|Rich Walje, new executive vice president for PacifiCorp visits with area residents.|
Rich Walje was introduced to the local communities at a breakfast sponsored by PacifiCorp. Walje is the new executive vice-president of PacifiCorp, replacing Bill Landels who is retiring and returning to Scotland.
Walje is directly in charge of all the Utah business. He spent some time recently traveling the state and getting acquainted. Walje most recently was working in Portland and he said he jumped at the chance to return to Utah.
"We wanted to come out and meet people, so we can put faces with names. We want to confirm the company's focus on the communities and the people we serve.
"I am a native of Utah and began with the company in 1972 where I hand painted transmission towers. I also dug post holes. I've held many jobs over the years. I was a lineman at one time. We lived in a travel trailer and followed the lines. I have spent the last 10 years in Portland and when Judi Johansen asked if I wanted to return to Utah, I was delighted and it is my pleasure to be here.
"I have many roots in this area. My grandparents live in Green River and I have family in Moab. I am familiar with this area and I love it. I haven't been in a mine yet, but I would like to go and visit a mine. I have an affinity for this part of the world and for our company," said Walje.
Walje stressed the need for PacifiCorp to serve and participate in the communities it serves. He said the company still has plans to build Hunter 4, but the timetable is not known. Walje answered questions from the audience and one question dealt with the water situation for the upcoming year.
Those involved reported Hunter Plant is looking good with plenty of water and Huntington Plant is good for the short term. The Carbon Plant is also in good shape for water.
Walje also answered questions concerning power outages and how best to deal with them.
Walje said, "We are an electrical utility that people can rely on and we are committed to what we hired on to do." Walje also addressed wind generation and biomass as well as gas plants. He stressed the need for the company to be diverse in their operations. He said it is not always the best choice to go with the lowest cost fuel, but other factors such as diversity and clean air must be considered. Utah is still growing rapidly and there is a need for new transmission lines.
Transmission lines have not been constructed since the early 1980s and there is a need for additional lines, but there is a problem because people along the Wasatch Front do not want the lines near them.
Walje also mentioned that Utah Power makes up 40 percent of PacifiCorp.
Mayor Glen Johnson from Green River thanked Walje for the contributions that Utah Power has made to the Melon Days celebration. Walje said they have a real commitment to the communities and their employees go above and beyond the call of duty.
Walje was asked which major issues he was going to tackle. He said they would begin with the rate increases and educating people as to why these increases are necessary. Next he would work on getting new plants built and paid for. He said they serve six states and the energy policies are different in each state and each state wants something different.
Some think wind power is the key and others want hydro and gas generation and of course, coal is king in southeastern Utah. Walje said he would like to make a loop around the state at least twice a year to keep in touch with communities around the state.