THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Aboard The 21st Century Express) _________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 28, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY AND BRUCE REED
Aboard the 21st Century Express
11:05 A.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good morning, train roadees.
MR. MCCURRY: I will say nothing about the speech, so you can satisfy your curiosity by listening to Mr. Bruce Reed unveil a dramatic new proposal for cleaning up this nation's environment by the year 2000.
Take it away, Bruce Reed.
Q Just give a little flavor of what he thought about the First Lady's speech last night.
MR. MCCURRY: I'll do flavor and color commentary after Mr. Bruce Reed walks you through an exciting domestic initiative that the President will unveil in Kalamazoo.
MR. REED: Okay, I'll try to make this as detailed as possible -- not really. Here's the Cliff Notes. There's plenty of background paper which you've probably already been barraged with. There's a five-pager which summarizes the basic initiatives and then there's another eight pages for those who are bored on the train. Here's the Cliff Notes version.
Overall it's a $1.9 billion package over four years on a series of environment initiatives. The major one is asking Congress for an additional $1.3 billion to accelerate the pace of Superfund cleanup. That money would enable us to nearly double the pace of toxic waste cleanup over the next four years and get to the point where we would have cleaned up nearly two-thirds of the toxic waste sites in the country by the year 2000.
We have a very strong record in this area. In first 12 years of the Superfund program only 15 sites a year were cleaned up. Under our watch we've cleaned up 197 sites, which is 65 a year. We want to double that pace in the next four years and clean up 500 sites over the next four years.
And you may recall that Superfund was a real point of difference between us and the congressional Republicans in the budget fight. The congressional budget plan tried to cut Superfund enforcement by 25 percent. The President rejected that, vetoed the budget in part over that. And in the ultimate budget agreement Congress relented and we got the Superfund cleanup money that we asked for.
The second element of the initiative is an enhancement to
our Brownfields effort. Brownfields are abandoned
industrial properties typically in the inner city that have -- that are
low-level dumps that need to be cleaned up in order for business to be
moved back in. And EPA has been working with a number of cities around
the country to try to get the private sector to come in and clean up
these sites. In the State of the Union, the President announced a $2
billion Brownfields tax
credit for private sector businesses to give them favorable tax treatment when they agree to clean up a Brownfield site.
The initiative today is $300 million over four years in grants to states and communities to do site assessment, go out and identify Brownfield sites, come up with a plan on how to clean them up, how to get business involved in cleaning them up, and then also to set up a revolving loan fund that would help pay some of the cost of the clean up.
Typically in a Brownfield site, it's very -- in the past it has been very difficult to get a business to come in and purchase that kind of property because they don't want to assume the liability, they don't want to assume the cost of cleanup. And under current tax law, if you're responsible for the pollution on your property and if you clean it up, you can expense that, you can write it off. But if you buy a polluted piece of property and try to clean it up, you don't get the same tax break. So we're trying to give tax break to businesses that do the right thing and clean up polluted urban areas. And then, we also want to get every community working to try to get the businesses in their area to do that.
Third element is a new environmental crimes bill, which includes giving prosecutors a new ability to go to court and get a pre-judgement order that would allow the court to freeze a polluters assets while a case is being litigated so that those assets are available to clean up the pollution that the polluter caused in the first place.
In a number of cases, dumpers have hidden or squandered their assets so that by the time they're actually brought to justice for their crime they don't have any money left. We want to allow that. This would allow prosecutors much greater ability to do so.
Second, the environment crimes bill would include a new crime that would make it against the law to attempt to pollute. Under current law we can't prosecute a polluter until they've actually gone through the act of polluting and the damage is done. So if we get a tip that someone is about to go out and dump waste in the middle of the night we have to wait until they've actually dumped it before we can go after them. This would make it possible for investigators to set up sting operations, get tips from employees, and actually prosecute someone for planning to pollute and prevent -- it would enable us to prevent the damage from happening in the first place.
Two more elements. The fourth is expanding community right to know. There are right to know laws on the books that require industry to inform the public when they release toxics into the air and for some other things. This initiative would try to get the -- it would spend $196 million over the next four years to enable agencies to develop a series of environment health indicators and get that information on to the Internet so that by the year 2000 any family could log on to their personal computer or go to the library and log on to the computer and find out what the air quality was in their town on that day.
