A group of governors from the West ended a three-day conference in Park City on Sunday having dwelled on a wide-ranging list of issues, debating topics like energy and public lands as they described a bright future for the region.
The annual meeting of the Western Governors' Association drew several hundred people to the Montage Deer Valley, a combination of state and federal government officials, industry representatives and interested citizens. They listened to a roster of speakers who either addressed the crowd on their own or participated in panel discussions.
Some of the highlights included remarks by Sally Jewell, who is President Obama's secretary of interior, and an address by T. Boone Pickens, a figure in the national debate about energy.
The organization, consisting of leaders of states and territories in the Great Plains and the West, released a document outlining a vision for energy production for the next decade. Energy was one of the overriding subjects at the conference, and the Western leaders see the region as being critical to the national energy debate. They say vast amounts of alternative energies can be tapped in the West.
The document calls for the nation to move toward energy security, for the West to be made into a leader internationally in new energies and for infrastructure to be established for energy distribution. It wants energy to be "clean, affordable and reliable by providing a balanced portfolio of renewable, non-traditional and traditional resources."
Gov. Gary Herbert, the Utah governor who was chairman of the organization during the conference, said during a Sunday session the West is the nation's energy "breadbasket" for the variety of sources it holds. Herbert said an economy cannot thrive without an energy supply.
Matt Mead, the governor of Wyoming, talked about energy production being good for states and the country but said there needs to be a balance between the production and protecting the environment. He said it is not acceptable for energy to be produced at the expense of a clean environment or for energy production to suffer based on environmental protection.
Bob Perciasepe, the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, told the governors collaboration is needed. He said his agency is tasked with considering ways to reduce emissions in the power industry.
"How do we get prepared for the change in climate we're already experiencing," he said.
Daniel Poneman, the deputy secretary of energy, called the region "pivotal" to the nation's energy future. He said the U.S. is "forging entire new industries." He spoke about the increase in energy produced from wind and solar as he mentioned the president wants cleaner-burning renewable energies much more widely used by 2020. Poneman said the nation is at a rare moment when the energy business is being transformed.
"We can help in terms of innovation," Poneman said as he added that national laboratories are performing well.
At some points during the Sunday session, energy from traditional fossil fuels was touched on as well. Mead, the Wyoming governor, asked Poneman about the importance of coal in power generation. Poneman replied that coal will remain important.
On Friday afternoon, Jewell, the secretary of interior, spoke to the governors, touching on a variety of topics during her remarks. She said an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy is needed. Jewell, meanwhile, referred to the president's recent speech about the climate.
"Climate change is upon us," Jewell said.
Jewell's comments were broad as she spoke about the importance of clustered development patterns, indicated there need to be multiple uses on public lands and said the National Park Service will mark its centennial in 2016, providing a chance to celebrate the national parks.
During a press conference, Jewell said the Department of Interior is willing to work with the states as policies are set on federal land. She said there are discussions about land swaps or other transactions between states and the federal government, such as an interest in Washington in obtaining privately held parcels of land inside national parks.
Jewell said public lands in the West are important to the tourism and recreation industries.
"If you go to the East, where I'm now living, people would kill to have federal lands," she said.