E X E C U T I V E O F F I C E O F T H E P R E S I D E N T
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT AND REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT ON NEW ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY The Roosevelt Room
11:00 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I want to make a statement this morning and then turn the microphone over to the Vice President to discuss the environmental issues, and then he will take questions on the matter.
Today I am announcing the creation of a White House Office on Environmental Policy, keeping a commitment that both the Vice President and I made to the American people to bring new leadership and new energy to these issues. And I am today reinforcing my intention to work with the Congress for legislation that will make the Environmental Protection Agency a part of my Cabinet.
We face urgent environmental and economic challenges that demand a new way of thinking and a new way of organizing our efforts here in the White House and in the national government. This office represents in action our commitment to confront these challenges in a new, more effective way, recognizing the connection between environmental protection and economic growth and our responsibility to provide real leadership on global environmental issues.
We must move in a new direction to recognize that protecting the environment means strengthening the economy and creating new jobs for Americans. And we must be ready to take advantage of the absolutely enormous business opportunities that exist both here and around the world for new environmental technologies that protect the environment and increase business profits and jobs.
The days of photo-op environmentalism are over. The Competitiveness Council is closed and so is the back door the polluters used to be able to use to get out from under our laws. This office represents our commitment to the environment and to a new, more efficient and effective way to craft policies that work, policies that recognize that protecting the environment, strengthening the economy, promoting the global environment and dealing with global environmental problems have all too often been relegated to the bottom of the agenda. These are policies that will renew for the American people a genuine commitment to their health, their safety and their jobs.
This office will be responsible for coordinating environmental policy. The director of the office will participate in the National Security Council, the National Economic Council and the Domestic Policy Council, and will work with all the relevant agencies. I am pleased to announce today that Kathleen McGinty will lead this office and its efforts.
We are today changing the way government works, replacing the Council on Environmental Quality with a new office that will have broader influence and a more effective and focused mandate to coordinate environmental policy. The American people look to us to make government work better and more efficiently and more effectively for them. We are taking an important step in that direction today. The American people, our economy and our environment will benefit as a result of this.
And I'd like to say a special word of thanks to Vice President Gore for the work that he has done since the election. We have been working hard now for more than two months to determine exactly how we ought to reorganize our environmental efforts and how we could integrate the environment, for the first time really, into national security policy, national economic policy and other domestic policies. I think we've taken a long step in that direction. I thank the Vice President for his leadership and I turn the microphone over him.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President.
One of the most serious problems with environmental policy development and policymaking in the past has been that the environment has been treated as an afterthought to be dealt with only following the creation of economic policies, domestic policies, foreign policy, et cetera. This new framework will ensure that environmental considerations are brought to bear at the earliest stages in the development of every policy that the President and his staff and his Cabinet look at.
The new arrangement in the White House with the Economic Council, Domestic Policy Council added to the National Security Council has already streamlined the policy development process. From the very beginning the President and I have talked at length about the best way to make certain that environmental considerations are fully integrated in the policy development process.
This new office on environmental policy located here in the White House and the Executive Office Building will be the place where policy on the environment is coordinated. It is a major step forward. It is streamlining, it's a reorganization that makes sense. After consulting widely with members of the House and Senate, people in the environmental community and elsewhere, I find nearly unanimous support for the kind of move this represents.
I'll be happy to take your questions.
Q Why do you need the department if you're going to have such a consolidation on the integration of policy here? Wouldn't that be superfluous?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, for the same reason that an economic council doesn't eliminate the need for a department of Treasury, a Department of Labor, et cetera, a White House office on the environment does not take the place of an EPA or a Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy. It does, however, enable the President to better coordinate the activities of all the Cabinet-level departments and executive branch agencies.
Let me give you one example. In the last administration when the spotted owl controversy arose, there were five different positions taken by six different executive branch agencies. Now, there were a lot of reasons for that, but one reason surely was that the White House was not organized in a way that gave the President the opportunity to have a hands-on coordination of policy. This will change that.
Q Who will be the President's chief environmental advisor?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, the President has asked me, first of all, during the campaign and during the transition and now during the first couple of weeks we have been here, to take special responsibility for environmental policy. But the front line advisors to the President will be the head of EPA, who we hope will soon be -- well, is already a member of the Cabinet, but will be heading a department which we hope will soon be elevated to Cabinet rank -- the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Agriculture and others. Katie McGinty, as Director of the White House Office on Environmental Policy, will be the point person for coordinating policy and policy development here in the White House.