This is very important for a number of families. If, for example, you have an asthmatic child, you need to know what kind of pollution is in the air that day, and under current practice it's very difficult to get any information in real time. Typically, there's a lag of several months in that kind of information, which, obviously, is not going to do your kid any good. So we want to take advantage of new information technology to get that -- to empower parents to make use of it right away.
And then, finally, there's a $76 million water quality initiative which will be grants to states and communities to step up efforts to reduce toxic pollution, primarily what's called non-point source runoff, which typically is street runoff that picks up pollutants as it runs through sewer drains or runoff from a field that's next to a river. And this will build on what we've been trying to do here in the Great Lakes with the Great Lakes Water Quality Initiative to try to ensure everything we can possibly do to stop pollutants from going into the water.
Q Can I ask a couple of questions about the crime part?
MR. REED: Sure.
Q Is this a new initiative that the President has created or is this a bill that maybe he's keying off of that's already been introduced?
MR. REED: We will actually be introducing a new environmental crimes bill. So this is a new deal.
Q Do you know who is going to sponsor it for you?
MR. REED: No.
Q I have a couple of questions about the technicalities of it. What would be the definition of attempt, and is there any other precedent in law to basically arrest someone for a crime that hasn't been committed?
MR. REED: Sure.
Q In the environmental arena, I mean.
MR. REED: In the environmental area, no. This --
Q There's no state that does it?
MR. REED: I don't know of any state that does it. Certainly there's -- many of the environmental crime laws are at the federal level. And so this is a new crime. It's certainly no unprecedented. There are all kinds of crimes where attempt is a crime.
Q Can you think of an egregious example of where you would have liked to have this authority and the federal prosecutors would have used it if they could have?
MR. REED: Well, there have been a number of cases where investigators actually have to catch the dumper either red-handed or they have to come in after the crime has already been committed and piece things back together. There are lots of cases where we get tips about midnight dumpers, for example, but we have to sit there and watch and wait for them to do it.
Q Are you talking about something like Dow Chemical dumping stuff into rivers, or are you talking about small --
MR. REED: No, it's -- environmental crimes -- there are all sorts of civil remedies for environmental pollution that isn't willful. There's a much higher threshold for an environmental crime. It's needs to be deliberate. And so this isn't going to -- if you're just sitting around your coffee table thinking about throwing your wash water out this isn't going to affect you. This is for serious environment pollution where there is an actual conspiracy going on to dump it.
Q Bruce, also on that legal part of it, giving prosecutors the ability to get a pre-judgment order, at what stage does that go in? Is that after somebody has actually been convicted or accused?
MR. REED: It would be after prosecutors had secured an indictment, but they were going through the process of getting a conviction. And it would be up to the court whether to freeze the assets or not. So the burden of proof would be on the prosecutors to establish that there was some risk of -- well first, that there was a strong chance that an environmental crime had occurred, and second, there was some risk of the assets being squandered.
Q Bruce, on the Brownfields initiative, have you decided which cities will get how much money, or it still too early for that? Would Cleveland get something, New York City get x amount -- I mean, anything like that?
MR. REED: I don't have -- no, we don't have a formula worked out yet. And remember on the tax credit, that would be available to any business that was agreeing to clean up a qualified site. And I believe that standard is the site needs to be in an area where there's 20 percent poverty and demonstrated pollution. But most urban areas would easily qualify by that threshold.
Q Bruce, is this Brownfields initiative another example of the administration's commitment to recycling, i.e., haven't we seen this before -- all of this in March when he went to New Jersey? Is there anything new in what you're announcing today?
MR. REED: Well, the request for new money for new grants out of HUD and EPA is new. The overall Brownfields is something that we've been doing and we've been working with some communities to do it and we announced a major tax incentive in the State of the Union.
Q The $2 billion one.
MR. REED: Right.
Q Now, that's being restated here.
MR. REED: No, no, no. No, I'm just reminding you that we did do it.
