An overarching focus for the West should be “responsible energy development” that sets goals for providing reliable, affordable and cleaner energy longer term, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday after being elected to the chairmanship of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) at its annual meeting in Cle Elum, WA. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was elected WGA vice president.

An updated set of regional energy goals as part of a 10-year energy plan will be hammered out for approval by the WGA this month, Herbert said. This will continue ongoing WGA work on regional transmission expansion for electricity, along with other recommendations on “expansion of markets for natural gas, including necessary pipeline infrastructure and the development of refueling infrastructure to support increased natural gas use as a transportation fuel.”

Herbert sees the western region playing a critical role in the U.S. achieving more energy independence, drawing on western states’ “wealth of energy sources” from traditional to renewable. “That will stimulate the economy and promote security, while protecting our natural treasures and cherished quality of life,” Herbert said.

One of four keys for making this a reality is carving out a greater role for states in charting the nation’s energy policy, said Herbert, endorsing the increasingly popular “all of the above” approach to energy planning that is beginning to gain some bipartisan traction. The three other keys to Herbert’s initiative for his WGA leadership stint are:

In his preferred “all-of-the-above” approach, Herbert includes coal, noting that the reserves in the West (particularly his home state) are “enormous, with Western states providing more than half the nation’s coal.” At the same time, he called wind and solar energy potential “practically unlimited.”

Herbert said he plans to work with his colleagues in WGA, the private sector, Native American tribal governments, universities, national labs, nonprofits and governmental agencies at all levels “to identify and implement specific strategies for energy development.”

A broad range of infrastructure and environmental initiatives are part of Herbert’s plans as outlined in his acceptance speech.

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