Southern Governors Oppose Federal Plan To Upgrade Grid
By Jason White, Assistant Staff Writer
With an abundance of cheap and reliable electricity at their fingertips, governors from across the South are against federal plans to spread the costs of transmission grid upgrades among all the states.
The governors said Southern states already have adequate transmission systems and that federal proposals forcing them to improve these systems for the benefit of Northeastern and Midwestern states represent an assault on the South's economy, which depends on low cost energy to attract big manufacturers.
"Because we've worked really hard to maintain low cost electrical power and accessibility for everyone, anything that threatens the ability of our families to live efficiently and affordably is certainly something that's going to be opposed dramatically by the Southern governors," Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said at the Southern Governors Association's (SGA) annual meeting.
The nation's electric grid came under scrutiny last month after a massive blackout brought widespread disruptions in New York, Ohio, Michigan, and the Canadian province of Ontario.
Some analysts said the age of the grid, which was designed in the 1950s, contributed to the severity of the blackout. As a result, there is renewed attention at the federal level to the system and how it can be improved.
A proposal from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would mandate grid upgrades and force all states to pay for them.
"We need to upgrade and expand the transmission grid in this nation to ensure that citizens continue to have reliable access to electricity. But I'm deeply concerned over calls for a national transmission grid with socialized pricing," Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton (D) said.
Following the blackout, the SGA adopted a resolution calling for the federal government to ensure that grid upgrades are funded by the states which benefit from them. Governors said they are partnering with congressmen and senators from Southern states to push their concerns at the federal level.
"This issue has united us like few issues have in my seven years as a member of SGA," Huckabee said.
The governors said the manufacturing sector in the South is built on low-cost energy, with many big manufacturers choosing to build plants there because the energy supply is cheap and abundant. Grid upgrades that would speed electricity to other regions of the country could lower electricity prices elsewhere while driving up prices in the South, the governors said.
"If we do this, there will be fewer biscuit cookers, fewer construction workers, fewer of a whole lot of things, as a result of us losing that prime piece of competitive advantage we have in the South," South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) said.
Some governors said the South has worked to improve its energy supply while some other regions of the country have not. And for that, they said, Southern states should not be penalized.
"While we were damning up our rivers to create hydroelectric supply, while we were going ahead and burning coal and creating nuclear facilities when places like California ... were continuing to plug-in their appliances in record numbers but not wanting to generate the capacity to take care of the demand," Huckabee said.
"If the federal government wants to step in and help those who have not helped themselves that's one thing. But we just want them to try not to help us, because right now their help would hurt us. We helped ourselves and we feel like we've done a pretty darn good job," he said.