Q Can I ask a logistical question? I'm confused. Are you saying that you're going to be introducing bills? Because these are similar to the administration bill, right, that didn't pass, so I'm wondering, is there any of this you can do administratively?
MR. REED: One thing he is doing administratively today is signing an executive order that enables other natural resource agencies, in addition to the EPA, to get involved in requiring polluters to clean up sites.
For complicated reasons, when Superfund was enacted in 1980, when it was first implemented in the Reagan administration, President Reagan signed an executive order giving that power to EPA and EPA will still have the primary responsibility for Superfund. But there are some other agencies that in the course of -- that as trustees for certain resources they come across areas that need to be cleaned up. For example, the Fish and Wildlife Service which is part of the Interior and has responsibility for the salmons runs occasionally finds --
Q Then I guess my question is it's my understanding that is that you can't extend the -- I mean, the Superfund tax has expired, it can't be extended without continuation of -- legislation needs to be reauthorized.
MR. REED: That's right. As part of the budget stalemate, the Superfund tax which helps to pay for -- which helps fund the Superfund lapsed. Both Republicans and Democrats are in favor or reinstating it. But that hasn't gotten done. But this is resources in addition to that that we're going to be asking for that aren't an increase in the Superfund tax. These initiatives are paid for with the same list of offsets that Gene so ably explained to you yesterday.
Q Your offset list yesterday is over six years but, for instance, the Superfund initiative you're asking for money for two and the rest of them are all for four, in other words, the second term.
MR. REED: I think the education ones were for five just to make it interesting.
Q So give me the logic about this. What's -- you're just doing what you paid for or what's the four year versus two year versus five?
MR. REED: Offset estimates generally run over six. And the initiative where we're asking for two years of money or four years of money or five years of money, that's all we're asking for. We're not asking for the fourth year, the fifth year, or the sixth year at this point.
Q So what would happen to this Superfund initiative after '98-'99?
MR. REED: Well, that would be up to our successors. It would be up to Al Gore. (Laughter.)
Q Did the Brownfields tax credit idea get anywhere this year?
MR. REED: I'm sorry?
Q Did the Brownfields tax credit idea make any progress in Congress this year?
MR. REED: It was in our budget plan. We didn't get a budget deal. So it's still in our budget plan.
Q There's nothing in the Brownfield initiative that says anything about liability, it doesn't provide any relief to -- if a company were to avail itself of this, go in and clean up, and there was still a problem tt was found later, they'd still have exposure, right?
MR. REED: Our Superfund bill would provide liability relief for businesses that do this. There was a long row over Superfund in both the 103rd and 104th Congress. We have a Superfund reform bill tt's been endorsed by everyone from the Chemical Manufacturers Association to the Sierra Club, but Congress hasn't passed it and we'd still like to see Superfund reform. I couldn't tell you what the prospects are for this Congress.
Q What's the difference chemically between a Superfund and a Brownfield?
MR. REED: Superfund sites -- there are 1,387 Superfund sites in the country. EPA picks the most serious toxic waste sites and puts them on what's called the National Priorities List. So the two-thirds of the Superfund sites figure refers to two-thirds of 1,387. But there are plenty of other sites, thousands and thousands of other sites, where there's some degree of pollution, but they haven't made the National Priorities List.
Q Would you give us a bit more information on the Great Lakes initiative? Is there any actual new money proposed specifically for that? What's different that you aren't already doing?
MR. REED: Why don't I talk to you afterwards about the details of the Great Lakes.
MR. MCCURRY: Remember, the President is placing this initiative in the context of the fight he's had to wage against the Congress which had a much different set of priorities when it came to environment protection. That was a large part of the budget fight last year. One thing he is suggesting over these days that we've been on the train and in his speech tomorrow night is that there is a different vision of change that he has for the future and a different specific agenda to reach the destination he sees for America in the year 2000. And there can't be any clearer example of where there are differences in the vision of our opponents and President's vision than in the area of environment protection.
So we acknowledge that while we've worked hard to get this Congress to examine the proposals we've put forward, we recognize that these are measures that the President would need to pursue in the next session of Congress if he is reelected.
Part of what this train trip has been about and what the speech is about tomorrow night is making it clear what the President will offer to the nation if he is reelected for a second term.
