Press Gaggle by Dana Perino and Jim Connaughton
Aboard Air Force One
En route Knoxville, Tennessee
11:30 A.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: The President had his usual briefings this morning. We are on our way to Earth Day in Tennessee. The President is looking forward to being outdoors, but as you know, the weather is getting in the middle of that and we are going to have to cancel the event out of concern for the safety of the crowd. The President will give remarks when we land.
A couple of other things, and then I'm going to give Jim Connaughton a chance to talk to you for an on the record briefing, to tell you a little bit about the President's speech and a little bit of an update where we are on our environmental policy agenda.
On board, Interior Secretary Gale Norton; Acting EPA Administrator Steve Johnson -- he's also the President's nominee to be the next EPA Administrator and he's called on Congress to confirm him quickly. In addition, we have members of the Tennessee congressional delegation: Senator Bill Frist, Senator Lamar Alexander, Congressman Jimmy Duncan, Congressman Bill Jenkins and Congressman Zach Wamp.
Upon arrival at the airport the President will be greeted by a USA Freedom Corps greeter. His name is Bob Lochbaum. Bob is 73 years old, a volunteer with the Adopt a Trail program in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He has volunteered over 10,000 hours since 1993, and he'll be there for the President's remarks.
Let me turn it over to Jim and he'll give you background on today.
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Good morning, everybody. Today's Earth Day is being celebrated by hundreds of thousands of people all across the country. We've got projects going on in all kinds of weather, and just like today and in other parts of the country, there will be projects canceled because of the weather, but the spirit of Earth Day will carry on through stewardship projects that carry on throughout the year.
Today, the President is celebrating the spirit of personal stewardship and cooperative conservation. We have volunteers who have worked tirelessly in our national parks, that the President is honoring today. We are coming to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Great Smoky National Park is one of the great examples of putting citizen stewardship into place. It has the third greatest volunteer force in the nation -- just behind Yosemite Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I'll give you an example. Just last year, they had 2,129 volunteers in the park, donating 111,000 hours of service, which is valued at nearly $2 million -- that's equal to 54 permanent federal staff.
These volunteers participate in a number of programs, one of which we're highlighting today, which is the Take Pride in America program. And then each park, just like the Great Smoky Mountains has, is a Volunteers in Parks program, and those are volunteers specifically dedicated to a specific park.
Let me tell you a little bit about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It has about 800 miles of trails. It covers over 500,000 acres in two states, which makes it one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States. It attracts more than 9 million visitors a year. The area we were hoping to go to today, called Cades Cove, is a 6,800 acre valley that receives about 2 million visitors each year, making it one of the most heavily used park areas anywhere in the United States.
Now, as we focus on stewardship and trails and eco systems of the parks, the other thing the President was going to highlight and will highlight in his remarks, is the issue of air pollution. This park has had a long-standing problem with air pollution. We've been delighted that in recent years, the last four years, air quality has been improving, or at least has been remaining stable. With the new regulations cutting diesel vehicle pollution by more than 90 percent and with new regulations and legislation that would cut power pollution by more than 70 percent, nearly every area in the two states of North Carolina and in Tennessee will be able to meet new strict health-based air quality standards without having to go through a litigation-driven, state-by-state process that would create uncertainty about that outcome.
In addition, the President will highlight accomplishments in a variety of areas that we've been able to enjoy in the last four years, the accomplishments that we will carry forward, so you'll hear a bit about those in the speech.
And with that, I'll conclude it.
Q: What percent -- you were talking about Clear Skies?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Clear Skies, correct. Clear Skies, for those of you who don't know, it will mandate pollution cuts from 1,300 power plants. It will require a pollution control investment of about $52 billion in equipment, operations and maintenance. That is twice as big a compliance cost as the Clean Air Act's other most successful program, which is the Acid Rain Trading* program, which costs about $24 billion. The caps will be permanent, so air pollution can't increase as we go forward, it will only decrease as we go forward.
Q: Jim, what was the cause of the pollution in the Great Smoky Mountain Park?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: There is a variety of sources, but two major ones have been pollution from diesel vehicles and pollution from power plants. Now, I say "major ones" -- they are the major remaining sources of pollution. We have cut air pollution by about 50 percent over the last 35 years. What we are doing now is going after the last big remaining sources of pollution.
