Transmission siting is one thing Barrasso and former DNC chief Dean agree on

Source: Jennifer Yachnin, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Every odd couple agrees on something.

During an hourlong forum on energy development, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso (R) and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) differed on how to advance solar and wind energy development, the source of climate change and whether President Obama’s energy strategy is effective.

But in a moment of harmony, both the senator and the one-time Democratic presidential primary contender agreed that the nation needs to develop its transmission infrastructure on federal lands.

“Where the wind is blowing the hardest and can actually generate electricity is not necessary where people live. You need the transmission lines, and where does that line go?” Barrasso asked rhetorically.

Barrasso argued that Western states in particular should build infrastructure on federal land because the government controls large portions of states like Wyoming.

“Should those transmission lines go on federal land or private land?” asked Barrasso, who serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “You should use federal land. Half the state is federal land.”

Dean, now an adviser on health care and energy in McKenna Long & Aldridge’s government affairs practice, endorsed Barrasso’s viewpoint.

“He’s right. You need transmission. Not just for coal. … You need it for solar and wind too. And not every mile of federal land is pristine,” Dean said.

Dean concluded his remarks, reiterating his support for Barrasso on transmission: “I think he’s right.”

At that point, Barrasso prompted laughter from the small audience when he told a National Journal reporter moderating the forum: “You should quit there.”

American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard acknowledged transmission issues are not typically at the forefront of his organization’s concerns but said such questions are still “fundamental” and could prompt overall job creation within the oil and gas industry.

“We have a unique, perhaps a historic opportunity to take this simmering discussion and frame it in the context of job creation and economic recovery,” said Gerard, whose name has been floated as a possible chief of staff should GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney win the presidency.

API co-sponsored the forum today with National Journal as part of the trade group’s “Vote 4 Energy” advertising campaign, which targets swing-state voters and urges them to consider energy issues when casting their ballots.

API has played a prominent role, sponsoring both forums and parties at both the Democratic National Convention here and the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa, Fla. (Greenwire, Sept. 5).

Keystone XL

During the forum, Dean, whose firm represents backers of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, asserts the project will be approved following the November elections.

“I don’t think Keystone is an election issue except in states where [President Obama] is going to lose anyway, like Wyoming,” said Dean, who does not represent Keystone himself. “I expect it will be approved no matter who wins the election.”

Barrasso likewise agreed that the pipeline will eventually be built but declined to say whether a second-term Obama administration would do so: “I think it’s going to be approved one way or another, but I’m not going to give in to the fact that he’s going to have a second term.”