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Wyoming energy meet draws 15 states

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Legislative leaders from 15 states — including Utah — say they will attend the energy symposium that the Wyoming state government is sponsoring this fall.

Wyoming House Speaker Colin Simpson, R-Cody, sponsored legislation earlier this year to fund the symposium scheduled for Oct. 25-27 in Jackson. Simpson said he's pleased that representatives from all the states that were invited have agreed to attend.

Wyoming originally budgeted $450,000 for the meeting. Lawmakers later reduced that by 10 percent in keeping with overall state budget cuts.

Many Wyoming lawmakers plan to attend the meeting. In addition, Wyoming is paying to fund travel and lodging for legislators from 13 other Western states and North Dakota who have also agreed to come.

Simpson said he hopes the event leads to a greater understanding by states in the region about how they can form their energy and environmental policies to be as collaborative and less competitive as possible.

"It certainly appears as though energy issues are regional issues, whether it's transmission of gas, or electricity or oil," he said. "Many of us are on the same electrical grid. It really just makes sense to fully understand where each of us are, what our motivations are and what our needs are."

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has declined an invitation to speak at the symposium. Simpson said he's been writing to him encouraging him to reconsider. Simpson said he's also invited U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and is hopeful that he will attend.

The symposium has drawn some criticism from Wyoming newspapers, including some suggestion that Simpson is using the event to generate publicity to support his own political ambitions.

However, Simpson said he hears from the public that Wyoming needs to take a more regional approach to energy issues, including the increased development of wind power.

Robert Stavins, a professor for the environment and natural resources program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, is scheduled to give the symposium's keynote address. Stavins is the author of several books on the economics of energy.

"Everybody is experiencing the same problem in a different kind of way," said Rep. Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, a member of the committee organizing the event. "There needs to be a forum like this where they can all get together and approach the big problem by taking it small bits at a time."

In addition to Wyoming and Utah, states participating in the event are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.