Governors Follow California’s Lead, Meekly

By Published On: June 16, 2006

Governors from states that love coal agreed with California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that new technologies should be explored to drive down coal power plant pollution. However, at the Western Governors’ Association annual meeting in Sedona, Arizona, June 11, agreed-upon specifics for going forward were few and far between. At best, the most pro-coal governors were grudgingly roped into a semi-unified front. In exchange for support of advanced coal technologies, states agreed to support 2,000 MW of coal power that sequesters only 60 percent of emissions. In addition, the governors agreed to “protect Western economies from energy shortages and price spikes” and to “stress non-mandatory, incentive-based” approaches. The energy deal has taken two years since Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico) announced that they would work on getting 30,000 MW of renewable energy going in the West. Apparently, the groundwork was not pretty. Many of those who were responsible for the final proposal looked shell-shocked. “It’s a profound challenge,” Schwarzenegger told his fellow governors as they were tucked away in a remote, exclusive resort in the massive Red Rock Canyon west of Sedona. Governors were unclear on how much coal would be considered in meeting the 30,000 MW mark. They did agree that financial incentives were necessary to get carbon sequestration and coal gasification technologies off the ground. The difference between Californians and those from other regions was palpable. Although California’s administration has embraced coal as one of a number of sources of energy, other state heads clearly find it the only way to meet growing demand. “Unless you live naked in a tree and are eating nuts, you need to use coal,” said Montana governor Brian Schweitzer. The Frontier Line, the multibillion-dollar transmission project that Schwarzenegger and others have been pushing to get coal-fired power from Wyoming to California, was barely mentioned. Arizona governor Janet Napolitano said tersely that she had no comment on the line. South Dakota governor Mike Rounds told Circuit that he supports a parallel project; the Northern Lights transmission line. The association promised to continue to work on energy issues. That includes “examining the deliverability and adequacy of energy resources” in the West.

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