THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona) _______________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 18, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY SECRETARY OF INTERIOR BRUCE BABBITT, MIKE MCCURRY AND JOE LOCKHART
Thunderbird Lodge Grand Canyon National Park Arizona
12:34 P.M. MST
MR. MCCURRY: Ladies and gentlemen, as you heard the President say with his signing of the proclamation today designating the new national monument, a period will begin in which the Bureau of Land Management will work, over the next three years, to develop a management plan for the 1.7 million acres that have now been designated. That, of course, is in the province of the Department of the Interior, and it's a delight to have the Secretary of the Interior here -- personal delight for me, but also there is no one that knows every square inch of the Canyon you're looking at better than the former governor of Arizona who has hiked and paddled virtually every square inch of it, one way or another.
So, Bruce Babbitt, it's an honor to have you here with us today. Hold forth.
SECRETARY BABBITT: Okay, here we go.
Q Obviously the Utah delegation is furious about this. And when the President says that he has now delegated you to resolve reasonable differences -- what are you going to do and what can you offer them? And don't they have a right to have a voice in this?
SECRETARY BABBITT: Well, I think it's important to understand that a monument proclamation under the Antiquities Act is a framework for the development of a management plan which will address many, many of the land use issues which are not covered in the proclamation.
So what the President is saying is now is time to begin a careful discussion with Governor Levitt and the congressional delegation to deal with all of the issues. We've talked about the state school lands. Those are important because they are rather widespread in all of the parks and monuments in Utah. The President made note that there have been no water claims made in connection with this proclamation. The many issues that relate to the development and use of a national monument are there for discussion.
The President again named some of them -- all the issues that relate to hunting, fishing, grazing, most of the multiple uses will, in fact, be continued under monument status. The rules and regulations under which off-road vehicle use can continue. There is a myriad of them, and it seems to me this is one case where it's not the title so much as it is the substance of what is worked out to give content to it.
Q Secretary, do you have an exact figure on the value and the amount of coal that's in question with Andalex? And also, how -- it's been described as really vast, up to a trillion dollars. If that's the case, how is the government going to swap enough land to make up for that?
SECRETARY BABBITT: Well, I think those figures are tremendously speculative. There isn't any firm number you can put on it. There are all kinds of assumptions that go into that. I think the important thing is to focus on the PacifiCorp example, because here is a Utah-based western utility, which also had coal reserves in this area, and in agreeing to negotiate a swap, PacifiCorp has answered your questions. It said, we believe that there are, in fact, adequate coal reserves elsewhere in federal lands in Utah, and we're prepared to see what we can work out in exchange.
So I would say that PacifiCorp is really the proof of the exchange pudding. There are other mineral lands in Utah. There are a lot of federal lands, a lot of federal mineral lands. All we've got to do is identify them and get that discussion going.
Q -- can't give us at least a ballpark about how much that's worth?
SECRETARY BABBITT: There are way too many assumptions. People have been speculating about the value of coal in this land since I was seven years old. And the plain fact is, it's been all speculation for 50 years, and it's no different today.
Q Does this proclamation, in fact. bar any coal mining in the area? I mean, Andalex has no choice but to exchange --
SECRETARY BABBITT: That's not what the proclamation says. The President said, this proclamation applies to federal lands, and it acknowledges, as indeed the proclamation must, what's known as valid existing rights. The environmental process that relates to -- the Andalex lease is on federal land -- that process will go forward. And now it's the President's expressed wish that we can begin a discussion about some kind of exchange.
Q Mr. Secretary, do you see this as the first step toward making this ultimately a national park or a national wilderness area?
SECRETARY BABBITT: Well, that question will not be ripe on our watch. If history is any guide, the proclamation of national monuments is a process which plays out for generations. Now, the fact is, as the President stated, this extraordinary national park began as a national monument, as did Zion, as did Bryce. There are other national monuments by Teddy Roosevelt which remain national monuments to this day. And that will be for -- look, we've got to leave some of these things to our kids to discuss and work at. And I'm sure that will one of them.
Q Mr. Secretary, the President made it sound like the coal mine is not likely to happen now. You seem to be saying it is a long, involved process and everything is up for grabs. Can you tell us straight ahead, I mean, is this coal mine going to happen? What about the ranching, hunting?
SECRETARY BABBITT: Well, I think the President is saying most multiple uses are entirely consistent with the monument, and I heard him say to me, get together with Governor Levitt and go to work on those -- hunting, fishing, access, hiking, backpacking, grazing -- all of those issues. Those are the subject of the management plan. The President's statement contains a presumption that those are appropriate uses, and I view those as my bargaining instructions.
