Water, energy, climate top Western govs’ agenda
Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY – There are a few topics governors running states in the West just can’t escape: water scarcity, a warming climate and energy development.
All three will get ample attention as Western governors and federal officials gather in Utah starting Sunday. The three-day Western Governors’ Association meeting in Park City is meant to allow governors to step outside of their partisan affiliations to discuss unifying, cross-state issues.
“It’s critical to understand that issues like climate change, water and energy are overarching issues facing the Western region right now and into the future,” said Lisa Roskelley, a spokeswoman for Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.
Over the past year Huntsman has been chairman of the association, which represents the governors of 19 Western states and American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. He helped shaped the agenda for the group’s annual meeting.
The political landscape has shifted dramatically since the last gathering. President Barack Obama’s new administration has placed an increased emphasis on climate change and renewable energy. Several top administration officials are scheduled to be at the meeting, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Sunday’s discussion will be dominated by talk about managing declining water supplies amid increasing demand and a warming climate.
Some projections that the West will add 40 million people by 2030 have state leaders thinking about where they’ll get basic resources, including water and electricity. Meanwhile, the West is expected to warm up and dry out more than any other part of the country under most climate change predictions.
That poses problems for governors, federal officials and anyone else who will have a say in decisions on development and doling out water for farmers, businesses, and cities.
“They agree climate change models predict we’re going to get drier,” said Pam Inmann, executive director of the Western Governors’ Association. “They’ve got to get a handle on their water.”
On Monday, the focus turns to the potential for renewable energy in the West and, just as important, developing a transmission system that can deliver that power to the market.
“It’s probably going to be our No. 1 issue this year and next year at a minimum,” Inmann said.
Other topics at the meeting include a session on climate change, discussion of the creation of a national climate service and global cooperation on energy and environmental issues.
On the Net:
Western Governors’ Association: http://www.westgov.org/
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