Q Mike, could you just clarify some costs of this train? I know the campaign is picking up -- what -- $113,000, I think
MR. MCCURRY: The question is on the cost of the train. The Clinton-Gore campaign is -- its portion of the contract for the train is $113,000. We estimate that the cost associated with your presence here to cover the President is probably about a quarter of a million. And then there are other costs associated with the work the President must do as Commander in Chief, as chief executive for the nation, and those who would support him in those capacities, those who provide the communications and the security, the support -- the medical assistance that he is required by law to have available to him, those costs are substantial. And the total cost of the trip could well exceed three-quarters of a million.
I don't have an exact price tag because, quite frankly, I don't have a good estimate available from those responsible for protecting the President about all the things that they're doing to fulfill their mandate under law to protect the President. And I wouldn't comment on those costs in any event.
Q But where exactly does that -- what does that $113,000 cover?
MR. MCCURRY: That covers every cost associated with the train trip that reflect the work the President is doing in the political capacity as opposed to his official capacity as President.
Q So taxpayers will end up paying like $400,000 or something?
MR. MCCURRY: The taxpayer costs I can't detail for you, but they are as substantial as they are when the President travels on Air Force One or anytime he travels in his capacity as President. That's an unfortunate fact of life in our country, but that's been true of this President, the last President, and most Presidents.
Q There have been several Amtrak passenger trains diverted today. People are having to take buses to Chicago instead of taking the train. How does the President feel about that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, this trip has been designed to minimize disruption of both freight and rail passenger service. That's one reason why we left from West Virginia and why were ending in Michigan City. We avoided major transportation hubs like Chicago, like Detroit for exactly the reason that we wanted -- did not want to disrupt passenger service. There are some inconveniences. When we are on Amtrak trackage we've been, by and large, I believe, Conrail CSX trackage. And we recognize that and we apologize for the inconvenience. But the enthusiasm the country has shown for this trip, as you can see minute by minute outside the window, will probably, we hope, mollify those who are inconvenienced.
Q And did you have a figure on how many press, how many media people are --
MR. MCCURRY: The numbers on board fluctuate from trip to -- from leg to leg, there are roughly, at any one time between 35 and 50 guests of the President that are on board. You've seen a lot of them speaking -- senators, congressmen, local officials. There are on any one leg about 150 to 200 of all of you, and there are I believe 75 people associated with the President's official capacity and then political capacity, such as Mr. Lockhart here.
Q -- details that you could get us on how difficult it was to secure the train from a security standpoint?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't comment on security. I mean, you can see as you move through the train that the President can fulfill all his constitutional responsibilities from this train. I think I'll just leave it at that.
Q How is the campaign cost figured out? Is it a percentage of total cost of trip or --
MR. MCCURRY: It is a contract that was -- contract that was produced between the carrier and the campaign, negotiated --
Q Based on percentage of cost or --
MR. MCCURRY: No, based on what the reflected costs were in doing the work that was necessary to do on the train.
Q Can you give us more of a description of what the President is doing when he's not in public view?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has been on the phone a great deal. He called Mrs. Clinton immediately after her speech last night, wished her well and obviously was very enthusiastic about a speech that he called "terrific" last night. It's safe to say he was tickled right well by his wife's speech.
He's been on the phone this morning with the Vice President, visiting with him about the convention and certainly about the remarks that the Vice President will make tonight at the convention. And he's been working on his own speech, though not as religiously as some on the train would like -- in part, I think because he's having too much fun just seeing the people along the way.
Q -- big on the environment tonight --
Q -- Mrs. Clinton say when he called her?
MR. MCCURRY: He called her immediately after the speech, right, last night.
Q Did he watch her?
MR. MCCURRY: He was able to watch last night both the video and audio portion of the audio that you heard on the train. It was interrupted from time to time because the satellite signal was -- we lost the satellite signal. And he did have a little Sony Watchman that he could tune into for times when he was missing the signal.
