Governors group urges feds to ‘not get in the way’ on energy, transportation

Source: Jessica Estepa, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2014

The top leaders of the National Governors Association today called on Congress and federal agencies to improve their working relationships with state officials, especially when it comes to energy policy, infrastructure and cybersecurity.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) noted that when she gave the group’s State of the States address last year, she outlined the challenges faced around the country as well as governors’ visions for 2013. But one year later, nothing has changed, she said.

“Our message for 2014 is clear: States are leading, and we encourage our federal partners to work more closely with us and to take note of and use the policy ideas coming from their state partners,” she said. “Above all, please do not get in the way.”

She and Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) noted that energy policy is one arena in particular where states are taking charge. The creation of state energy plans and policies is leading to more production and energy efficiency initiatives, they said.

In Colorado, the state has created strong disclosure rules about the ingredients used during the hydraulic fracturing process, has worked to improve well inspections, and requires groundwater testing before and after drilling, Hickenlooper said.

“Governors are at the center of the current shale energy boom and are actively pursuing ways to manage responsible development,” he added.

When it comes to infrastructure, NGA last year made recommendations for the reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act, including the creation of a priority system for federal public works projects that emphasizes state needs and the adoption of an integrated water resources planning policy.

Fallin urged Congress to pass the legislation, which is currently in conference committee.

Hickenlooper also discussed the need for Congress to create a long-term funding solution for highway, transit and other infrastructure projects. Fallin testified on the topic yesterday before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (E&E Daily, Jan. 15).

The funding gap for infrastructure needs — which run the gamut from highways and bridges to utilities and public buildings — could be as high as $1.6 trillion by 2020, Hickenlooper said. Governors are working on finding new approaches, including developing public-private partnerships and looking for new revenue sources, but they still require help from the federal level, he added.

“Infrastructure is about the future,” he said. “Economic prosperity and innovation rely on a robust and sustainable infrastructure at their foundation.”

Hickenlooper also called on Congress and the Obama administration to maintain an active and ready National Guard. The guard was able to assist in the floods that devastated his state last year, he noted. But the guard also has the ability to assist states in the event of cybersecurity attacks, which could threaten utilities and other important infrastructure, he said.

NGA last year launched the Resource Center for State Cybersecurity as a way to share practices and develop strategies.

“We are working to help states implement those strategies and also advance cybersecurity efforts in the energy sector,” he said.