Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, August 18, 2003 (Full Transcript)QUESTION: Scott, let me ask you about -- a little bit more on the blackouts. What is the President's position on changing the regulatory environment for a lot of utilities across the country? Does he think that federal regulators should play, as Pat Wood suggested over the weekend, a kind of "air traffic controller" role to make sure that the feds have the most complete picture as possible over transmission and delivery?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, the President believes strongly that we need a comprehensive solution, not patchwork crisis management. This is just today's crisis. We don't know what tomorrow's crisis will be. So we need to proceed forward with a comprehensive solution. And I would remind you that more than two years ago, the President outlined a comprehensive energy strategy and a comprehensive energy plan to strengthen our economic security, to strengthen our national security. It's a plan that reduces our dependence on foreign sources of energy, it modernizes our outdated, antiquated electrical delivery system, it expands conservation, increases energy efficiency and diversifies our supply of energy by use of new technologies -- or promoting use of new technologies to explore in an environmentally friendly way.
That was all detailed in the National Energy Policy report that was 171 pages long, containing 105 recomendations. We've already administratively implemented about 90 of those recommendations. The rest of those proposals do require congressional action. But there was an entire chapter in that energy report called America's Energy Infastructure. And it talks about the need to modernize the electricity grid and our electric delivery system.
And what's most important right now is that we move forward to act on mandatory and enforceable reliabilty standards, that we move forward to upgrade and expand our transmission capacity. We need to improve our infastructure to meet the demand that continues to increase.
But specifically to what you were talking about, we do believe that regional management is an important issue. We've been working to encourage parcitipation in regional organizations, regional transmission organizations. That's something that's already occuring at this point.
QUESTION: But isn't that part of the problem, that it's on a regional basis and not a national basis? Isn't what we're talking about, the --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you're talking about the regional transmission organizations, which is one thing that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been talking about. And that's what -- there's some timing issues and there's some issues of regional concerns that are still beging worked on. And we want to work -- continue to work with Congress on these issues. But what's most important is that Congress act and get an energy plan -- a comprehensive energy plan enacted.
QUESTION: But isn't it imperative for the federal government to put more pressure on the biggest energy producers in the country, the biggest utilities in the country, to say that deregulation and the kind of -- a less centralized approach is no longer tolerable?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, and that's why I was talking about -- specifically, let me go back through -- that's why I talked about mandatory reliability standards, standards that are enforceable, standards where we can hold people accountable if they don't comply with those standards.
We've outlined in the President's proposal, that he put forward more than two years ago, expediting siting of transmission facilities in interstate conjestion areas. We're promoting -- the plan promotes investment in transmission infastructure. The plan provides incentives for more efficient and advanced transmission technologies and improving siting of transmission facilities on federal lands. So we've got these proposals and that's what we're moving forward on.