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Leaders pulling together on energy

But governors want U.S. help on electricity

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Facing between $2.1 billion and $12 billion in costs for new power transmission in the next decade, Western governors on Tuesday said they want to maintain a strong role for states while also getting federal help in addressing the need.

The transmission policy adopted during the annual meeting of the Western Governors' Association in Idaho calls for states to play a strong role in electric power decisions affecting the region — such as power transmission bottlenecks — and urges Congress to allow states to create regional mechanisms to decide their common power issues.

Arizona Gov. Jane Dee Hull, the association's new chairman, said that during the next year, states will work with federal officials on ways to site transmission lines, determine their funding and assure individual states that new lines will not "spoil the environment or ruin their lifestyle."

"We must transmit power. It is not a storable resource we can pull out of a box and use when we need it," Hull said.

The governors said federalizing electricity policy is not a solution. Instead, they urged Congress to reject proposals to grant the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the power of eminent domain for transmission facilities. The governors also reinforced that states have authority over retail electric power sales and "all transmission to and from any retail entity should remain subject to the jurisdiction of the state."

The governors are urging industry, states and Canadian provinces to develop a Western interconnection transmission planning process.

The governors on Tuesday also signed a memorandum of understanding with federal agencies that is designed in part to lead to quick and cooperative action by federal agencies in the permitting of power transmission.

The memorandum was signed by governors and representatives of the departments of energy, interior and agriculture, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency.

The governors asked the agencies to help them in their efforts to ensure adequate financing of needed new transmission and cooperative action by federal agencies in the permitting of such transmission.

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said power transmission remains an important part of the energy crisis solution.

"We have identified there is a problem, and while we may see some reduction in the prices, . . . we're not out of this situation. It will be two to three years. One of the keys will be transmission lines," Kempthorne said.

An association study group has said that adding new power transmission lines in the West in the next decade could cost between $2.1 billion and $12 billion, depending on what resource is used to generate the electricity.

At the less-expensive end of the spectrum is power generation fueled by natural gas. Adding coal, wind and geothermal resources to the scenario would lead to a cost of $8 billion to $12 billion.

E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com