Now, I think what he said about the mine is quite clear. He says, mining is appropriate in some places, inappropriate in others where it would interfere with the purposes of the park or the monument. And then has said to me, I want this process, the environmental process, to go forward. There is an environmental impact process that is under way. That will continue.
It is my expectation that as we do that the discussion will be broadened to see if we can work out some kind of agreement to move along the pathway that has been set forth by the PacifiCorps lease exchange proposal.
MR. MCCURRY: Let me just add one -- we'll get to that question. Let me add one point on that. The President would specifically credit Congressman Orton and also to an extent Governor Levitt with several features in the proclamation that he will sign today. One is that management of the monument would be done by the Bureau of Land Management as opposed to the National Park Service; that hunting and fishing will be managed under existing law, as will grazing; and then also the feature that the President and the Secretary referred to concerning federal water rights. That grew out of some of the discussions that have been held in recent days, including even late-night discussions the President had last night with both the Governor and with Congressman Orton.
Q Could you clarify, Secretary Babbitt, how close to this area mining could occur now once the President signs this?
Q Can you verify whether mining can actually ever happen?
SECRETARY BABBITT: The proclamation did not speak to the issue of mining claims outside the exterior boundaries of the monument. The proclamation, of itself, does not affect valid existing rights, and those include the Andalex leases. The environmental assessment process will address the issue of whether and on what terms and if mining is compatible with the purposes of the monument.
Q So in other words, just to clarify one more thing, if Andalex does not want to swap land, does the federal government have the ability to stop them from mining there?
SECRETARY BABBITT: Those issues will be worked out in the environmental impact process.
Q In other words there will never be mining there?
SECRETARY BABBITT: That is not -- this proclamation, in other words, applies to federal lands. It does not take or withdraw by its terms valid existing rights, which include the Andalex leases. That is the purpose of the environmental process and the expanded discussion.
Q Would you foresee the possibility that under the environmental impact statement that they would say that this mining operation would need to --
SECRETARY BABBITT: The purpose of the environmental impact statement is precisely to address those questions. I understand your enthusiasm for short-circuiting the process, but I won't be a party to that because that's the legal purpose of the environmental impact statement process.
Q But the President's action today did not stop mining in this land, correct?
SECRETARY BABBITT: That's correct. It does withdraw the remaining land from mineral entry under the 1872 Mining Act. I think that's an important point that you make. That simply says the day is over when you can go out and sort of try to locate new mines. It does not impact or address the issue of valid existing leases that are out there.
Q But for there to be mining it would have to be compatible with the environment impact statement -- is that correct?
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct. There are applicable federal laws in place. But what the proclamation does do in identifying the objects that have to be protected, there are -- you can perceive ways in which, if mining were to occur, there could be a significant impact on the objects that are to be protected. For example, how do you get the coal in and out of the area that has now been designated a national monument.
One thing that the President found compelling in the memorandum that Secretary Babbitt submitted is that the proposed mine operation itself could conceivably involve haul trucks that would operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with loaded trucks dispatched from the mine at 8 to 10-minute intervals. One can foresee that that might have a significant impact on the objects that have now been designated under the Antiquities Act that have to be protected. So the impact of the proclamation on the mining operation has to do more with how people get ingress -- in and out of the territory in which they have legal rights.
Is that a good way of saying it?
SECRETARY BABBITT: Spoken like a knowledgeable expert on mining law.
Q Has this mine just been going through an environmental impact process already? Some -- one of the country commissioners out there suggested it had already been approved or is on the verge of approval.
SECRETARY BABBITT: It has not been approved. The environmental impact process is now underway and it will continue.
Q When did it start?
SECRETARY BABBITT: I can't answer that, I don't know. I mean, just in the last few years.
MR. MCCURRY: -- about a year ago.
SECRETARY BABBITT: About a year ago.
Q --confused as to whether after this proclamation -- the answers to whether there will be a coal mine near is yes, no, or maybe.
SECRETARY BABBITT: The answer is, all of the above. This proclamation does not dictate a conclusion as to the future of that mine. The President's words very clearly says any mining within the monument is going to have to be -- would have to be scrutinized to see if it's compatible with the purposes of the proclamation. Those issues will all be addressed in the environmental impact statement. Mr. McCurry has very ably pointed out what some of those factors are.
