Stateline Story

Energy High on Agenda At Governors' Meeting

  • July 23, 2001
  • By Kathleen Murphy
At their 93rd annual meeting next month, the nation's governors intend to weigh in on the debate over President Bush's proposed national energy policy.

Bush, who will not attend the Aug 4-7 meeting in Providence, R.I., is pushing for more development of domestic oil and gas resources and stepped up construction of electric generating plants.

The National Governors' Association (NGA) does not have a formal energy policy, but the governors plan to develop one that will help the association weigh in on the energy debate in Congress, NGA spokeswoman Christine LaPaille said.

NGA has previously addressed aspects of energy policy such as use of ethanol as a gasoline additive. But the discussion in Providence will likely focus on how growing consumption of electricity and natural gas outpaces new production, LaPaille said.

About 42 governors are expected to attend the meeting, which is closed to the general public. Most of $2 million budget for it is underwritten by large corporate sponsors and Rhode Island firms.

Fortune 500 companies will sponsor such events as an outing to a minor league baseball game. Other festivities include a performance by singer Jeffrey Osborne, and dinner and dancing at the Breakers Mansion in Newport, R.I.

But NGA organizers said the meeting is more likely to resemble a workaholics convention than a series of social events that let corporate bigshots buttonhole governors.

"This is not a meeting between governors and high rollers," LaPaille said. "This is a meeting between governors of the states."

At last year's meeting in State College, Pa., however, corporate lobbyists sat with governors during the roundtable discussions, private luncheons and open forums. NGA meeting attendees from the private sector pay between $550 and $780 in registration fees. Government officials pay between $260 and $385.

Security is a top priority for the organizers. Rhode Island state troopers will secure the convention center where the meeting will be held, and governors will be accompanied by their own security details. At last summer's meeting, five protesters trying to draw attention to causes like abolishing the death penalty were arrested on trespassing charges.

The overall theme of this year's meeting is smart growth, a pet cause of Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, who is ending his one-year term as NGA chairman.

Dr. Michael Hammer, an expert on re-engineering business processes, will talk to the governors about electronic government. Another series of discussions will focus on higher education, the subject of an initiative led by Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

Other sessions will focus on welfare reform and Medicaid.

Michigan Gov. John Engler will take over the NGA gavel from Glendening at the conclusion of the meeting.