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A Seat in the House

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A Seat in the House

A western coalition for energy

The Wyoming legislature passed legislation this year to organize and host western states to determine if the states could agree on a single approach to energy and environmental policy. As a result the Wyoming legislature, under the leadership of the Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives and the President of the Wyoming Senate, hosted the “Western States Energy and Environment Symposium” held in Jackson Hole, Wyoming October 25 through 27.

Fifteen states—Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming—participated in the symposium. I was one of five Idaho legislators representing our state at the conference.

All fifteen of these states have developed their individual state policies and one of the purposes of the symposium was to get a good understanding of each state’s energy policy and then determine if there were areas of consensus that would allow the states to work together on strategies “for increasing energy production, energy efficiency and curbing environmental impacts such as carbon dioxide emissions” that would serve the region better than each state pursuing their individual policies independent of neighboring state interests.

The formal objectives of the symposium were:

1) Bring together public officials, key stakeholders and notable thought leaders to examine state energy policies from a regional perspective and work towards establishing a common regional vision;

2) Explore opportunities for and impediments to coordinating western states’ energy policies to advance regional and sub-regional economic performance of a Western energy system;

3) Identify state, regional and federal policy challenges and potential solutions for delivering energy resources to consumers;

4) Develop potential regional policy solutions to mitigate the environmental impacts of energy resource development, delivery and consumption in the west; and

5) Work to establish a cooperative agreement among the participants to develop a high-level cost/benefit economic analysis assessing the challenges of energy development, production, reliability, marketing, use and environmental protection within these states.

I don’t think that any of the participants in the conference believed that we could get consensus on all energy issues but did believe that if we could get agreement on some specific issues we could develop more efficient and practical regional strategies for energy development in the west

Additionally many of the western legislators were concerned that “national energy policy is being driven by the high population centers of the nation on the East and West coasts while some of the least populated states in the west have the most at stake in terms of renewable and fossil fuel based industries.” By reaching regional agreement on energy issues there may be a greater opportunity for our region to influence federal energy policy that impacts western states’ developers and energy consumers.

As stated in the beginning of this article, consensus wasn’t expected on all the issues; some states, for example, are not supportive of the current “Cap and Trade” concept to reduce carbon emissions in proposed federal legislation. Many of the Idaho legislators, myself included, have concern with this concept, believing that there are other alternatives that would be more efficient in meeting goals for reduction in carbon emissions.

However, we did reach consensus on other issues including streamlining permitting procedures for electric transmission line siting, supporting research and technological development related to carbon emission reductions, and exploring the need to change state Public Utility Commission regulations to facilitate and accommodate interstate arrangements that may affect rate design and transmission siting.

A final report on the conference is due December 11 that will outline the areas of consensus and recommended actions developed during the conference. Idaho Senator McKenzie and myself have been designated as leads for Idaho in reviewing a draft of the report prior to its final publication and to pursue within the Idaho legislature those specific regional agreements and strategies that will benefit Idaho.

This was an intensive, three-day conference but I believe productive in that it will lead to better understanding and cooperation among the western states and aid in establishing regional energy policy that will serve our citizens better than each state “doing its own thing” independently of its neighboring states.

The Idaho legislature will convene in Boise on January 11 and as we get closer to that date, please feel free to contact me with issues important to you. My home address is P.O. Box 112, Dover, 83825 and my home phone is 265-0123.

Thanks for reading! George

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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

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