Facing power crisis, western governors plot course for energy future

Friday, February 2nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Faced with fears that California's power troubles could drag down the economy of the entire region, governors from nine Western states are joining forces to plot their energy future.

The governors hoped to emerge from energy policy meetings on Friday in Portland with short-term solutions to their states' electricity shortages and a long-term plan for coping with increasing energy demand.

``While most of the nation's attention has focused on the problems plaguing California, the nation's energy situation is having major impacts in all Western states,'' said Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorn, who was leading the meeting for the Western Governors' Association.

``The economy of the entire West is at stake,'' he said.

Among the issues likely to take center stage: promoting conservation, increasing reliance on renewable resources, such as wind and water, and capping soaring wholesale electricity prices, a technique favored by many governors but opposed by the Bush administration.

Alan Richardson, chief executive of the utility PacificCorp, said that while price caps could control prices in the short-term, they also could trigger supply shortages and subsequent price increases. He said he would urge the governors to instead focus on conservation, such as finding large customers willing to use less power and paying households to install energy efficient appliances.

Besides their economic connections, the western states are connected by the infrastructure of the Western Power Grid, which distributes electricity to 11 states and two Canadian provinces.

Newly confirmed U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Curt L. Hebert, and leaders of the Navajo and Fort Mojave tribes planned to join the talks.