For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 22, 2003
Press Gaggle with Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Burbank, Washington
MR. McCLELLAN: A short flight. Hope everybody had a good evening in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. And let me run through the President's morning. He's having his usual briefing now aboard the flight, en route. At 9:40 a.m., the President will participate in a briefing and tour of the Ice Harbor Lake and Dam. The President will make remarks on salmon restoration. The President will talk about our salmon conservation efforts. He will highlight the steps we've taken to increase salmon populations, while at the same time making sure that Americans in the Pacific Northwest have affordable, reliable hydroelectric power that they need.
And then at 12:10 p.m., at the -- well, we depart for Bellevue, Washington, and at the airport upon arrival, the President will participate in a meeting on the economy to discuss the economic situation in Washington State with local business and community leaders.
And then at 1:40 p.m., the President delivers remarks at the Bush-Cheney 2004 luncheon at a private residence. And with that, I also have a senior administration official here with me in case you have any specific questions about our salmon restoration efforts that you want to ask at this point. And again, that will be on background. But with that, I'm happy to open up to whatever questions you might have.
Q Can I ask you, since the President is in the Pacific Northwest touting his environmental policy, there's a story in the New York Times today that says the EPA is going to allow older power plants to upgrade without antipollution mechanisms. It's going to save them billions of dollars. How does that square with the President's message?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me mention a couple of things, and our senior administration official might want to add something. But this process has been going through a public comment period. I expect EPA will soon have something more to announce, But, look, our air quality is improving. And we must continue to take steps to improve our air quality, and that's exactly what this administration is doing. In terms of the New Source Review rules, the rules as written have really stood in the way, they've been an impediment to older plants being able to replace older equipment with more modern equipment that will improve energy efficiency reliability and safety.
Let me give you an example. We all -- someone's home, if you have an old water heater that's leaking and you want to replace that water heater with a new water heater that's modern and that is more efficient, you couldn't do that under the old rule. You can now do that under what we're looking at doing. And so that's what -- improving efficiency, improving reliability, improving safety -- that's what we're talking about here.
But I also want to point out, as I said, air quality is improving. We need to continue to take steps to make sure we improve air quality. And that's exactly what this administration is doing. Congress needs to act on the President's Clear Skies Initiative. This initiative will significantly reduce emissions from older power plants -- from all power plants -- by a 70-percent reduction overall in reduction and emissions from power plants.
Q -- to environmental groups that say this isn't enough?
MR. McCLELLAN: This is about working in an bipartisan way to find solutions to achieve real results. And that's what this is about. And you've heard the President talk about that.
Q -- new rule coming out next week?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'll let EPA speak further to that. They may have more to say about it today. I'll let them speak further about the timing and the process.
Q I have another question. There's been reports that one or maybe two U.S. soldiers have been taken hostage. Can you --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I saw a wire report to that effect. We have nothing to confirm that, and in fact, we have -- the indications we have received are that this is just not the case. But I would encourage you to check with the Pentagon.
Q What is the President's reaction to Israel saying that it's planning to kill more Palestinian militants?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen the specific comments you're referring to, but some of what I said yesterday still applies. I mean, we are focused -- we are very engaged in the Middle East right now. Secretary Powell and Condi Rice continue to make phone calls. Ambassador Wolf continues to meet with the parties. Our focus is on getting the parties back together so that they can work to resolve these issues, they can work to address these matters together. That's what's important, and that's what we're continuing to do.
Q Are you going to urge Israel to show restraint?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I think -- we've always said that Israel has the right to defend itself. We've also always pointed out that the parties, including Israel, need to keep in mind the consequences of actions that they take, and they need to take into account what the effects of those actions -- the effect of those actions on the peace process.
So that's why we're focusing on getting the parties back together and having them work together to resolve these matters.
Q Any reaction to France's insistence about sharing authority in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, when it comes to what we're trying to achieve in Iraq, all of us have a shared goal of helping the Iraqi people have a better future. All of us have a shared goal of returning as quickly as possible Iraq to the Iraqi people so that they can govern themselves and have a country that is free and at peace. All of us share that goal.
As I said, there are some countries that have expressed concerns that they want additional authority, to be able to participate in Iraq. But, look, you have a number of countries that are already participating with the coalition in Iraq and helping, and the U.N. Resolution 1483 provides the authority for countries to participate. That's where a number of countries already are participating. But we're listening to concerns of other countries that think they may need additional authority. We're listening to their concerns, we're talking with them about how we move forward, about how they can help and they can participate in Iraq. But our shared goal is a better future for the Iraqi people. Our shared goal is returning Iraq as quickly as possible to the people of Iraq.
Q What can the United States do to allay their concerns and get them on board?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's why we're in discussions with them right now, to talk about those discussions --
Q But they say --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I mean, I think you need to address what concerns that they may have to those countries. They can better -- I don't want to speak for those countries. But that's why we're listening to them. We want to hear their concerns. But 1483 we've always said we believe provides sufficient authority for countries to participate in Iraq.
