By Jasmine Hall
Jackson Hole Daily
Via Wyoming News Exchange
JACKSON — U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland touted the potential of Western states to solve problems and meet challenges while speaking Monday to a gathering of the region’s governors in Teton Village.
“Whether it’s the rapid deployment of the technologies needed to decarbonize the West or collaborations to protect the lands, waters and wildlife we all cherish, the West has undeniable potential,” Haaland said at the Western Governors’ Association’s Winter Meeting. “It’s this potential we must harness for the bold change we need to meet this moment.”
Several partnerships she said the Biden administration is exploring with Western states include cleaning up legacy pollution from abandoned coal mines or orphan oil and gas wells; protecting the ecosystem “iconic to the American West, the sagebrush steppe”; and leveraging federal dollars for resilient water infrastructure projects.
Additionally, she was excited to announce the advancement of renewable energy projects.
“These projects are proof that building our clean energy future doesn’t just address the climate crisis,” she said. “It presents a potential to power communities everywhere. That includes in Wyoming, where construction for three major transmission lines — Energy Gateway West, Gateway South and TransWest Express — is going well and will bring power to communities across the West.”
As the Western Governors’ Association kicked off its meeting Monday, the speakers also included Shalanda Young, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. She and Haaland were welcomed by the association’s chair, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon.
“I hope all of us can use the next couple of days to learn, discuss, have conversation and seek practical, common-sense solutions to some of the problems our states and nation face,” Gordon said. “Let me reiterate here, that what is great about this organization is our ability on a bipartisan level to look at specific problems and find solutions that are practical.
“If we can continue our work together, there is a lot we can accomplish.”
The agenda was packed Monday through Wednesday with topics ranging from Gordon’s Decarbonizing the West initiative to housing.
Young and Haaland were the first to address development of the budget and coordination with Congress, as well as plans related to conservation, responsible energy development, water resources and environmental justice. They also emphasized the importance of collaborating with Western leaders.
Young emphasized the importance of using state tax dollars judiciously as she helped develop the $6 trillion annual budget for the federal government. From building the next generation of American infrastructure to providing critical funding for national parks such as Grand Teton and Yellowstone, she said the Biden administration was investing in its communities.
However, she said the administration and Congress are going to need to work together to ensure funding for natural disasters, provide critical aid to Ukraine and Israel or address the fentanyl crisis.
Young wanted a long-lasting resolution for a possible looming government shutdown and national parks closure. The resolution extended the budget deadline to Nov. 17 in September, and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis noted that date is quickly approaching.
“We need to keep the government open,” Young said. “You now have the Park Service plan, and the secretary will talk about that and work with you all. Those are contingencies.
“But we cannot go six, eight weeks, three months, two months, with this hanging over people’s heads in this way. This is no way to run a government.”