Q Why is this any different than what the CEQ did? What is the difference between these two agencies as when Bush named his head to CEQ he said he would be the coordinator for environmental policy.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: It didn't work that way, though. And in the last several administrations it has not worked that way with CEQ. CEQ is not here, it's up the street. It plays not a policy development role, but an advisory role. And there are lots of good folks who have worked well at CEQ. But over the last several years, CEQ's role has become increasingly peripheral in its relationship to the policy development process.
The annual report that it produces after a great deal of labor and expense every year is an excellent work product. But, quite frankly, in recent years, a number of private groups have begun to put out such high quality annual reports on environmental issues that the significance of the CEQ annual report has been diminished, not for reasons that are their fault, it's just that the times have changed. And it's time for a reorganization. And with the new awareness of how integral environmental considerations are to every single policy that the President works on, it's time to bring environmental considerations right into the policy development process at the earliest stages.
Q But you're not really streamlining, you're reorganizing.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, we're streamlining as well as reorganizing.
Q -- the same amount of people.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: No, there will not be the same amount of people. It is a streamlining as well as a reorganization.
Q On a broader environmental question, please, what can the White House do to try to alleviate the crisis of the ozone hole? And these recent volcanos, have they exacerbated the crisis or bought more time for the world?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, the negotiations that have been underway for some years on the phasing out of ozone-depleting chemicals continue. The focus has shifted to chemicals beyond the chlorofluorocarbon family to substances like methylchloroform.
I'm sure you don't want to get into a lot of detail on this, but I will respond briefly to the second part of your question, because there is actually some substantial misunderstanding about the relationship between volcanic eruptions and ozone depletion. Please bear with me just for a moment here.
The substances involved there go into the lower atmosphere, typically, and not into the stratosphere where the ozone depletion problem occurs. Some who have argued that the world doesn't need to do anything about the ozone depletion problem have consistently said, oh, well, this is just a problem related to volcanos. And the scientific community says that's simply wrong. The problem is caused by humancreated chemical substances like chlorofluorocarbons that need to be removed from the atmosphere.
The United States has, in the past, been successful in helping to lead the world community toward a treaty and then improvements to that treaty which have begun to phase out those chemicals. We now know from new evidence that the problem is indeed even more serious than was first thought, and we need to accelerate the phase-out of those chemicals.
Tim Wirth, who is in a new under secretary position at the State Department, is going to be one of those in charge of leading our negotiating effort on treaties of this kind.
Q Mr. Vice President, what standard are you and the President going to apply to Cabinet members on the issue of household help, Social Security payments for anyone who has worked for more than $50 per quarter? Are you going to demand that the law be followed literally and request that everyone make back payments? How many have you now learned have not made those payments?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't know the answer to your question. But you can be certain that there will be full compliance with the law.
Q What is the standard that you think is appropriate, though? Do you think that everyone should apply the law absolutely literally, and if they not, $50 per quarter for all household help -- what is your sense of the importance of this?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You can be certain that the law will be complied with in all instances.
Q Can you assure environmentalists at next week's -- the policies to be announced next week will encourage conservation and new environmental technologies?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Which policies are you --
Q On the 17th, the economic message.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, in the economic message? Well, part of the change President Clinton has brought to the White House involves a new approach to environmental policy. We promised this during the campaign. He has been following through and keeping that promise. And, yes, in all the discussions of the economic stimulus package, the investment package, the job creation strategy, environmental considerations have been a part of the discussion.
Q -- office review regulations before they are promulgated?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, that will not be a principal responsibility of this office. However, the President has asked me to take responsibility for overseeing the White House's role as an appeal of last resort when regulatory decisions are not finalized at the OMB level.
One big change, which we have previously announced with the dismantling of the Quayle Competitiveness Council is that there's not going to be a back door to hot-wire the regulatory process. The decisions in virtually all cases will be made at the OIRA office at OMB. We recognize, however, that there will be exceptions where, for a variety of reasons, conflicting viewpoints have to be heard on appeal, as it were, at the White House level. And the President has asked me to take charge of organizing that process. It will not be handled in this particular office, it will be handled on an inter-council, interagency basis.
Q Have you finalized plans yet for a conference between timber and environmentalists in the northwest?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, not yet, but that will be forthcoming soon.
Q Well, how soon?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thanks very much.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 11:20 A.M. EST
KEY WORDS: environment, vice president, policy, streamlining