020 and providing adequate transmission for the region. The CDEAC released today several task force reports that examine the feasibility of and options for reaching those goals.

Task force reports completed to date include advanced coal, biomass, energy efficiency, geothermal and solar. Reports on natural gas, wind and transmission are expected to be completed in the coming weeks. White papers also were produced on the topics of combined heat and power and hydropower.

Western Governors launched the Clean and Diversified Energy Initiative in 2004 with the unanimous approval of a resolution sponsored by Govs. Bill Richardson (N.M.), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif.), Dave Freudenthal (Wyo.) and John Hoeven (N.D.). The CDEAC is co-chaired by William J. Keese, former Chairman of the California Energy Commission, and Bill Real, Senior Vice-President of Public Service Company of New Mexico.

The quality of these reports is tremendous. It is obvious how committed and enthusiastic everyone has been throughout this initiative, Real said. The consistency and detail of information included in the reports will not only serve as an important guide to the CDEAC, but will also likely be referenced in a variety of future energy policy efforts.

Keese said release of these reports marks a very crucial step in the CDEAC process of developing recommendations for the Governors to consider at their 2006 Annual Meeting, June 11 - 13 in Sedona, Ariz.

Over 250 individuals participated in developing these recommendations and represented every facet of the energy industry, environmental organizations, consumer interests and government, Keese said. They poured countless hours of their time into preparing these reports, and it is now up to the CDEAC to review them and consider how the various pieces may best fit together in reaching the Governors' goals.

The CDEAC will hold its final meeting this spring. Copies of all the reports and information on the initiative and upcoming meetings are available on the WGA Web site at www.westgov.org.

The Western Governors' Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 18 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.

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