Q On that subject, the President was supposed to -- or we were speculating, there were apparently some plans for him to interrupt and wish her well during her presentation, or at least during the evening. And that didn't happen. Could you tell us about what happened?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. There was one thought at one point that if the timing worked out that he would give her a thumbs-up from the car by satellite on the screen in the convention hall, but the timing didn't work out precisely right for that. And that's why everyone has been pestering me all day long about what's this, what's going to happen tonight, what's going to happen tonight? And the truth is, we wait and see what's happening at the moment, what's happening in the hall, what the mood in the hall is, and do what we think is right.
Q Is Gore going to speak on the environment tonight, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Say it again.
Q Gore is going to talk about these proposals in his environmental speech tonight?
MR. MCCURRY: The Vice President will certainly talk about the President's record tonight. But he'll also compare and contrast the visions of change that the President offers as opposed to the opponents. It will be a substantive speech based on our differences on issues.
Q Mike, can you elaborate a little bit on how the -- a little bit further on how the costs are apportioned? I mean, it's going to be a little difficult for taxpayers to understand why they're paying four times as much as the campaign for this.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the taxpayers pay substantial costs now anytime we fly on Air Force One. The train is no different from Air Force One in that respect. And that's because there are substantial costs associated with providing security to the President, to fulfilling the federal law when it comes to making available to him medical assistance, communication -- those things that he needs to function as President. The office of the President is on this train right now. And under the Constitution, the President has the responsibility to fulfill his duties and there are costs associated with doing that. That's true every time the President travels anywhere. Traveling by train is no different from traveling by air in that respect.
Q Just to clear up one figure, there's 75 people on board approximately to aid him in his official capacity?
MR. MCCURRY: No, it's political and official. That's the
total number of what I'd call staff. And some of them are political
staff, such as Mr. Lockhart here. Some of them are traveling -- I'm
traveling, in fact, as a political -- at the expense of the Clinton-Gore
campaign. But there are some people, for example, the folks who have to
do communications, our
national security representative who's on board, the President's military aides who, under federal law, travel at federal expense.
Q So is the $113,000 figured as a per person charge allocated for political and the rest as --
MR. MCCURRY: That was the amount negotiated in reflecting the political costs here.
Q Negotiated by whom?
MR. MCCURRY: Between the carrier who is Amtrack and -- they are, in a sense, the vendor. That was the cost associated with the contract worked up in evaluating the costs of the project and the costs that are political.
Q Is the other party to the contract the campaign or the U.S. government? Who negotiates the --
MR. MCCURRY: We'll find out who exactly are the signatories of the contract.
Q Mrs. Clinton in her speech last night referred to Chelsea quite a lot and we saw the cut-aways of her. What will Chelsea be doing throughout the campaign now? Will she be a little more active?
MR. MCCURRY: Chelsea Clinton really enjoys being with her Mom and Dad at significant moments in their lives. And certainly on the start of this campaign train trip and the First Lady's speech last night and the President's speech tomorrow night, are significant moments for them, just as at the State of the Union, where Chelsea actually asked to be there and surprised her parents by asking to be there, she wanted to be here for part of this trip and at the convention. She will be going back to school in the fall, and she knew that it would be hard for her to make a lot of campaign trips in the fall because she would be back home at school, so she wanted to be here on this trip.
But her role will be no different during the fall than it's been now. She likes being with her folks when they are at significant moments in their lives. And certainly this is one for both the First Lady and the President.
Q Mike, both Reverend Jackson and Cuomo made critical remarks about the welfare reform in their speeches last night. Did the President watch them deliver their speeches? And if so, does he have any reaction to them?
MR. MCCURRY: He could not see those speeches, but certainly he knew about them and was well aware in advance that they would be talking about the issue of welfare reform. And the President knows that there are feelings in the party that run counter to his decision to move forward with welfare reform. He respects those diverse views. He encourages Democrats to debate those views. And he also hopes that the party will come together now as we look forward to move forward on the agenda that he will outline tomorrow night, which, of course, will address welfare reform directly.
The President felt the raising of these issues and discussing them in a substantive way is an important part of what a convention should be. And we believe that's in marked contrast to the mask that was put over differences in the Republican Party at their convention in San Diego.
