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Western Governors Association Annual Breakfast

March 1, 2005 - 10:35am


Remarks of Secretary Samuel W. Bodman

It’s a privilege to be here today with Secretary Johanns and all of you. Because of the long and important relationships between Western states and the Department of Energy, I know that many of you are quite familiar with the Department and its work – particularly Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who has held the job of Secretary of Energy and whose portrait I see every day on the wall just outside my office… and Governor Murkowski of Alaska, who once chaired the Senate Committee that oversaw the Energy Department.   

The Western states are indeed fortunate to have governors with this level of experience and leadership on energy issues. Your states continue to shape their energy futures through cooperative action among themselves and with the federal government, the private sector and non-profit organizations.

The states that you represent hold many of our nation’s vital energy resources, and are home to many of the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories and other critical facilities. 

Our science and defense research facilities include the Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Labs, and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California… the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado… the Idaho National Laboratory… the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state… and the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

I just had the opportunity to visit the DOE labs in New Mexico last week. I was very impressed. These facilities are world-renowned for their role in developing and maintaining our nation’s nuclear deterrent, as well as for cutting-edge work in physics, chemistry, biology, materials science and computer science… to advance our innovation economy and to protect our nation.

Of course, the Department’s best-known mission is ensuring a stable, reliable, secure and affordable supply of energy for America’s growing economy – and doing so in an environmentally responsible way. In pursuit of this goal, Western states play a vital role. Texas, California, Alaska, Oklahoma, Wyoming and New Mexico produce much of our nation’s oil… these and other states produce natural gas. And Utah and Wyoming produce coal, the fuel that generates more than half our nation’s electricity.

You all know that the energy challenges facing our country today are greater than they have ever been. Since President Bush unveiled the National Energy Policy in May 2001, this Administration has already implemented – or is currently taking action on – all of the NEP recommendations that could be put into effect without legislation from Congress. Those recommendations include programs that are of particular importance the West, including making the hydropower re-licensing process more efficient while preserving environmental goals.

Another NEP initiative of importance to the West is the work being done to expedite construction of a pipeline to deliver natural gas from Alaska to the lower 48 states. Last October, as you know, Congress enacted and the President approved the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act to streamline federal permitting for this important project and authorize $18 billion in federal loan guarantees. In addition, Congress has acted upon a number of other recommendations, including the Pipeline Safety Act and certain tax measures and funding increases.

But numerous provisions of the National Energy Policy – recommendations that also require action by Congress – still need to be addressed in comprehensive energy legislation that awaits passage. We must further expand our domestic production of traditional energy resources . . . modernize our energy infrastructure. . . expand our use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power . . . make wiser use of energy . . .and pursue forms of energy production that would help reduce pollution and lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil.

These steps would help to address the energy concerns that have significantly affected our national economy over the past few years… including high prices for gasoline, heating oil and natural gas; power blackouts; and shortages in some regions of natural gas and electricity. These issues have highlighted the fact that a stable and affordable supply of energy is indeed the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, and they have emphasized the importance of having a thorough and well-balanced national energy policy.

For this reason, energy legislation, in my view, is among the most important matters to come before this Congress… and I intend to be an aggressive advocate for the passage of comprehensive energy legislation this year. 

This legislation includes a number of provisions of importance to the West… including mandatory reliability rules for the electric grid… and the further advancement of new technologies to expand the use of renewable energy and to make better use of our traditional energy resources

The Department’s many initiatives and issues in the Western part of our nation are very complex… some of them are very controversial… and all of them are very important.

One controversial issue is opening federal lands to environmentally responsible oil and gas exploration. This includes a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, an area that I’m looking forward to visiting later this week.   [March 4-7]  Another area is our effort to deal with the question of a permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste. 

Another area of controversy is allowing the Power Marketing Administrations to slowly increase their rates from current subsidized levels. The PMAs today sell power at a deep discount, which made sense in the early days when we were working to electrify vast rural areas, many of them in the West. It’s not fair to have the taxpayers subsidizing the electricity of certain consumers, but not others. So the proposed change will gradually move the PMA rates to market levels… and phase out subsidies. We believe this is the fair and right thing to do… and we certainly want to make sure this happens in a way that is not overly disruptive to state economies.

Another area that receives a great deal of attention is the cleanup of sites around the country that have been contaminated through the development of our nuclear capability. Although I am in the process of getting myself educated on the many issues in this area, I can tell you that the Department has, in recent years, made good progress in terms of reducing timetables and costs of projects. For example, cleanup of the Rocky Flats site in Colorado – originally scheduled for completion in 2045 – is now on track to be completed next year. We are also making progress in cleanup projects in Idaho, Washington state and other locations. But clearly there is more work to be done and more progress that must be made.

Less-controversial issues include the need to expand and safely maintain our petroleum and natural gas pipeline networks… make sure we have enough electric generation capacity to meet growing demands... and strengthen our electric power delivery system – through efforts such as DOE’s work on the recently completed Path 15 project to help relieve transmission constraints in California.

We also need to more fully develop our renewable energy resources to help increase our energy security and diversify our energy supply. Wind power is especially promising, and a number of Western states have major wind projects in place or are moving ahead with development efforts.

Also on the renewable energy front, as many of you know, our Department is working to assist the Western Governors Association with analysis on ways to achieve 30,000 megawatts of clean-energy generation capacity or energy efficiency offsets by the year 2015. Our National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado and other DOE offices have begun exploring the possibilities.

The Department of Energy, as I’m sure you know, lends financial support to a number of WGA initiatives. In fiscal years 2005 and 2006, DOE, through a number of its program offices, plans to direct nearly $3 million in funding for projects with the Western Governors Association, continuing a tradition of partnership between the Western governors and DOE.

DOE’s Office of Environmental Management provided $1.6 million to the Western Governors Association in fiscal 2004 to support efforts relating to the transport of transuranic waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. We estimate that DOE will fund WGA at more than $2 million in both fiscal 2005 and 2006 for this effort.

DOE’s support of WGA efforts in fiscal 2006 also includes funding the Concentrating Solar Power task force at about $200,000. And our Office of Electricity and Energy Assurance plans to continue its support of WGA’s efforts to improve the Western electricity transmission infrastructure by contributing between $25,000 and $50,000 in fiscal 2006.

In addition to these projects and initiatives, I know you are also aware of DOE’s work to develop the energy sources of the future, such as hydrogen-fueled vehicles. Western states are involved in this effort as well. In addition to the work of DOE labs on the President’s hydrogen initiatives, DOE representatives joined officials from a consortium of companies just last month to open a hydrogen fueling station in California – moving another step closer to realizing the vision of hydrogen-fueled cars and trucks that reduce pollution and help lessen our dependence on oil.   

And we also are working to develop cleaner and more-efficient ways to use our traditional energy resources, particularly America’s 250-year supply of coal, which is so abundant in the West. One of our most ambitious clean-coal efforts is the FutureGen project -- an initiative to develop a plant that will use coal to produce electricity as well as other products such as hydrogen, with no pollution or greenhouse gas emissions. Overcoming these environmental drawbacks of coal-fired power generation will be important to coal-producing states – as well as to everyone who produces and uses electricity around the world.

As we can see, there’s a lot of very important work to be done. And much of that work can only be accomplished with your partnership. I look forward to working with all of you as we pursue these important initiatives and address our nation’s energy challenges in the months and years ahead. Thank you again for your kind invitation today. I am honored to be with you, and to be able to serve our country at the Department of Energy.