Q: These are vehicles and power plants adjacent to the park? Or not within --
MR. CONNAUGHTON: It's a combination of factors. There are sources near the park, in the park area, as well as transported pollution that comes in from other states. What the diesel regulation and the Clear Skies legislation would do is address the regional transport of pollution as well as provide substantial cuts nearby from local sources.
Q: How much will the CAIR rule help and how much more will the regional haze rule help?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: The Clean Air Interstate Rule, which was just completed, and the upcoming regional haze rule which we'll finalize, will get us part of the way there, but the Clear Skies legislation will deliver more pollution reductions and deliver it nationwide. So the regulation is a good interim step, but it's still susceptible to litigation, has to be adopted state-by-state. Legislation is a much more effective outcome than the regulation.
MS. PERINO: A couple of other points that I forgot to mention. Today is the 35th annual Earth Day. It's also National Volunteer Week and National Park Week, so you can see why that's very relevant to our remarks today. Also, President Bush is the first sitting President to visit the park since Franklin Roosevelt dedicated it in 1940. The President has visited 22 national parks since taking office, and that is more than any other sitting President.
Do you have any other questions before I give you the week ahead?
Q: What was the President's reaction to former Secretary Powell talking to Republican senators on the Hill about Bolton?
MS. PERINO: Scott McClellan addressed this with the pool this morning. We are not going to respond to anonymous sources. I would reiterate, though, that the President said yesterday that the Senate needs to put partisan politics aside and confirm John Bolton to be the U.N. Ambassador. Mr. Bolton is the right person at the right time for this important position.
Q: But, Dana, it's not "anonymous sources," I mean, Powell's office put out a statement saying that, indeed, he's had conversations with at least two Republican senators about his reservations about the Bolton job.;
MS. PERINO: "Anonymous sources" in terms of what those conversations were, that they had conversations is not --we don't know what those conversations were and "anonymous sources" we're not going to comment on, in terms of the content of them.
Q: Does the President mind Powell weighing in on Bolton's nomination, one way or the other?
MS. PERINO: We're just not going to comment on that. Anything else?
Q: Was Negroponte sworn in?
MS. PERINO: Yes, he was sworn in last evening by Andy Card, and the President met with him also. There was a still photo released.
Q: I've got a question about Social Security. The 60-day campaign ends at the end of next week, what sort of role can we see the President play as, you know, you move into the second phase of this? Are we going to see more travel? Is this going to be -- are we going to extend, you know -- is the President going to continue to go out on the road to try to make his case?
MS. PERINO: I think, one, it's great that we're now talking about how to get it done, not whether to get it done. And the President will continue to do the outreach that he's been working on, reaching out to members of Congress and also educating the public. Stay tuned, in terms of travel.
Q: More trips, is that --
MS. PERINO: Stay tuned, we'll let you know.
Q: Senator Grassley has indicated that he is going to put forth a Republican-only bill and the President has said all along that he wants a bipartisan bill. Does the President -- is the President disappointed that it's not working out maybe the way he had hoped, in terms of getting bipartisan support, or at least getting some Democrats?
MS. PERINO: The President is pleased the issue is moving forward. He appreciates the efforts by Senator Grassley and the Senate Finance Committee. He, himself, is going to continue to listen to ideas from both parties, going to continue to work with them so that we can reach a constructive bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.
Do you want the week ahead? Okay. Monday, April 25th -- you may already know, that's probably why you're on this trip -- the President will welcome and meet the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia at his ranch. On Tuesday, he will participate in a roundtable on strengthening Social Security in Galveston, Texas. And then we'll make our way back to D.C. that afternoon. Wednesday, the President will make remarks at the National Small Business Week Conference, the topic is energy. He will also make remarks that evening at the National Republican Senatorial Committee Dinner.
On Thursday, he will meet with the President of Panama in the Oval Office. Friday he participates in a Social Security event in Northern Virginia. He will also participate in a tree planting in honor of Arbor Day, on the north lawn of the White House. On Saturday, he will attend the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, and that is at the Washington Hilton Hotel in D.C.
Q: Dana, about Galveston, is he going to have members of Congress with him; do you know?
MS. PERINO: Can I get back to you; I don't know.
Q: Can you just repeat the Thursday, the Panamanian --
MS. PERINO: All I have is he will meet with the President of Panama in the Oval Office.
Q: The National Republican Senatorial Committee?
MS. PERINO: Yes.
MS. PERINO: All right? Thank you.
THE PRESS: Thanks.
END 11:42 A.M. EDT
Dana Perino, Press Gaggle by Dana Perino and Jim Connaughton Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/272756