Q The President four years ago in his acceptance speech talked at length about special interests taking over Washington. And I wonder, first of all, will he revisit that issue this time? And is this one area that he can't really say as much as he can on the 10 million jobs?
MR. MCCURRY: He worked hard to change the political culture of Washington, the way in which politics are conducted and financed. We made some progress over the last four years but not sufficient progress. And the President will suggest that ongoing efforts to reform Washington's political culture and campaign finance should be part of our agenda as we move forward.
I'm not suggesting that he will say that tomorrow night, but that certainly will remain a priority of his.
Q Mike, is he down all day tomorrow, and do you have any idea today what you're going to do to brief us on the speech before --
MR. MCCURRY: The question is about briefing schedules. He will be working on his speech tonight and tomorrow. We will do what is traditional for the nomination speech -- I mean the acceptance speech. We will provide some type of briefing at our hotel at the -- at the Sheraton sometime in the 4:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m range tomorrow night.
Q Are you going to have some excerpts?
MR. MCCURRY: We might have an excerpt or two, but I wouldn't count on getting a lot. We think we will give you sufficient detail at 4:30 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. that those of you that have early deadlines will be able to file.
Q Mike, are there going to be pictures of the President tonight in his hotel, anything like that?
MR. MCCURRY: That remains to be seen.
Q Mike, what do you feel you've accomplished with this trip?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President feels that this has been an excellent opportunity to see the people he works for in a way that you don't often get, through the back yards, the small towns, the corn fields, the urban centers -- really a chance to see a slice of America that's hard to see when you're rushing from tarmac to tarmac. I think it's invigorated him. It has reminded him of how important it is to let the American people understand his vision of America in the year 2000 and how incumbent it is upon him to explain how we would do the things he proposes to do.
He sees them excited not only because he is here as a candidate, but because he is here as President. I think he recognizes that many people who along the way have come out to see him are seeing something important about this country. And I think that he's grateful that there has been that enthusiastic response. It has surpassed any of our expectations, the enthusiasm, the people along the way, the things both small and large -- from a huge rally like last night to an individual person standing in a backyard waving an American flag. It has just been one of the most poignant and interesting moments of his presidency. And he has been thrilled by every minute of it.
Q -- worked on in terms of things that were unexpected or that surprised him about this trip?
MR. MCCURRY: Pretty much what I just said. I mean, it just
-- the interest people have shown, the enthusiasm they have shown, the
response that he has gotten from people along the way and the fact that
-- his own sense is that people are yearning for some clarity on where
this country will be as we reach for a new century. And I think that's
made him even more determined to lay out a vision tomorrow night of
America in the year 2000, but also a substantive explanation of how he
achieve his goals.
Q Did he miss his dates with the speechwriters last night and this morning because he was doing other stuff?
MR. MCCURRY: Don Baer's been hanging around with not much to do, yes. (Laughter.) No, they've been working hard together. And they've been doing -- he's been working with his usual group of writers and they're making progress. And as with any major, important speech by Bill Clinton, it will be his heart and soul by the time he stands up there tomorrow night, which means it won't be finished until tomorrow night.
Q Mike, is he sitting in that upholstered swiveled chair with the lions on it or at a conference table --
MR. MCCURRY: He's doing a little of both. He sits and works in the arm chair sometimes. Other times, he sits at the dining table that you've seen as you walk up there and scribbles out notes. So he does a little bit of both.
Q Can you give us more of a description? We really don't have a good sense of what the car looks like.
MR. MCCURRY: There's a very, very good and elegantly written pool report a couple of days ago that describes the interior of the plans. And maybe -- we'll see if we can, on one of these, for people who have not actually gotten to do a little walk through, I'll investigate -- without promising the possibility -- of taking a couple of people on a tour through those cars if you haven't had a chance to see them yet while the President is doing one of his events. I think we can probably arrange that with the security people. We can't do that for 150 reporters, but if we've got a manageable enough group, we can try to make that happen.
Q A more important question, does he really wear a 46 long?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I should -- that was in the pool report last night and I think that's a reasonably good guess. Mr. Lockhart and I figured -- imagining ourselves in those frames -- that that was about right.
Okay? All right.
Thanks a lot.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 11:44 A.M. EDT