Casper Star-Tribune
Casper, Wyoming


Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Western governors talk about homeland security

By CHRIS ROBERTS

Associated Press Writer

EL PASO, Texas (AP) -- Arizona Gov. Jane Hull said Monday that Western governors want the federal government to pay for National Guard support when they are called up to protect people from terrorists.

Hull said that was one specific message sent to Washington, D.C., by members of the Western Governors' Association during a Monday meeting on homeland security. The governors were in El Paso for the association's winter meeting.

When the subject turned to energy, Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer said states should look beyond natural gas and hydroelectric power to diversify their energy sources.

"Relying on gas only and hydro only is very shortsighted," he said. "You'll have a lot of short-term solutions ... and the next generation is going to be in the pits."

Last month President Bush decided to expand the National Guard's role at airports to build confidence in the nation's air travel system before the busy holiday season.

Hull, the association's chairwoman, and six other governors who attended the meeting said they were reassured by the increased communication between states and all levels of law enforcement as they work to protect their residents.

"The phrase national defense for two centuries in the country has been about missiles, jets and generals," said Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt. "Now it has to be about homeland security. We are learning to communicate on an entirely different level (and) the communication has never been better."

Montana Gov. Judy Martz said she learned Monday during the homeland security meeting that a dam in her state was identified as one that requires round-the-clock security.

"We in the state of Montana had not been told," Martz said.

New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson said one thing that will change is the kind of information that is released to the public about hazardous waste shipments because of the possibility of terrorist attacks.

"We're moving from a right-to-know to a need-to-know basis," Johnson said.

The governors said people should feel safe, but should be at a higher level of awareness for things that don't seem right and should be reported to authorities.

Earlier in the day, the governors talked about energy.

They were warned by industry experts that the lack of transmission lines between states will cause major problems during regional shortages such as the ones in California last year.

Donald Furman, senior vice president of PacifiCorp in Portland, Ore., said the existing transmission system creates bottlenecks that are stunting a "very liquid free-flowing market."

Jack Davis, president of Phoenix, Ariz.-based Pinnacle West Capital Corp., said the United States should not depend solely on gas.

Jacob Williams, vice president of generation and development for Peabody Energy, the nation's largest coal company, said states that use coal to generate power as part of an energy mix generally have lower electricity prices.

Williams said more high-capacity transmission lines would allow states to diversify their energy bases by reaching out to energy producers in other states.

Nuclear energy should be considered along with coal and other sources, Montana Gov. Judy Martz said.

"Forty-eight percent of America say nuclear is not a bad thing," Martz said. "But do we hear it in our conversation? No, because it's environmentally touchy."

New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson suggested that conservation should play a role in the region's energy policy.

"The conservation part of this is not being played up," Johnson said. "What are we burning that we shouldn't be burning?"

The panel of industry experts generally agreed that the best way to increase conservation would be to raise the price of energy.

But Furman added: "There's a wealth of technology out there that we have not tapped into."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said transmission methods must be standardized so energy can be bought and sold across the borders with Canada and Mexico.

An energy transmission plan which will include funding methods should be signed at the WGA meeting in June, Hull said.

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On the Net:

Western Governor's Association: http://www.westgov.org/