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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 21, 2007
Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Huntsville, Alabama
12:47 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Good morning. We are on our way to Alabama. On board Secretary Sam Bodman, the President's Secretary of Energy; also three members of Congress -- Senator Sessions, Representative Jo Bonner of Mobile, Alabama, and Representative Bud Cramer of Huntsville, Alabama.
I'm going to through the President's schedule, and then I'm going to come back to something -- to give you more detail about something he did this morning. But if I don't go through the rest, we won't get to the -- so he had his normal briefings. He had a SVTS at 7:15 a.m. with Prime Minister Tony Blair. At 10:30 a.m. he had a policy time on energy, on the energy bill that's being debated in Congress now, as well as a preview of his trip again today, not just about the plant he's going to visit, the nuclear power plant he's going to visit, but about the nuclear industry as a whole, and got an update there. As you know, he is supportive of more nuclear power in the United States.
At 1:05 p.m. he will have a tour of the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. He's going to tour the machine shop and the control room. The Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant was TVA's first power plant, and it was the largest in the world when it first opened in 1974.* At 1:40 p.m. he'll make remarks there, on energy initiatives. Bill Sansom, he's chairman of the TVA Board of Directors, he will introduce the President. Approximately 225 Browns Ferry and TVA employees, along with local officials, will attend.
Then at 5:05 p.m. the President will make remarks at Friends of Jeff Sessions Senate Committee Reception. He arrives back at the White House at 9:40 p.m. tonight.
I have one personnel announcement. We are pleased to announce the President's decision to name John Emling to serve as Deputy Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs. He currently serves as a Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs. He will be working for Candi Wolff, serving -- he's worked for us -- with us for, I think, about a year in the special assistant position. He'll be moving up to deputy in order to handle the Senate for Candi. He also worked at the legislative affairs shop at the Treasury Department, and he was a policy analyst at the Senate Republican Policy Committee. So we welcome him -- we congratulate him on that promotion.
Back to the SVTS with Tony Blair. The President and Prime Minister Blair signed a treaty this morning. It's called the U.S.-U.K. Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty. It would improve transatlantic defense cooperation and counterterrorism efforts by alleviating barriers to trade in defense goods, services, and information between the two countries, including our defense industries. We are going to present this treaty to the Senate for their advice and consent.
The reasons we've undertaken this treaty with the U.K.: As you know, it's our closest ally and our biggest defense trade partner, for several reasons. It's in our national security interest to support joint U.S.-U.K. military and counterterrorism operations in a timely way, and to speed U.S.-U.K. research and development and production of the next generation of interoperable defense technologies. It's also in our homeland security interests. We're going to be collaborating with the United Kingdom to develop the most effective countermeasures possible to combat terrorist attacks at home and against our partners in the war on terror, and we also believe it is in our security and economic interests to save money by leveraging each other's experience and by reducing duplication of efforts on some of the research and development that's been going on.
I think with that, I will go to questions.
Q Can you do any of that in English?
MS. PERINO: That wasn't in English? I totally understood it.
Q Why do we need it? Don't we have open ties with the U.K. -- are you talking about the treaty?
Q Why do we need that?
MS. PERINO: As I understand it, the goal was to deepen the ties that we have with the United Kingdom, not only in traditional battlefield situations, but also against the global threat of terrorism, including when our forces face the new threats, such as IEDs. There is a -- the legal agreement that was signed, the actual treaty, we're going to release that, as well. So if what I'm giving you is not in English, that maybe will be. Or if it's in legalese, then your legal experts can help explain it.
Q Dana, did the President urge Tony Blair to become the envoy to the Middle East?
MS. PERINO: I anticipated that question. And what I told you yesterday was that I couldn't comment on their private conversations regarding what Prime Minister Blair may or may not do following his Prime Ministership, which ends next Wednesday. But I just don't have anything more to give you right now.
Q Would he like Tony Blair to do it?
Q -- taking it away from the conversation between them, does the President support the idea of Blair becoming the envoy?
MS. PERINO: It's just not something that I can comment on. They obviously speak frequently. We don't always read out when they speak, of course, because they talk regularly and frequently. This Secure Video Telecommunications Conference that happened this morning, it's not unusual for them to talk. I'm just not at liberty to say beyond talking about the treaty what was discussed on the SVTS.
Q But you're not saying that other things were not discussed.
MS. PERINO: Correct.
Q Was there an urgency to get the treaty done before the Prime Minister leaves office?
MS. PERINO: I think there was a goal to get it done. I think they were working towards getting it done before he left office.
Q Did they sign it while they were talking to each other? Is that the way they did it?
MS. PERINO: I believe so, yes. I'll see if there's a photo we can release.
Q Do you have any reaction to the Doha trade talks breaking down?
MS. PERINO: Yes, I know that Sue Schwab has made some comments. Obviously, we are -- the President would be disappointed if there were countries that were trying to block a successful discussion. Sue Schwab has been there working very hard in Potsdam, Germany, with the G4 -- wait here one second.
