Powering the Future
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MARGARET WARNER: Now, how the Bush proposal looks out in the states. For that, we turn to four governors: two Republicans, Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, and Mike Leavitt of Utah; and two Democrats, John Kitzhaber of Oregon and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
Welcome to you all. Governor Kitzhaber, how does the Bush energy proposal look from where you sit?
GOV. JOHN KITZHABER: Well, it has one immediate shortcoming, and that’s the fact that it doesn’t deal with runaway wholesale electricity prices out here in the West today. And one of the premises of this energy policy is to ensure that all Americans can enjoy the American dream into the future. We’re laying off 5,000 aluminum workers in Oregon and Washington today because of high energy prices, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could today institute cost plus pricing and moderate that. So I’m very disappointed that it doesn’t deal with that.
I have two concerns as a Western governor specifically with the plan; trying to jumpstart the nuclear power industry when we haven’t yet resolved the issue of nuclear waste storage is very concerning to me. I can’t imagine that that facility will be east of the Mississippi River, and I don’t want the West to be used as a place where we deposit the nation’s radioactive waste. In fact, we’ve got the Hanford plutonium plant that’s been on the Columbia River since the Second World War and the federal government still hasn’t cleaned that up, so that’s a real concern.
The final concern has to do really with the effort to speed up the re-licensing of hydroelectric facilities, and those facilities are an important part of our energy future, are the same facilities that have ground up and decimated runs of sand and steelhead throughout the Northwest. And the only hook states have to ensure that they operate in an environmentally sensitive fashion is through the re-licensing process, so we have some real concerns there with those two elements.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Governor Leavitt, how does it look to you in Utah?
GOV. MIKE LEAVITT: If we had had this policy in place, we wouldn’t be in the problem we are today. In the last eight years we’ve been without an energy policy. This calls for more production, conservation, doing it in a way that’s environmentally responsible. I support the plan and I’m enthusiastic about working with the president to implement it.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, what would it do for Utah?
GOV. MIKE LEAVITT: Well, we are a storehouse of energy. It will allow us to produce more electric power not just for ourselves but for other parts of this region. No state is an island in this market. We are in it with all the Western states. We need to work together to assure that we not only have adequate production but we have the capacity to move electric generation around. As it is today, if we were to discover 15,000 megawatts that we didn’t know existed, we wouldn’t be able to get it to California. We wouldn’t be able to get it within California because there’s simply been inadequate production and inadequate new transmission.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Governor Ridge, what would it do for Pennsylvania? I know you support it; you were with the president all day today. But specifically for your state and your region…
GOV. TOM RIDGE: Well, I think one of the reasons the president chose Pennsylvania is that we’ve done many of the things in Pennsylvania that mirrored his plan. We have a diversified base. We encouraged multiple sources of energy, hydroelectric nuclear fossil fuels; we have fuel cell technology companies coming in, others doing experimentation with alternative fuels.
We were not the first state to deregulate electricity; however, we were the first state to do it correctly. And one of the fascinating things that I hear over the past couple of days about this debate, and I say with great respect to those who are opposing the president’s initiative, but I hear that they’re uncomfortable with nuclear energy; they don’t want to build dams. They don’t want to drill in the oceans or in ANWAR They really don’t like to use fossil fuels or coal and yet they want more energy.
I mean, at some point in time they have to put aside the partisanship that has just reared its ugly head so early in this very, very important debate and say that it’s a tough issue, that we have to figure out ways to resolve an energy crisis that is in its natal stages today, but as the president has pointed out, ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road, when energy consumption increases 30 or 40 percent, we will not be able to deliver it.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let me get to New Hampshire, Governor Shaheen, what would it do to or for New Hampshire, as you see it?
GOV. JEANNE SHAHEEN: Well, I think it’s important for us to have a national energy plan, but I worry that what Bush is proposing focuses too much on the solutions of the past — drilling and fossil fuels — and not enough on the new technologies that we really need to provide our energy solutions in the future.
MARGARET WARNER: The report that was issued, along with his plan, I mean, the whole report, did say that New Hampshire was one of the states that could face blackouts this summer. I mean, talk about New Hampshire’s particular situation and whether you think this plan helps address it.