Q Just briefly on another matter, what's your position now on that five percent tax on camping gear and things like that that you had discussed in passing the other day?
SECRETARY BABBITT: This administration does not support tax increases, particularly ones that have never been presented in specific form which the President has never seen, which at this point are, in this case, proposals that have been put forward by a consortium of state agencies, period.
Q Is the New World mine deal -- did that ever go through?
SECRETARY BABBITT: The President was in Yellowstone and he announced a tentative agreement with respect to the kind of swap that has been used to settle these kinds of issues. Those discussions are going forward. What we have is a preliminary agreement; it will take some time. These fairly complex things -- there are always questions of valuation, but that process is moving.
Q And you're confident it will be concluded?
SECRETARY BABBITT: I am, indeed, again for the same reason that I believe that's an issue that we should explore carefully here; for the same reason that the PacifiCorps people have already stepped forward to begin that process. It's been used many times at Grand Canyon. When this monument and national park was established, there were dozens of mining operations in this Canyon. And virtually every one of them was ultimately resolved by exchanges of the type we're talking about or at least suggesting might be appropriate here.
Q The President called Congressman Orton at like 1:30 a.m. this morning. Isn't that kind of late to begin a consultative process on something as important as this to Utah?
SECRETARY BABBITT: Well, let me just say that I have personally spoken with Congressman Orton, as have other members of the administration, over the last several weeks. I spoke to him at some length last week. He expressed his concerns, and I think this order is responsive to many of the issues he raised, including what federal agency would be in charge, preparing the land use plan, what the effects might be on water rights, the protection of existing non-mineral multiple uses -- all issues that he has raised.
Okay? Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Any other subjects while we're here, other areas? Because this may be our -- we probably won't see you until Seattle.
Q Mike, apparently, the Travel Office report came out, saying that Clinton abused his power, obstructed the investigation into the firings, and waged a disinformation campaign.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there long ago ceased to be any merits in the process that that committee used to investigate that matter. It is a politically-driven process, as the Democrats on the committee made clear. And the merits of the report have to be considered in light of the political season that we're in.
Q Mike, do you or Joe want to respond to Bob Dole who accused the President today of "moral confusion and ambivalence" on the issue of drug use?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, let me say a couple things. I think that he unveiled his new slogan today, which is just don't do it, and when it comes to fighting crime and fighting drugs, I think that slogan is applicable to the Dole-Gingrich Congress. From the Safe and Drug-free School program, which they opposed and then tried to cut, to the Drug Office creation and then reauthorization in '94, to the Brady Bill, the assault weapons ban and 100,000 cops.
On the issue of a moral crisis, I think what Senator Dole was saying is that he didn't hear a voice, and I would point you towards his record on these issues and his voice. In 35 years, according to The Washington Post, he cosponsored one piece of legislation having to do with drugs. In his state of the union response he didn't mention the issue; in his farewell address to the Senate where he recounted, as you remember, his many accomplishments in the Senate, it never came up.
So I think that what we have today -- or what I took from hearing about the speech -- was really a return of the kind of negative politics that have so characterized his campaigns in the past. And as he said in 1990, and I think he should reflect on it, that fighting crime and fighting drugs shouldn't be a partisan issue, and I believe that the President agrees.
Q Joe, on the issue of morality, can you or Mike answer the question of whether the President believes prostitution should be illegal, and if so, why we haven't heard any criticism of Mr. Morris's behavior from the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: He believes it should be -- I mean, it is illegal and obviously it is wrong. It's degrading to women among other things. And the President has said what he has to say to Mr. Morris.
Q Why hasn't he criticized Mr. Morris's behavior given that Mr. Morris has now confirmed the relationship with a prostitute?
MR. MCCURRY: Because the President has already spoken to that issue and I don't know that there's anything new to add to it.
Q Mike, he hasn't spoken to the issue. Why hasn't he spoken to the issue?
MR. MCCURRY: The President spoke to it the day that Mr. Morris submitted his resignation.
Q Excuse me, I'm sorry. But Mike, I don't remember any criticism of Mr. Morris's behavior from the President. Have I missed something?
MR. MCCURRY: Your memory is your memory.
Any other subjects?
Q Mike, have you been asked about the drug -- Dole's --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Mike, a new study on child abuse -- apparently, the rate's doubled from 1986 to 1992. Do you --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar with that. I'll have to get more details. Whose study is that?
Q I think it's a government one.
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to look into it. I don't know.
