News, Updates & Resources for the Region
PNWER kicked off 2023 with a return to in-person visits to our U.S. capitals. PNWER Delegations traveled to Helena, Montana; Olympia, Washington; Salem, Oregon; Juneau, Alaska; and Boise, Idaho throughout January.
These annual capital visits allow PNWER delegates and stakeholders to meet with key government, legislative, and private sector leaders to discuss issues important to our region.
Each year, PNWER Executive Committee Members and staff visit our region’s capitals to discuss regional issues and assess priorities that PNWER should focus on in the coming year. Meetings with legislative majority and minority leadership, governors and premiers, and key executive branch staff provide an opportunity to discuss regional trade and PNWER programs. The visits also allow for cross-border legislative collaboration and ongoing relationship building.
Major themes this year included the PNWER President’s Initiative on developing a North American Energy Security & Sustainability Framework; the Electric Supercluster proposal with the Electrical Joint Training Committee with IBEW and SkillSource BC; the PNWER RIA; housing; energy policy; disaster resilience; and decarbonization.
PNWER in Helena
A PNWER delegation traveled to Helena for a series of meetings at the Montana State Capitol. The delegation included PNWER President Senator Chuck Winder (ID); Senator Mike Cuffe (MT), Past PNWER President; Andrew Fisher, Director of U.S. West Coast for the Government of Alberta; Senator John Brenden, Montana Governor’s PNWER Representative; Matt Morrison; and Nate Weigel. In addition to building relationships with policymakers, the visit focused on identifying regional priorities for Montana and how PNWER could provide value to the state.
The visit kicked off with an evening dinner hosted by Senator Mike Cuffe with a number of Majority Caucus leadership including Senator Jason Ellsworth, Senate President; Senator Walt Sales, Senate Energy Chair; Representative Rhonda Knutson, Speaker Pro Tempore; Representative Sue Vinton, House Majority Leader; Senator Keith Regier, PNWER delegate; and Senator Doug Kary.
Over the next two days, PNWER also met with Minority Caucus leadership including Senate Minority Leader Pat Flowers and House Minority Whip Katie Sullivan and discussed Montana priorities and delegate council appointments. The PNWER delegation was introduced during the Senate and House floor sessions.
The delegation met with a number of committee chairs including separate meetings with Agriculture Committee Chairs Senator Mike Lang and Representative Josh Kassmier during which issues were discussed around Milk River and St. Mary’s irrigation and canola as a feedstock for renewable diesel. The delegation met with Energy Chairs Senator Walt Sales and Representative Katie Zolnikov to discuss Senator Winder’s presidential initiative around the development of a Food and Energy Security and Sustainability Framework. The Food and Energy Security and Sustainability Framework was positively received in all of the meetings and all were eager to provide input to its development.
The delegation was able to hold a substantive meeting with Montana Livestock Director Mike Honeycutt and Assistant State Veterinarian Tahnee Szymanski. Topics of discussion included the upcoming Boise Summit and agriculture and livestock health issues including the need for continued advocacy for e-certification of livestock in border crossing, coordinated regional planning in the case of outbreak such as foot and mouth disease, feral swine, and best practices in poultry that can be applied to other species such as pork.
The PNWER delegation held an evening dinner with Montana Department of Transportation Director Mack Long, his leadership team, and Representative Denley Loge, House Transportation Committee Chair. During the dinner, the PNWER delegation and guests talked extensively around expanding PNWER’s RIA program to Montana and how to assist rural and underserved Montana communities with infrastructure development and technical assistance.
PNWER also hosted a Legislative Pizza Lunch to share broadly PNWER’s initiatives and recruit legislators for the Legislative Energy Horizon Institute. This was widely attended by legislators.
PNWER presented before the Senate Natural Resources Committee, where the delegation was able to share about several PNWER initiatives, including the Energy and Security Framework, the opportunity for private sector funding through the Department of Defense for critical mineral development, and LEHI. In addition, PNWER gave an update on regional AIS funding to the committee and invited Thomas Woolf, AIS Bureau Chief at MT Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, to provide an extensive overview of Montana’s current AIS efforts and answer numerous questions from legislators around Montana's strategy to combat invasive mussels. PNWER also presented before the Senate Business, Labor, and Commerce Committee and provided updates on the aforementioned initiatives, as well as PNWER’s Regional Infrastructure Accelerator.