GOV. JEANNE SHAHEEN: Well, the fact is the report was inaccurate and the White House called to point out that they did make a mistake. New Hampshire and New England we feel confident have enough energy for this summer and you know, in New Hampshire and I think nationally, the issue shouldn’t be about production versus the environment.
The fact is we do need diversified sources of power, but we also need new technologies and we shouldn’t reduce environmental regulations in order to have the energy that we need in the future. Here in New Hampshire, since I’ve been governor, we’ve licensed two new gas pipelines; we’ve licensed two new gas fired generation facilities over a thousand megawatts of power going on line next year, and we didn’t reduce our environmental regulations at all in order to do that.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Governor Leavitt, let’s turn to an issue that Governor Kitzhaber just raised, and that is the Bush administration’s decision to try to ease and streamline regulations when it comes to approving new projects. In fact, he took a step that way today. Would that make a difference to Utah?
GOV. MIKE LEAVITT: Well, it would make a difference to the entire West. The average power plant is seven to nine years in the licensing process. We simply can’t wait that long. We can’t shortcut the process, but we certainly can fast track; we can all — have all federal agencies deal with it at the same time. We can have a system where states, local governments and the federal government all deal with the same issues at the same time. We have to move if we’re to deal with the price issues because production ultimately — more production ultimately is what will resolve the price dilemmas we face.
MARGARET WARNER: Governor Kitzhaber?
GOV. JOHN KITZHABER: Well, I don’t think the issue is new hydroelectric facilities; the issue is re-licensing existing facilities, and although it takes several years to re-license them, they’ll shut down during that period. We just went through a process with a Scottish power facility on the North Umpqua River, one of the best steelhead rivers in the nation, and we agreed through this re-licensing process to make significant environmental improvements in how those dams operate and continue to provide the energy. So I’m very concerned, if you remove that hook, and use the need to deal with — with energy production as an excuse, a premise to cripple our ability to balance environmental concerns with energy production — I just simply don’t buy that.
MARGARET WARNER: Governor Ridge, address that one issue. Will this streamlining — could it make it harder to address environmental concerns?
GOV. TOM RIDGE: Well, I think there are a lot of conclusions that have been reached by opponents of the energy plan without reading the plan carefully and letting the agencies follow the instructions of the president of the United States. And the president made it very clear yesterday — he made it very, very clear today — that one of his five major goals is to enhance the environment and the reason he selected a hydroelectric facility today was that there was some new technology put in there a couple of years ago that preserves a couple of prominent fish species that frequent the area and at the same time generates power, so I think when you prejudge what the administration is going to do, you’re basically saying that the regulators are going to ignore the instructions from their president, who said very specifically a 21st century energy policy must enhance the environment at the same time find additional ways to increase energy supply, and I believe they’ll follow his lead.
MARGARET WARNER: Governor Shaheen, address that issue about the streamlining of approval, now, talking about the power plants in your own state but also in neighboring states.
GOV. JEANNE SHAHEEN: Well, I’d like to pick up a little bit on what Governor Ridge said, because I agree that we need to make sure that the environmental regulations are in place, that we need new energy technologies, but the fact is if we look at what Bush is proposing in his budget, his budget doesn’t match his rhetoric.
In New Hampshire, we have a very effective Industries of the Future program where we have some of our traditional manufacturing facilities working with the Department of Energy. That’s a program that just one paper mill in New Hampshire — paper company — is going to for a $500,000 investment be able to save $500,000 a year in energy efficiencies and that program in the Department of Energy’s budget is being cut by 50 percent. So if we’re going to talk about renewable energy, then we need to make the financial commitment to have the research to produce those renewable energy sources, and energy efficiency technologies.
MARGARET WARNER: Governor Leavitt, let me turn now to an issue and you have spoken on this, and this had to do with the overall thrust in this plan is that we need more of a national energy picture, a national electrical grid or a more national one. How do you feel about that? Just to explain — up till now state and regional — sometimes even local authorities really had the final say in siting and approving power plants.
GOV. MIKE LEAVITT: I’ve had an opportunity to speak with the administration and those who designed this policy about that issue. I’ve been concerned, for example, that state and local government prerogatives and the planning and zoning and all of the elements that go into siting a corridor could be ignored and have the federal government make those choices.
