Western governors promote energy development

PARK CITY, Utah — The American West contains abundant sources of traditional and renewable energy, and developing both while protecting the environment is a goal that can be achieved, Western governors said at a weekend conference.

Gov. Matt Mead of Wyoming, a big coal exporter, said there is no contradiction between developing energy and keeping the environment clean, and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said nuclear power has to be part of the mix. Herbert offered a “10-Year Energy Vision” statement by the Western Governors’ Association as a blueprint for national action.

The policy paper seemed written for universal agreement. It called for developing reliable and clean energy from a variety of sources — including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydropower — while protecting wildlife and the environment. However, some differences emerged among the 19 Western governors.

When Mead challenged federal officials to recognize the value of coal, fellow Republican and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval countered that he had just signed legislation to retire all of the state’s coal-fired plants by 2025.

On Sunday, the Western governors said they were seeking a more active role in the development of new high-voltage transmission corridors across federal lands to move around more energy. They petitioned Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in a letter for a larger voice.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, meanwhile, said his state’s wildfires are releasing more carbon pollution into the air than all of the coal-fired power used by the state. For electricity, Idaho relies on hydropower and coal-fired power produced in neighboring states.

The governors’ conference drew a few top-ranking members of the Obama administration.

Western states are key players in helping reduce greenhouse gases, said Bob Perciasepe, acting administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Obama has already doubled a renewable energy production goal in office and will continue to promote the sector, Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said. The Interior Department has approved 46 wind, solar and geothermal utility-scale projects on public lands since 2009.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell timed her visit with governors Friday with the latest federal approval for a wind project.

BP Wind Energy North America Inc. plans to install 243 wind turbines — enough to power 175,000 houses — on federal lands 40 miles northwest of Kingman, Ariz.

The Interior Department said it has approved 46 wind, solar and geothermal utility-scale projects on public lands since 2009.

The Western Governors’ Association wrapped up its convention Sunday at the Montage Deer Valley, a resort hotel in Park City.