A group of states responsible for almost a third of the domestic energy production have joined forces to assert their rights to manage their own resources and environment.
The Energy Producing States Committee officially launched Thursday in inauspicious fashion, as about two dozen legislators, energy company representatives and government staffers met in a small conference room in a downtown Salt Lake City hotel. During the first of two days of meetings, the members hammered out their mission statement and heard presentations on the future of American fossil fuels, renewable energies and nuclear power.
The committee includes legislators from Alaska, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. Other states are also being recruited to join, such as West Virginia and Louisiana.
Wyoming state Rep. Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, said the group’s primary goals are to have a unified voice in Washington, D.C. on resource management.
“We take pretty good care of our state, and we take offense when other people think they can manage it better,” Lubnau said.
The primary concern is that extensive regulations on the federal level discourage investment within any particular state, regardless of the state’s policies, Lubnau said. But the harm is national, as the country has to depend on foreign oil and the federal government runs up a serious debt.
“We have regulated ourselves out of being competitive in a global marketplace,” Lubnau said. “To maintain our quality of life, we borrow. To stop borrowing, we need to become competitive.”
Although environmental groups don’t currently have a representative on the committee, Lubnau said interests from across the political spectrum have been invited. Also, the committee is paid for from legislative funds and not through donations.
Banding together with other states has obvious advantages for small states like Wyoming, Utah and Alaska, who have a combined five congressman. But it also benefits large states such as Texas when multiple states are speaking with a unified voice against the “federal intrusions,” said Texas state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa.
“We’ll figure out those common problems, and then look for solutions that work for all of the states,” Chisum said. “Then we can help to define the federal government’s role.”
The focus is not strictly on fossil fuels, but on developing a comprehensive energy portfolio that harnesses all of the potential power sources, said Utah state Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab. They also want to examine technologies that can increase energy production and minimize the impact on the land.
“As policy makers, we want to get out the message that we can be energy independent in this country,” Noel said. “We can develop clean energy and we can do it in an environmentally responsible way.”