The visit concluded with a meeting with Governor Greg Gianforte and his Natural Resources policy advisor Michael Freeman. Senator Winder shared his initiative with the Governor and received a promise of support. In addition to the aforementioned issues, the group also discussed the issue around maintaining longer border crossing hours for the important crossings located between the Montana-Saskatchewan border. Governor Gianforte will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of the Executive Branch and the Congressional delegation and asked for regional priorities from PNWER that could be shared in these meetings.
PNWER in Olympia
PNWER had a series of productive meetings over the course of the two-day visit. The meetings began with a presentation to the House Innovation, Community & Economic Development and Veterans Committee which PNWER U.S. Vice President Representative Cindy Ryu chairs. Matt Morrison, Brandon Hardenbrook, and Steve Myers presented on economic development and workforce opportunities related to Hydrogen and Electrification, the Center for Regional Disaster Resilience and the Pandemic Roadmap, and the PNWER Congregate program, in addition to providing a general overview of PNWER activities and inviting all members to attend the Annual Summit in Boise, Idaho.
The delegation received a warm welcome from all House members during an introduction on the House floor, which was followed by a series of beneficial one-on-one meetings with members of both the House and Senate.
During the meeting with PNWER delegate Senator Lisa Wellman, the Senator led an informative discussion on the multi-faceted considerations for developing housing legislation. PNWER met with Senate Majority Leader Senator Andy Billig, a graduate of one of the first LEHI cohorts, who enthusiastically agreed to continue to recruit for the program. Representative Joe Timmons, Chair of the Transportation Housing Committee, and Senator Joe Nguyen, Chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, were both very eager to learn more about PNWER's Regional Infrastructure Accelerator (RIA) initiatives and offered recommendations to pursue additional funding opportunities to electrify port drayage trucks. Representative Timmons expressed interest in working with PNWER to continue to address border issues and work closely with partners in BC on addressing flood issues.
PNWER had a lengthy meeting with Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck, who is very supportive and keenly interested in PNWER programs. He was particularly interested in the RIA program and PNWER's cross-border initiatives and would like to explore opportunities to work more closely with BC. The PNWER delegation also met with Governor Inslee’s Director of International Relations and Protocol, Geoff Potter, who provided details on some of the Governor’s initiatives and priorities for this legislative session.
Senator Bob Hasegawa offered helpful insights to the delegation as PNWER continues to develop and pursue funding for the Electrical Supercluster initiative. The delegation had a productive meeting onsite with the IBEW and SkillSource BC who, together with PNWER, are putting together details for a budget proviso.
PNWER also met with Representative Beth Doglio, Chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee, who was interested to learn more about LEHI and PNWER's efforts around electrification and decarbonization. Representative David Hackney is working his way through the LEHI program and is very eager to become more involved with PNWER.
A highlight of the visit was a PNWER legislative reception in the Senate Rules room, welcomed by Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck. The delegation saw many familiar faces and also met with a number of legislators who were new to PNWER. This was a great opportunity to connect and share more about PNWER’s regional collaboration.
Additional meetings included Representative Mary Dye, Ranking Minority Member of the House Environment and Energy Committee; PNWER Delegate Representative Bruce Chandler, Representative Cindy Ryu, and Senator Matt Boehnke.
Thank you to Representative Ryu for the assistance organizing this productive visit. PNWER is looking forward to working with Representative Ryu during her presidency and a 2025 Annual Summit in Washington State.
PNWER in Salem
A sizeable delegation representing PNWER traveled to Salem, Oregon, for a series of meetings with legislators and leadership. The discussions focused on several PNWER initiatives and programs including Senator Chuck Winder’s North American Energy and Food Security and Sustainability Initiative, Legislative Energy Horizon Institute (LEHI), the Center for Regional Disaster Resilience (CRDR), Aquatic Invasive Species, PNWER’s Regional Infrastructure Accelerator (RIA), high-performance rail, and regional electrification and decarbonization efforts, and housing and homelessness among other issues.
