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Western governors explore future of region's role as leader in energy development

Published: Sunday, June 30 2013 4:44 p.m. MDT

From left, Nevada Gov. Gov. Brian Sandoval, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer, and American Samoa Gov. Lolo Letalu Matalasi Moliga talk during the Western Governor's Association 2013 annual meeting at Montage Deer Valley Friday, June 28, 2013, in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Rick Bowmer, AP

DEER VALLEY — Western governors wrapped up their annual meeting Sunday by exploring the future of the region's role as a leader in providing both traditional and new sources of energy to the rest of the nation.

"The West really is the breadbasket of energy," Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said during the Western Governors Association's final panel discussion that included officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy.

Herbert, whose term as the association's chairman ended Sunday, cited the newly released "10-Year Energy Vision" report calling for Western governors to work together to achieve goals that include encouraging the balanced development of resources.

"Most of this is just common sense and trying to follow what the public wants," Utah's governor said, predicting the public's desire for sustainable energy will lead to nuclear power becoming a key part of the mix, along with coal and other traditional sources.

"We're not going to wait for Washington to do it," Herbert said of moving forward with the plan. He said people living east of the Rocky Mountains sometimes look to the West only as a place for recreation, not a source of energy.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said his state already exports more energy than any in the nation and produces the most coal. Energy, he said, is "sort of the one song that brings all the Western issues to the dance floor."

Those issues include protecting the environment and promoting tourism, as well as allowing agricultural and other uses of the land. Mead said it is unacceptable to suggest a choice must be made between developing energy and a clean environment.

Bob Perciasepe, serving as the EPA's acting and deputy administrator, said President Barack Obama's efforts on climate change focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a way that can create jobs while saving money.

The goals, Perciasepe said, can't be accomplished in a single place or without the collaboration of the states. He said working closely with the states to develop guidelines and regulations is a high priority for the EPA.

Daniel Poneman, deputy security of energy, said the president has already met past goals to double renewable energy production using the federal government's loan guarantee authority and expects a similar increase by 2020.

Poneman said there is a "tremendous opportunity" with nuclear power because of the economic, environmental and national security advantages. But he said there's more to energy policy than "just pumping out more power."

Those include smarter energy use, he said, citing consumption in California that has remained constant in recent years while climbing in the rest of the nation, and building a better power grid to deliver resources to consumers.

But Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said federal agencies need to work together better to combat the effects of forest fires in his state that have resulted in more pollutants in the air than all of the coal-fired power purchased there.

Perciasepe said there is an effort to coordinate more closely with the U.S. Forest Service, but it's not clear what the solution is to what he termed forest health problems, particularly in the West.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the new WGA chairman, said "everyone should recognize we want more things growing" to offset carbon emissions. He later said the new motto of the association should be "we all go together."

Herbert told the Deseret News after the meeting ended that he believed the Western governors are working together in a bipartisan way.

"Common sense is not a partisan issue," he said. "Common sense, in fact, is something that can bring us together."

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com

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