I’ve been assured that nothing in this policy will result in legislation that would — would roll over local community prerogatives. The best policy is made within driving distance and I believe the Bush administration’s devoted to federalism; devoted to the idea that the local government makes the best decisions — will honor that.
On the other hand, it’s important to recognize that there are times when regional transmission will result in an interest that’s clearly regional or clearly national and that there’s a compelling national and regional issue or need for the federal government to be involved. There’s a way to balance it. Recently, we’ve had a plan to clean up the air over the Grand Canyon. It included six different states, three federal agencies, tribal nations, the private sector, and we were able to come up with a plan working with the EPA using the authority of the federal government to do it, and I feel confident that this is a step forward in being able to assure that we have adequate transmission and pipeline capacity.
MARGARET WARNER: Governor Shaheen, how do you feel about this idea of giving the federal government essentially more authority to approve say transmission lines across state lines without — one of the proposals is that, in fact, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would have power of eminent domain to locate transmission — high powered transmission lines.
GOV. JEANNE SHAHEEN: Well, I certainly think it’s worth talking about that. I would hate to see something that overrules the local planning process and what states feel like we need to do. So I think it’s got to be a cooperative effort working together. But I think if we’re going to have FERC step in, in those kinds of situations, then we need to look at FERC being able to address the wholesale power issues that we’re seeing in California, where we’re seeing wholesale power being charged at enormous prices, and it’s having a real impact in California on their costs of power and the whole energy situation that California is experiencing.
MARGARET WARNER: Governor Ridge, address that issue that’s now been raised by two of your colleagues, which is that this plan does not do a lot in the short term and that one of the things some governors wanted was to see some kind of wholesale power price caps.
GOV. TOM RIDGE: I just returned from a trade mission with quite a few companies to central Europe and they’re very interested in learning how and what Pennsylvania did to deregulate electricity, and these are countries that are moving toward a free market and the last thing that they are interested in is a government running energy — government interfering in the market — government setting prices.
Price caps are not a solution to either the supply or the demand problem. Price caps are the reason and the inability of the — to attract investment into California — let the problem in California — you got to give credit where credit’s due — they do everything they possibly can to conserve energy, but they don’t want you drilling offshore, they don’t want nuclear, they haven’t licensed a generation plan, and as a matter of fact, as a condition, as a condition of their deregulation, they insisted everybody get out of the generation business.
So you’ve got a great state, all the governors would love to see the kind of growth California’s enjoyed over the past several years, and yet they chose to kick their generators out, and to date they haven’t done much to reverse that. So hopefully they will take the lead from the president, who wants to make it easier for them to license generation capacity because at the end of the day it is a supply and demand matter. And when we saw the OPEC nations turn on the faucet and export enormous amounts of oil, prices dropped precipitously. They fell down, so it is a supply problem. We’ll do something with conservation, but we have to increase production as well.
MARGARET WARNER: A final last question: Briefly to our two Western governors. Governor Kitzhaber, starting with you, which is this proposal to let the federal government — excuse me — to let energy companies do a lot more drilling in federal lands. I know Oregon — I think more than 50 percent of the land there is federal land. How do you feel about that?
GOV. JOHN KITZHABER: Well, I guess I would feel more reassured about it if I felt that this was really an energy policy rather than just a production policy. We all recognize that we have to have fossil fuels as a transition, but we need to be transitioning into an energy future that is much less dependent on non-renewable resources. You don’t produce oil and coal; you extract it, and that’s just a fact. And I’m very concerned that I don’t know what the end game in here is — we’re going to produce; we’re going to drill; we’re going to get into pristine public lands, and what is the energy future we’re moving towards, because those are non-renewables, and so I guess I am rather skeptical at this point until I sort of see where this plan is supposed to take us in ten or twenty years.
MARGARET WARNER: Governor Leavitt, a brief final word from you on that question.
GOV. MIKE LEAVITT: We have a lot of experience with this in the West, and the truth is there are places that we shouldn’t make energy production, but there’s a lot of places where you can and without any intrusion or compromise of the environment each is a case by case situation and to simply rule it out or rule it in on the basis of a general policy would be wrong, but there are places where it can be done without any cost environmentally.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Governors all, thank you very much.