Q Mike, does the President have any reaction to the Saudi Arabia report on the Saudi Arabia bombings from the Pentagon?
MR. MCCURRY: He did. If you recall, he had -- I think, I can't remember at what point in the Oval Office the other day, but he did have a reaction to that. He commended General Downing for the thoroughness and the candor of the report and noted that Secretary Perry had briefed him as to the specific measures he was implementing to protect the force.
Q Will he do anything himself, the President --
MR. MCCURRY: Well he instructed -- he had prior to the completion of the report had instructed Secretary Perry to take any and all necessary steps to protect our forces deployed not only in the Central Command but elsewhere.
Q -- Secretary Perry's performance on this --
MR. MCCURRY: He has full faith and confidence in Secretary Perry and in the implementation of the force protection measures the Secretary has identified.
Q Could you update a little or give us a preview of the bus trip, things that might emerge, what we're going to do?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't. Do you have anything on the bus trip yet? I don't -- I know that we are doing stops that will be very similar to our post-convention bus trip. We'll do stops along the way in impromptu ways and less than impromptu ways. And he'll continue to address issues that are central to the economy of the Pacific Northwest -- environmental protection which you certainly will be stressing on many stops along the way and the importance of our engagement in the global economy that provides so many jobs in both Washington and Oregon.
Q Any new initiatives?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I have heard of.
Q Mike, how long has this been in the offing -- this event today?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe -- the Secretary can correct me if I'm wrong -- I believe the President first raised the question of whether a national monument designation would be appropriate for this region about four and a half months ago. The issue has been -- that's what --
Q Has he been talking that long --
SECRETARY BABBITT: I think it's important to appreciate that this issue has come up on at least one other occasion. I first began to discuss these issues with the President and his staff during the debate over the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, in which there was a discussion of whether or not it would be appropriate to use withdrawal powers; the discussion with the Colorado Plateau. Mike's view of it is about right. It's been several months that this has been discussed. But it's not as if it just sort of popped up out of nowhere. This is a subject which, as the President explained, somebody till very recently a part of the presidential discussion about land management.
Q But I'm trying to find out who brought it to the President's attention and when that was. Was that you?
SECRETARY BABBITT: Okay. I don't remember any specific occasion on which I sort of stepped forward and said, have you ever thought of this. These discussions work in a very different way. If you look back into the literature of the Colorado Plateau, over the last couple of years you'll see this floating all over the place.
MR. MCCURRY: Let me -- the Secretary is right. I think for at least 15 or 20 years the proper designation and protection for this area has been a subject of debate among specialists serving in the scientific community, historians, people who love the natural beauty of that region, certainly the environmental community. I think the President would be quick, as he did today, to credit Vice President Gore with having discussed the issue with him. And on many matters related to the environment, as you know, the Vice President is the President's single most trusted and influential adviser. Secretary Babbitt comes in at least a very close second.
Q This effort crystallized around this time, is that --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are two compelling factors here that prompted the President's concern. The first and in the President's view the most dangerous was the attempt early in the new Republican Congress in 1995 to remove from federal protection so much of this area. Remember, there was a bill pending in the Republican Congress that would have severely restricted the areas designated as wilderness areas and would have opened up vast parts of these million-plus acres for development and for mineral extraction that would not receive the kind of protection under federal law that the President feels is important.
The President made it quite clear that he would violently object to that approach. But that, in a sense, put the issue on the radar screen. It has been a subject of very active concern in the environmental community and among others. And then more recently, the discussion of how the mining operation might develop and what steps the mining company might take to begin resource extraction from that portion of this region in which it has mineral rights prompted a more urgent concern.
But the matter has been under review for some months. And the President took the step that he did today because he believes it was important to provide this protection for future generations.
MR. LOCKHART: A couple of items -- the fundraising tonight in Seattle -- $750,000 will be raised over three events, all going to the DNC. There is a dinner where the price tag is a $1,000 a person, a reception which is $5,000 and then a saxophone club event where the price tag is $125.
One quick word on the debates -- I talked to Secretary Kantor about a half an hour ago. He spoke earlier today to Governor Campbell who asked him for a 36-hour delay on meetings because of a business concern of his that would take him out of town. So doing the math, we believe that he'll call either late Thursday or Friday morning to set up the next meeting.
Q There's no debate next week as far as you're concerned, right?
MR. LOCKHART: We'll have to see what they talk about on Friday.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, thank you everybody. We'll see you in Washington.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:00 P.M. MST