Q But they don't think they --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are some that don't. I mean, again, there are already 30 some countries participating in our efforts in Iraq. There are a few others that are about to be participating in our efforts, and there are a number that we're still in discussions with.
Q Can you name any of those countries?
MR. McCLELLAN: Which countries?
Q That may participate, that have not yet participated?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you direct that to the coalition. You ought to talk to the coalition about the specific countries and where they are in those talks. Some of those countries have publicly stated that they're close to helping out.
Q What about reports the general council doesn't have enough authority out there, they should step in -- the general council in Iraq doesn't have enough authority. Should they step up and have a greater role?
MR. McCLELLAN: The Governing Council is taking an important step towards moving Iraq -- well, bringing about a country that is governed of, by and for the Iraqi people. That is an important step in the process. They're making some important steps forward in that process. They're working on establishing people that can serve on a constitutional commission so that they can get -- they can draft a constitution. That's an important step in the process.
But certainly, the Governing Council has important responsibilities that they are assuming. And we welcome that. They're working very closely with the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Q I have a question about today on the salmon.
MR. McCLELLAN: Hold on a second.
Q Are we close to getting other countries on board?
MR. McCLELLAN: On --
Q Are we close to some announcements on other countries coming on board?
MR. McCLELLAN: Secretary Powell indicated that yesterday. And I think that people have indicated that there were a handful of countries that were very close, were in the final stages of helping with participation. Sometimes these talks take some time. But there were some 14 or so countries that -- additional countries that we have been in discussions with about ways that they can participate. And so, those discussions continue. But I'm not going to predict the timing -- the timing of that will come from the coalition.
Q Scott, on the salmon, you're saying that it was -- you're going to take credit today for this booming population of salmon. But the local groups say that nothing the Bush administration has done has increased -- that it's other factors, like the tides, and what-not.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- taken a number of steps to help increase salmon populations. And let me turn it over to our senior administration official who can address some of that in a little more detail.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In response specifically to your question, it's a combination of factors, both natural and human. And the two of them working together are what is to account for this great success that we've had over the last couple of years in seeing the most significant returns of salmon in decades.
The favorable ocean conditions are one component of that. But if it were not for the good, hard work of people in the federal government, in the state government, and at the local level, to restore the habitats, as well as the work of they hydrosystem operators to make the hydrosystem operations better for fish passage, we wouldn't be able to sustain those kinds of successes.
You will hear the President talk today about a number of issues related to hydrosystem operations, new technologies, and significant new agreements with some of the utility districts to get us to this next generation of habitat improvement and opening up new streams -- new stream miles for the salmon. You need both to have success.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me mention that we've got a fact sheet we want to hand out to you all that will point out some of the actions.
Q -- the federal government actually sells the power from the dam, or is that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Bonneville sells power from its dam under the wholesale markets. Then there's some state public utility districts that are also involved in power, and then there's some private operators. So there are different operators who are part of the overall Columbia River Power system.
Huge increases in funding among all of them for salmon restoration efforts as part of their long-term commitment to ensure that this part of the country, which relies nearly entirely on hydro power for its electricity, can continue to enjoy that and sustain their economies, while at the same time make the long-term investments necessary for even greater salmon recovery.
Q Where does the power go? Is it mostly Washington, Idaho, Montana?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon.
MR. McCLELLAN: We need to wrap this up. I do want to mention one more point on the Middle East, which I made yesterday, as well. Remember, the foundation for moving forward on the peace process is the dismantlement of terrorist organizations, the dismantlement of the terrorist infrastructure. All parties have a responsibility to do everything they can to end terrorism. And I can't emphasize that point enough, that if we are going to move forward -- continue moving forward on the peace process, terrorism must end, and people must act to dismantle terrorist organizations.
Q So are you going to urge Israel to have restraint?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think we have addressed it. What we're urging is the parties to get back together and talk, and work together to resolve these matters so that we can continue moving forward on the peace process.
Q On the closed fundraiser, isn't there some way we can get a feed or --
MR. McCLELLAN: This is the way we've done it previously. It's a private residence, and those have always been closed.
Q -- a transcript or one pool reporter or something?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we put out the remarks, right? We put out the remarks from the event, yes.
Q Former Vice President Gore would allow people in for the speech.
MR. McCLELLAN: I understand. I hear your concerns. I'll take it under advisement, but this is the way we've always done it.
* * *
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- entire country, an ozone and particulate matter. Those are going forward. This rule change will not affect the dramatic reductions in air pollution that's going to occur through our programs.
Q Is this the clean air initiative? What's it called?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Clear Skies is the best tool for us to do that. So Clear Skies -- we are going to be pursuing these new air quality standards under our existing tools. Clear Skies will enable us to get even further reductions faster from the power plants, and actually guarantee these results on a faster time line. So that's the point I want to be sure you had.
Q Thank you.
END 8:50 A.M. PDT