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Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, September 16, 2003 (Full Transcript)QUESTION: And then on this afternoon's event, the President campaigned as a uniter, not a divider; as someone who would seek bipartisan consensus on issues. The officials and community leaders who are coming to the East Garden this afternoon are all supporters of the President's Clear Skies Initiative. Does he have any plans to meet with opponents of it, and if not, why not?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, reaching out is a two-way street, keep in mind. The President has reached out because the President believes, particularly on the issue you're talking about, when it comes to improving our environment and protecting our environment, that we need to focus on results. We need to focus on building upon the progress that we have made.
The President announced yesterday the most recent air quality trend report, which showed that since 1970 there has been a nearly 50-percent reduction in emissions. And we want to build upon that progress. That's why the President is urging Congress later today -- continuing to urge Congress to act on his Clear Skies Initiative. This will lead to a 70-percent reduction in power plant emissions, based on a proven approach that was based on the market-based approach under the acid rain program. The environment is too important to become politicized. And the President recognizes that we need to have both environmental protection and economic growth. The two go hand in hand. When you have economic growth, you can invest in the innovative new technologies needed to better protect the environment.
And so we want to build upon the progress we have made to improve our air quality. And that's what the Clear Skies Initiative does. And we welcome anybody that wants to work with us to get this passed. We hope that they will work with us to get this passed as quickly as possible, and urge members to move forward on this important priority.
QUESTION: How do you respond to major environmental groups who oppose the Clear Skies Initiative because they say it effectively puts off too far into the future significant emissions?
MR. McCLELLAN: I say that this is an unprecedented approach by a President of the United States that will lead to the most ambitious reduction -- we'll see you later, John -- (laughter) -- that will lead to the most ambitious reduction in power plant emissions ever, 70-percent reduction; and that we should be working together, focusing on areas of common ground.
QUESTION: Environmental groups say that without the changes that the administration made -- further reductions than that 70 percent that you're talking about would be made sooner.
MR. McCLELLAN: There are alternative approaches that could have a very negative effect on our economy. And we are still working to strengthen our economic growth. The economic growth and environmental protection go hand in hand. And the alternative is lost jobs, harm to our economy. That's an approach that the President doesn't believe is needed, that we can do both, we can do both.
Let me move on.
QUESTION: The President does not include there any limits on carbon dioxide. Why not?
MR. McCLELLAN: Because of the concerns we -- because of what we expressed previously. One, that's not regulated under the Clean Air Act, recognized as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. But most importantly, for what I was just talking about, because it could have a very negative and harmful effect on jobs, job creation and our economy. It could cost us a lot of money in increased energy prices. It could cost us money in terms of the economy and would be a job killer to take a drastic approach like that at this point.
That's why -- now, we are moving forward with the President's climate change initiative, which does work to reduce the growth in greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent. At the same time, it allows us to grow our economy.
QUESTION: But the problem there, as I understand it, is that you've got coal-fired plants which are responsible for about half the nation's electricity. Your concern about carbon caps, which is one of the pushes on legislation on the Hill, is, I gather, that it would affect all the coal-fired plants. Is that where your objection lies --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think it lies in the fact that it would hurt job creation and it would hurt our economy if you took that approach. We are continuing to put a lot of -- the Kyoto protocol is one thing to look back at, and some of the estimates that were based on that, in terms of the billions of dollars it would cost the economy and the millions of jobs that would be lost. That's why we're taking the approach we are. The President also, on the climate change front, is working to -- we're putting a lot of money into research, while at the same time working to reduce the growth in greenhouse gas intensity, but keep our economy growing, so that we can have investment in those new technologies that are needed to address the very issue that you brought up.