Obama administration cabinet members reinforced a push for an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy with measures to address climate change and endangered species at the Western Governors' Association (WGA) meeting Monday in Jackson, WY.
While outgoing WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead unveiled his year-long review and recommendations for updating the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), governors and their staffs heard from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell about the "opportunities and challenges" that the Obama administration sees in today's energy and environmental landscape throughout the western states.
"We remain committed -- very, very strongly -- to continuing to enable all of our energy sources to have a place in the market," Moniz said. And the WGA members and industry speakers highlighted emerging innovations in transportation, drought management and carbon emissions reductions coming from various states.
Jewell examined how the U.S. Department of Interior's priorities "intersect" with what she called western issues and opportunities with the governors. It prompted Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to comment that he felt the federal government's consultation with western states on the sage grouse initiative (see Daily GPI, Sept. 22, 2015) "felt perfunctory" and the governors would prefer to be heard from early in the process of developing federal-state environmental protection plans.
"We want to be heard early in the process instead of at the end, and we'd love to work with you to make sure that we can do that as we move forward," Sandoval told Jewell, who called the state-federal greater sage grouse initiative an "incredible success story."
Jewell said the Obama administration was "moving forward with important energy reforms and working toward achieving a cleaner, more secure energy future. We're working on cutting methane emissions, as are many of you, and we've learned a lot from your states."
In introducing the results of his 12-month review of ESA (see Daily GPI, Aug. 27, 2015), Wyoming's Mead noted that if federal officials share the same "caring" with WGA members of species and conservation, then making the federal ESA "operate at the most effective level" should be top priority.
"When species are listed under ESA, the directive should be bigger than preventing extinction," Mead said. "It should be recovery and when a species is recovered, it should be delisted so resources can be redirected to protect another species that is truly imperiled."
The WGA initiative under Mead looked at "what is working and what is not" under the ESA, and also examined how there could be more emphasis on avoiding the need to list a particular species. This can he done, the review concluded, by "early identification of sensitive species and establishment of institutional frameworks that encourage collaborative voluntary conservation."
Beside the voluntary conservation, the WGA initiative looked at a half-dozen other areas:
- Role of state/local governments in species conservation and ESA implementation;
- Landscape level conservation and ecosystem management;
- Investments in more science and measurable outcomes;
- The ESA listing, recovery and delisting processes;
- Law and policy recommendations; and
- Future work by Mead and other western states to implement parts of the WGA initiative.
"Our wildlife and wide-open spaces are integral to the West," Mead said in the introduction of the initiative report. "This is why states should lead species conservation efforts with a goal of eliminating the need for federal protection of species."
Besides Mead and Sandoval, governors from Montana, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota attended the annual WGA meeting, which concluded Tuesday with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock assuming the chairmanship of the group.