White House Briefing, September 15, 2003

 

Monday  September 15, 2003

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Monroe, Michigan)

September 15, 2003

PRESS GAGGLE WITH SCOTT MCCLELLAN, ACTING EPA ADMINISTRATOR MARIANNE HORINKO AND CEQ CHAIR JIM CONNAUGHTON

Aboard Air Force One
Monroe, Michigan

10:58 A.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning, everybody. I've got some special guest briefers with me today to talk to you a little bit about the President's speeches today and tomorrow. But first let me just to kind of a quick summary of the President's day, and then I'll introduce our guest briefers to take some questions on today. And then after that we'll let them go, and then I'll take questions on whatever other subjects you all have.

First of all, the President had his usual briefings before departing this morning. We are on our way to Monroe, Michigan, where the President will tour Detroit Edison Monroe Plant. I'm going to let the briefers get a little bit more into this, but let me just talk about today and tomorrow.

Today and tomorrow the President will be highlighting actions that we are taking to better protect the environment while sustaining and strengthening economic growth and job creation. Today the President will focus on the progress that we are making to improve air quality, as well as the steps we took to improve our New Source Review program that will increase energy efficiency, reliability and safety.

Specifically, the President will announce the release of EPA's new Air Quality Trends report, which will show that while the economy has expanded greatly over the last three decades, the air quality has dramatically improved. We have -- since 1970, emissions have been cut by nearly half. And again, these are issues that our briefers will get into in a minute. So he will make that announcement today. And the President is committed to building upon the progress we are making to improve our air quality.

And then, tomorrow, related to that, the President will continue to urge Congress to act on his Clear Skies legislation, which will, as you remember, cut emissions from power plants by 70 percent. So that will lead to a dramatic reduction in emissions beyond what we have already achieved.

Q: What's the venue tomorrow?

MR. McCLELLAN: It will be at the White House, the remarks will be at the White House. And he will have a roundtable -- participate in a roundtable before that with some state and local officials, as well as representatives of different groups, like environmental groups, labor groups, and so forth.

And then following his remarks in Monroe -- after the tour of the plant he'll make remarks on what I just said. And then this evening, he makes remarks in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, at a Bush-Cheney 2004 reception.

With that, I'm just going to turn it over to two guest briefers. We have the Acting EPA Administrator Marianne Horinko here with us today, and Jim Connaughton, the head of the Council on Environmental Quality at the White House. So I will let Marianne start off from there.

Q: -- can I ask you --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let's see if they have anything else to add to what I said, and then we'll go into that. Do you have anything to add to what I just said.

MR. CONNAUGHTON: No, good summary.

Q: Forgive me if it's in the paper you guys just handed out, but can you tell me to what extent this plant today exemplifies New Source Review and the changing rules?

ACTING ADMINISTRATOR HORINKO: Sure. This is a plant that years ago, back in the late '90s, wanted to make some upgrades to help increase reliability, increase efficiency, improve operations. But because of the changing rules, the fact that it couldn't figure out what it needed to do to comply with the Clean Air Act, it significantly delayed some of these upgrades.

Under the regulation we signed in August, Detroit Edison would have been able to proceed very quickly to make these upgrades, create jobs, enhance reliability, while still maintaining the safeguards of the Clean Air Act.

Q: This has been such a political lightning rod. Is there a sense that you need to go out and publicly defend what's a fairly obscure set of regulations? What's driving a day or two of discussions about this issue?

ACTING ADMINISTRATOR HORINKO: I think it's important to literally clear the air on this rule. It's been much misreported that this rule is going to somehow cause increased hospitalizations and increases in emissions, and in fact, when you look at the date, you look at our regulatory impact analysis, the rule will actually maintain the safeguards of the Clean Air Act. It will increase reliability without affecting emissions.

Q: What do you say to the concerns, though, that some of the environmental groups have raised about this?

MR. CONNAUGHTON: They're wrong.

Q: How?

MR. CONNAUGHTON: These -- our reforms are going to keep emissions in check, even as we work under the current Clear Air Act to make continued dramatic progress in improving air quality by cutting emissions across the country.

ACTING ADMINISTRATOR HORINKO: I would just -- look at the results. The Clean Air Act has inexorably ratcheted down emissions of all our criteria pollutants in this country. The report that we're releasing today shows dramatic reductions in the last two years even. So 10 years from now, we will have achieved the goals of the 1990 Clean Air Act by reducing criteria pollutant emissions by half.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- report out that these -- and I think it's in your factsheet, as well -- that these improvements that we're making goes back to the previous administration when this started, that had broad bipartisan support. And these two briefers can maybe add to that a little bit.

MR. CONNAUGHTON: The President today will accent -- and listen for it in the speech -- the fact that this administration is committed to implementing the newest stringent air quality standards for ozone, which causes urban smog, and for fine particles, which is the fine dust in the air that can exacerbate problems that people have who have respiratory illnesses.

We are committed to working with the cities and counties to meeting those new stringent standards. The air must, as a matter of law and as a matter of will of this administration, must get better. What we are talking about today are the sensible policies, the smart ways to achieve those results while promoting economic growth.

Q: The Clear Skies Initiative -- is this something you guys are seeking to get included in the final energy legislation? There's a lot of talk about that on the Hill.

MR. CONNAUGHTON: The Clear Skies legislation, we've been working very closely with the Senate Environmental Public Works Committee, and with the House Energy and Resources Committee. They're making very good progress. We're going to be highlighting tomorrow the need for this legislation, and we'll be working with those committees to get the legislation through the Congress.

Q: But I mean, within the energy policy bill that's in conference now --

MR. CONNAUGHTON: We issued a conference letter that made clear our priorities for the energy conference.

Q: It didn't address the Clear Skies.