The PNWER delegation included PNWER President Senator Chuck Winder; PNWER U.S. Vice President Representative Cindy Ryu; Brandon Hardenbrook, PNWER COO; Tara Edens, PNWER Program Manager; Nathalie Beaudoin, Consulate General of Canada-Seattle; Dan Kirschner, Northwest Gas Association and PNWER U.S. Private Sector Co-Chair; Bruce Agnew, Director of PNWER’s Regional Infrastructure Accelerator; Jeff Morris, Schneider Electric (former WA Representative); and Natasha Jackson, Northwest Gas Association.
The PNWER delegation kicked off the visit with a sit-down meeting with the Senate President Rob Wagner and the Senate President Pro Tem James Manning to give them an overview of PNWER and its initiatives. Senator Wagner was particularly interested in broadband and energy legislation and best practices from across the region. Senator Manning, a graduate of LEHI, spoke highly of the value of the program and recommended it for all legislators.
PNWER then met with PNWER Delegate Senator Bill Hansell to discuss initiatives including the RIA and his legislative priorities for the upcoming year which include water policy related to the Columbia River Treaty and the Snake River Dams.
Following that meeting, PNWER met with Representative Dacia Grayber, Chair of the House Committee on Emergency Management, General Government, and Veterans, and Representative Maxine Dexter, Chair of the House Committee on Housing and Homelessness, as well as Speaker of the House Representative Dan Rayfield’s staff to discuss the appointment of new PNWER delegates as well as LEHI recruitment.
Later in the afternoon, PNWER spoke to Representative Ken Helm, Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture, Land Use, Natural Resources, and Water, who expressed interest in being a PNWER delegate and becoming more involved in PNWER initiatives. He is also a graduate of LEHI and spoke highly of the experience.
PNWER also met separately with both Senator Chris Gorsek and Representative Nancy Nathanson to discuss PNWER’s RIA, high-performance rail, electrification, and public-private partnerships as well as transportation legislation that they are sponsoring. Both are members of the Oregon Rail Caucus and are enthusiastic about working with PNWER on transportation initiatives.
Additional meetings were held with PNWER Lead Delegate Senator Lew Frederick; Senator Jeff Golden, Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources; PNWER Delegate Senator David Brock Smith (newly appointed to the Senate from the House); Representative Virgle Osborne; and Molly Woon, Elections Division Director for the Secretary of State’s Office.
Legislators and staff were encouraged to join PNWER in Boise, Idaho on July 16-20 for PNWER’s Annual Summit with many legislators indicating a desire to attend.
PNWER in Juneau
PNWER had a tremendous capital visit with a number of Alaska legislators and the Lieutenant Governor. PNWER Executive Director Matt Morrison and Senior Program Manager Steve Myers had individual meetings with Lieutenant Governor Nancy Dahlstrom and eighteen House and Senate Members. Matt and Steve also met with staff from the Departments of Transportation and Economic Development.
Meetings were held with Speaker of the House Cathy Tilton and Senate President Gary Stevens about the importance of PNWER to Alaska and selection of new delegates to the PNWER Board. PNWER had the opportunity to showcase new initiatives underway for 2023 and highlight the upcoming Summit in Boise, Idaho on July 16-20.
PNWER was invited to present to the Alaska House Energy Committee on a couple initiatives that are important to the State. The Committee is chaired by LEHI Alumni Rep. George Rauscher and includes recent graduate Rep. Calvin Schrage, House Minority Leader. The LEHI program has given legislators an opportunity to get versed in the upstream and downstream world of energy. The committee also learned about the PNWER President's initiative focusing on Food Security & Supply Chain Resiliency; Energy Security, Reliability, & Sustainability; and Critical Minerals. The committee hearings and the individual meetings with the Lieutenant Governor; House and Senate Members along with staff are invaluable to showcasing the work PNWER does.
PNWER's Presentation begins around 45:20.
PNWER in Boise
Last, but certainly not least, PNWER's visit to Boise was a major success - paving the way for a robust and well-attended PNWER Annual Summit in Boise July 16 - 20, 2023. Beyond the upcoming Annual Summit, discussions focused on reinvigorating the PNWER Idaho Council; Senator Winder’s Presidential Initiative on North American Energy, Food Security, and Sustainability; Legislative Energy Horizon Institute (LEHI); Center for Regional Disaster Resilience (CRDR); Aquatic Invasive Species; Feral Swine; PNWER’s Regional Infrastructure Accelerator (RIA); high performance rail; and the return on investment Idaho receives from its annual investment in PNWER.