You all know the President's position very well, which is he believes trade is good not only for our nation but especially for developing nations and the poorer nations. That's what the Doha Round is all about.
The President is going to continue to pursue multilateral and bilateral trade deals as long as he's President. Sue Schwab said that she is going to continue to work on the Doha Round and she was going to be speaking to Lamy soon, but I think that we would express disappointment in the discussions in Potsdam.
Q Is the U.S. willing to give up farm subsidies to --
MS. PERINO: We have demonstrated considerable flexibility in these discussions and we are willing to reduce and change our farm subsidies. And I think that whereas we were willing to make some changes, it wasn't going to be reciprocated. And in order to have a good trade deal, you need to have free trade. And so while this discussion didn't go well, we are going to continue to try to push it and find another way to try to get it done.
Q Dana, back on the treaty, do you foresee any reason why the Senate wouldn't, you know, approve this? Is there any -- are there any obstacles?
MS. PERINO: Not that I heard of, no. Obviously, we will need to consult with the Senate and see what they say, but I don't think so.
Q How long were they negotiating this treaty?
MS. PERINO: I'll see if I can find out. Obviously, something like this doesn't come around about -- in the last couple of weeks, but I'll see if I can find out.
Q Do you have any indication of problems in the Senate with it?
MS. PERINO: That's what she was just asking me, and not that I'm aware of, no.
Q Does the Senate have to approve it, or is this just advise and consent?
MS. PERINO: They do.
Q They do? Okay.
MS. PERINO: They do have to approve it, right?
Q Advise and consent is approval.
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q Is the President talking to Senator Sessions about the immigration bill during their -- on board?
MS. PERINO: They are friends and they are colleagues and they are elected leaders, representing the American people. And, of course, as you know, the President went there last Tuesday to talk to the Senate about the immigration bill amongst other issues. And so I'm sure that it could come up today. I don't know if they've had a personal conversation about it yet. But Senator Sessions is going to come back with us as well.
Q Can I ask you a question about nuclear? If nuclear power is so great, why does it need the federal government to subsidize it?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that -- there's lots of nuclear experts back on the ground that can help you more with that. But my basic understanding is the following, which is we made a decision in our country decades ago that we were not going to continue with nuclear power. And I think that was to our detriment. The President has aggressively tried to turn that around.
Now, back when that decision was made, people were very fearful of nuclear energy, and other nations decided to move past that and to look for technologies that would be able to help alleviate those fears. We did not progress that way in the States and we are having to play a little bit of catch up right now in order to get to a world where we could use nuclear power more.
We need to increase the amount of electricity generation in this country, I think it's by 50 percent in the next 25 years. In order to do that, you want to do it in a way that is respectful of the environment as well. And nuclear power is the best bet regarding that. And there are new technologies that can help you not only deal with the building of the plants but also the waste that's generated from the plant. It has no greenhouse gas emissions. It is a great and efficient way to be able to provide electricity.
The government in some cases needs to help kick start some things. One of the things the government can do as well is help on the siting issues. It's expensive to build a plant, it's expensive to invest in one. And in order to get through the process or the NEPA process, the National Environmental Policy Act process, it's cumbersome and it takes a lot of time. And if a company goes through that whole process and at the end of that doesn't get the approval in order to build the plant, there's huge disincentives then to try to invest. So if the government can help nudge that along the way, that's a good thing.
Another thing that Secretary Bodman is leading is working on a standardization of plant design on three or four different types of plants, so once those are approved, it would be easier and streamline the process to get them up and running.
Q Is the President worried at all about using today as kind of a poster child, a plant that's had two shutdowns in a month?
MS. PERINO: I think this is a plant that was shut down -- shuttered for many decades. You can talk to the plant about their specifics. But as I understand it from the experts we talked to this morning, it's not unusual for a plant that had been shuttered to, upon restarting, have a stumble. But I think what's important is that the plant did what it was supposed to do. There was an issue that required it to be shut down. They shut it down immediately. It was only for three days. And it's back up and running. It's a great statistic about how much electricity it produces for a house -- let me see if I've got it. Let's see.
Each unit down here generates enough power for 650,000 homes. So I think that the plant is -- the people that are benefitting from having this nuclear power are welcoming of the decision to reopen these plants. As I said, it was the first one that TVA ever built back in the '70s.
Q Just on another topic?
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q This is from the House Oversight Committee, this is Waxman's people. The committee says it has learned that over the objections of the National Archives, Vice President Cheney exempted his office from the Presidential order that establishes government-wide procedures for safeguarding classified national security information. The Vice President asserts his office is not "an entity within the Executive Branch."
Is that right? Is his office not an entity within the Executive Branch?
MS. PERINO: John, as much as I'd love to be able to provide you an answer here, I think you've given me something that I haven't seen yet, and I'm going to go back and I'll check it out.
Q Thank you.
END 1:01 P.M. EDT
* Browns Ferry was TVA's first nuclear plant, and the largest nuclear plant in the world when it opened.