Best of the West: Governors Gordon, Stitt deliver State of the State addresses; New funding for Enhanced Geothermal Systems; A 50-year water plan; Medical health deserts; and Salmon recovery

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on the latest news in the West. Here are the top stories for the week starting Febuary, 12, 2024. (Photos courtesy of WyoFile, The State of New Mexico, and the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom). 

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s 2024 State of the State address focused on strategies for making Oklahoma “the most business-friendly state.”

To do so, he called on the legislature to set up a system of courts specifically designed to address business disputes and to eliminate the state income tax. “You’ve heard me say year after year, we don’t need more taxes, we need more taxpayers,” he said. “If we get our regulations right, with our low cost of energy, central location, and strong workforce, Oklahoma is the perfect place for new industries looking for a home.”

Another key part of this plan, he said, is to develop more workforce-oriented schools and reform state universities to focus on the subjects they are best at and become the premier institutions in their area.

“I want to see legislation that incentivizes models that fulfill our state’s workforce needs,” he said.

Read the full transcript of Governor Stitt’s 2024 State of the State address here.

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon’s 2024 State of the State address focused on five main priorities for the upcoming legislative session: property tax relief, workforce development, education, mental health, and energy.

In terms of property tax relief, he proposed a $12 million increase in funding for the state’s Property Tax Relief program to expand relief for those who truly need it, many of them seniors.

To bolster the state’s workforce, Governor Gordon proposed an expansion of the Wyoming Innovation Partnership, wage increases for state employees to keep up with the national and regional average, and fully funding schools and schools of choice for the next biennium.

Governor Gordon also included significant budget increases to “buttress services” for the state’s mental health programs. 

Of course, Governor Gordon also spoke about the future of Wyoming’s energy industry. “A vote for this budget supports those innovations with coal,” he said. “But there is so much more.” To this end, he spoke about the state’s need to develop uranium mining as well as the mining of other critical minerals.

Read the full transcript of Governor Gordon’s 2024 State of the State address here.

You can also read summaries of the other Western Govenrors' State of the State addresses here.

Enhanced Geothermal Systems: The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced the selection of three projects that will receive up to $60 million to demonstrate the efficacy and scalability of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS).

The three projects are: 

  • Chevron New Energies—This EGS pilot demonstration will use innovative drilling and stimulation techniques to access geothermal energy near an existing geothermal field in Sonoma County in northern California.
  • Fervo Energy—This pilot within the Milford Renewable Energy Corridor in Utah and adjacent to the DOE’s Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) field laboratory aims to produce at least 8 megawatts of power from each of three wells at a site with no existing commercial geothermal power production.
  • Mazama Energy—This project will demonstrate a first-of-its-kind super-hot EGS (temperatures above 375°C) on the western flank of Newberry Volcano in Oregon. This demonstration will help advance the science needed to operate in extreme heat conditions. 

Learn more about Enhanced Geothermal Systems by listening to an episode of Out West with Colorado Governor Jared Polis. You can also read The Heat Beneath Our Feet initiative report

50-year Water Plan: New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham recently announced a 50-year plan to address the state’s potential freshwater shortages. The plan estimates it would conserve up to 660,000 acre-feet of water each year and develop up to 150,000 acre-feet of new water supplies each year.  

"We have the time, resources, and technology to secure a strong water future," Governor Lujan Grisham, wrote in the plan's introduction. "By following the path laid out in this plan, we not only ensure that New Mexicans have clean water now and into the future, but also that an advanced clean energy economy can continue to thrive, farmers and ranchers continue to grow the food that sustains us, and our rivers remain swift and clear."

Health Care Deserts: Having completed a $36 million capital campaign, which included an unsolicited $6 million gift from MacKenzie Scott and a $5.9 gift from the William N. Pennington Foundation, Reno’s Jerry Smith Community Wellness Center is set to begin construction. Operated by Northern Nevada HOPES, the 43,000-square-foot campus will bring adult primary care, mental health care, substance abuse care, and case management to thousands in need. Located in a “medical health desert,” between 12,000 and 14,000 people are expected to receive care every year once it opens on May 6, 2025.

Pig Iron: The North Dakota Industrial Commission, which includes North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, recently voted to give $7 million to a company that would use iron from Minnesota to produce low-carbon pig iron. The North Dakota Development Fund, also announced it would provide $3 million to the same project by North American Iron. The plant, located at the site of Rainbow Energy Center’s Coal Creek Station power plant, would take mine waste from Minnesota’s Iron Range and use hydrogen to fuel the pig iron plant.

Salmon Recovery: California Governor Gavin Newsom released a report outlining six priorities and 71 actions to a build healthier, thriving salmon population in California. The strategy’s six priorities call for: removing barriers and modernizing infrastructure for salmon migration; restoring habitat; protecting water flows in key rivers at the right times; modernizing hatcheries, transforming technology and management systems; and strengthening partnerships.

“Salmon are an integral part of our shared history in California,” Governor Gordon, said. “We’re doubling down to make sure this species not only adapts in the face of extreme weather but remains a fixture of California’s natural beauty and ecosystems for generations to come.”

sign up for our newsletters