The PNWER delegation included PNWER President Sen. Chuck Winder; Matt Morrison, PNWER CEO; Brandon Hardenbrook, PNWER COO; Bruce Agnew, Director of the RIA program; Betz Mayer, Assistant Director of the RIA program; and Megan Graves, Consulate General of Canada-Seattle. Meetings were coordinated by PNWER Idaho Coordinator Gloria Totoricagüena.
PNWER kicked off the two day visit by meeting with recently-elected Lt. Governor Scott Bedke, formerly of the Idaho House of Representatives. He takes the mantle as Chair of the PNWER Idaho Council, a unique Idaho-specific structure that brings together the public and private sector leaders within Idaho to discuss key regionally significant issues and promote the work of PNWER in the state. The PNWER Idaho Council was established by now-Governor Brad Little when he was Lt. Governor in the 2010s.
Governor Brad Little met with the PNWER delegation immediately afterwards, where he emphasized permitting as a major obstacle to Sen. Winder’s Presidential Initiative. He noted that “we’ve got to get permits out faster” if the U.S. wants to meet our critical mineral production goals and decarbonize our transportation sector. Because permits and studies must be done by several U.S. agencies, all with different deadlines and schedules, starting a new project often involves millions of dollars spent on permitting before anyone can break ground. Gov. Little noted that this would be a good issue for PNWER and the Congressional delegation to focus on, specifically trying to understand how the permitting process can be better coordinated across agencies and executed more efficiently without altering the sentiment of the studies required.
Megan Graves from the Consulate General of Canada-Seattle highlighted Alberta’s 7 day permitting process for certain projects, and Canada’s overall more streamlined approach to permitting. This was very interesting to Idaho’s public and private sector representatives.
[Citing Governor Spencer Cox of Utah, Governor Little noted that “we don’t need money, we need a permit,” underlining the frustration from the state and private sector at the complications and time delays associated with any new projects.]
PNWER Idaho Council hosted a lunch for Council members, which included an informational session on PNWER and our work, a brief history of the PNWER Idaho Council and what they do, and a robust discussion about the issues and topics they want to see at the PNWER Annual Summit this summer. Permit reform, energy generation and distribution, transition planning for a net zero future, workforce shortages, housing, pressure on food systems, invasive species, and the Columbia River Treaty were all key issues.
Sen. Winder, Matt, and Brandon gave presentations at the House Agricultural Affairs Committee and the House Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee. Sen. Winder provided an excellent overview of his Presidential Initiative for both Committees, and there was overall high levels of interest in how this initiative intersects with the agriculture and energy sectors within Idaho.
Betz met with Bre Brush from the Boise Mayor’s Office to continue collaboration efforts between the PNWER RIA and Greater Northwest Passenger Rail Forum, which will include some joint programming on Wednesday, July 19 during the PNWER Annual Summit.
Bruce met with Elaine Clegg, CEO of Valley Regional Transit, and Bill Conners, CEO of the Boise Metro Chamber, to discuss trains and transit in the Treasure Valley. Bill Conners also joined PNWER for our prospective sponsorship dinner, and gave us a great shout-out in his weekly newsletter!
On day two, PNWER met separately with Sen. Mark Harris, Senate Majority Caucus Chair, Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Moyle, House Energy Committee Chair Rep. Vito Barbieri, and PNWER delegate Rep. Charlie Shepherd, discussing PNWER programs and the return on investment Idaho receives from its dues to PNWER, which are more than tenfold over the past 30 years.
The PNWER delegation was introduced to the House and the Senate, before Bruce, Betz, and Matt gave a presentation to the Senate Transportation Committee on the RIA and what it can do for Idaho. This was on the heels of some very successful one-on-one meetings with Mollie McCarty, Chief External Affairs Officer at Idaho Department of Transportation (IDT); Scott Leukenga, Freight Program Manager at IDT; and Laila Kral, Administrator of Idaho’s Local Highway Technical Assistance Council (LHTAC). The PNWER RIA looks forward to partnering with the LHTAC and IDT moving forward.
Legislators and staff were encouraged to join PNWER in Boise, Idaho on July 16-20 for PNWER’s Annual Summit with many legislators indicating a desire to attend.