MR. McCLELLAN: When I put forward what our priorities were, we are also going to be urging Congress to act on the Clear Skies legislation, because that's an important priority for the President. So we're working with Congress to get that passed, as well.

Keep in mind today, too, that when we're talking about the energy plan, we're talking about not only reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy, but increasing energy efficiency, reliability and safety. The recent blackout highlighted the need to act on this front. And some of what we're doing, in terms of New Source Review improvements, will help us achieve that important goal. And it will allow us to invest in the new technologies needed to do that, while at the same time protecting our environment. And so that's where the President is --

Q: Just to clarify, Secretary Abraham's letter did not mention Clear Skies. Is that -

MR. McCLELLAN: He put forward what our priorities are in the energy legislation. Clear Skies legislation is also an important priority, and we are working with Congress to get that passed. And the President will urge action on that to move as quickly as quickly as possible so that we can build upon the progress that we are making to improve our air quality.

Q: Is "quickly as possible" be the energy conference?

MR. McCLELLAN: He's going to urge them to act as quickly as possible to get Clear Skies legislation passed. We also need to pass a comprehensive energy
plan.

MR. CONNAUGHTON: One other point to accent, because this will round out the President's speech today -- the work that we have been doing - the aggressive work, under a classic command and control set of regulations, to tackle diesel vehicle emissions, coupled with passage of Clear Skies, this market-based program to cut power plant pollution, those two sets of activities, combined with our current programs, put us on a path to meeting these new air quality standards. That is huge. We have never had a clearly defined path toward meeting those air quality standards before. That's what this combination of policies will achieve. It's why the city and county officials favor these set of policies. It's why you're seeing unions coming out in favor of these policies. It's why some of the environmental groups who take the time to look at the results favor these policies. That's what we'll be highlighting here today.

MR. McCLELLAN: Any other questions for our briefers? Thank you all for coming back. I'll get back in the hot corner.

All right, moving on to other subjects. What else?

Q: A vice Prime Minister in Israel suggested that the Israelis were considering assassinating Arafat. Is that a good idea to say that or --

MR. McCLELLAN: Secretary Powell made our view -- again, made our view very clear. Our views are very well-known to the parties, they're very well-known to the Israeli government. Our position is clear and well-known.

Q: Is that a good idea, bad idea?

MR. McCLELLAN: We have made it clear that expulsion, in any form, just would not help matters and only serve to give Arafat more a world stage.

Q: -- talking about assassination here.

MR. McCLELLAN: That includes expulsion -- or killing -- that would not help matters. We need to get the parties to focus back on their responsibilities, so that we can move forward on the two-state vision outlined by the President. All parties have responsibilities. We need to work with those that are committed to peace.

Yasser Arafat has been a problem, not part of the solution. And we want to work with those who are committed to peace, that are committed to cracking down on terrorism. And it's important that the new Palestinian Prime Minister have unified security forces under his command, so that we can move forward and get
back to the road map.

Q: Scott, the meeting in Geneva was inconclusive. What's going to happen now? How are you going to get more foreign troops into Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that Secretary Powell talked a little bit about the progress that we made. There were some talks -- they were some - we will continue to have talks with all nations. We have been talking with Russia; we have been talking with Germany; we have been talking with the French; and we will talk with all members of the -- continue talking with all members of the Security Council to move forward on the new U.N. resolution, because we want to move forward on transferring responsibility to the Iraq people as quickly as possible. That is our shared goal. And I think that there has been some positive discussions, and those discussions will continue.

Q: Scott, is China's trade and currency policy responsibility for the loss of 2.7 million manufacturing jobs in this country?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of our GDP and the economy, the manufacturing trends -- that goes back a long period of decline in the manufacturing sector. The President is acting on a number of fronts. We acted, first of all, by passing tax relief to get the economy out of the recession and get it growing again. There is more that we need to do. We also need to work to make health care affordable and accessible, to reduce the lawsuit abuse, to open markets and make sure that we have a level playing field. And that's what we are committed to doing. So we will continue to work to expand trade. We also need to pass comprehensive energy legislation.

Q: The team within the Commerce Department that's going to evaluate the trade practices, what kind of teeth do they have? What role will they play?

MR. McCLELLAN: One, you're bringing up -- Secretary Evans is -- I think you're bringing up some of what he will be announcing today. He will be delivering remarks at the Detroit Economic Club today. And he will talk about what we've learned about the challenges facing manufacturers in the United States, and preview some of the recommendations that the Department of Commerce will be releasing this fall. And that includes announcing the creation of a new unfair trade practices team that will work to track, detect and confront unfair trade. He will also announce the Office of Industry Analysis to assess the economic impact of new rules and regulations. That's another thing we need to act on, is to work to streamline rules and regulations that are an obstacle for economic growth.

Q: Is this something that -- this team, what powers do they have? Will they recommend new tariffs or anything when they find it?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's important that American manufactures have a level playing field with foreign competitors. We need to open markets to expand trade while enforcing international trade laws, to make sure that we have fair trade.

Q: What's this team going to do, though?

MR. McCLELLAN: Secretary Evans will be talking about it more in his speech. They'll be releasing some information about it. I would encourage you to listen to his remarks.

Q: But does the team have any teeth? Do they have any powers?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are strongly committed to -- and I just said that by the action that we have taken, we are strongly committed to getting our economy growing and creating more jobs, and that includes in the manufacturing sector. It has been particularly hard hit. That's why we created the new office within the Department of Commerce. That's why the Secretary has taken these steps, so that we can level the playing field and confront unfair trade practices. But he will talk more about that at his speech, and the Department of Commerce will be releasing some information specifically about how it will do exactly what I just said.

That's all? Okay, thanks.

END 11:13 P.M. EDT

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