THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Monterey, California) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release June 12, 1998
PRESS BRIEFING BY COUNCIL OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY KATIE MCGINTY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF COMMERCE TERRY GARCIA AND DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY JOE LOCKHART
Monterey Plaza Monterey, California
11:05 A.M. PDT
MR. LOCKHART: To give you an overview of what's been going on at this conference for the last two days and an idea what the President will be talking about we have Katie McGinty here, who I know you all know and have heard of before, from CEQ; and Terry Garcia, which I know some of you know, but some of you may not have met, who is Assistant Secretary of Commerce and the Deputy Administrator of NOAA.
I'm going to let them -- Katie is going to do a little presentation on what's been going on here. They'll take your questions, and I'm going to go back in the office and try to figure out what's going on. If there's anything you need me on, I'll do it afterwards.
MS. MCGINTY: Thanks, Joe. I still want to go outside.
Well, good morning. I wanted to do a little bit of giving you some background, a little snapshot of what has happened here and a little preview of where we might go from here. Let me start by saying that we have had two days of very good, substantive, detailed proceedings here in California, focusing on the many issues we have with regard to oceans. It's been a very good, effective dialogue.
Let me step back, though, and talk about how we got here. The President and Vice President come to California today with a very strong record when it comes to protecting our ocean resources. In 1993, the United States, under President Clinton's leadership, was the first nation -- first nuclear nation to stop the dumping of radioactive waste at sea. That had been the practice before the President took the reins and convinced the world community to stop doing that.
Under U.S. leadership we now have a new treaty which protects some of our most endangered fish; those are fish that migrate between various countries and parts of the world -- they're called straddling stocks. Under the President and Vice President's leadership we also have a new world agreement to ban the worst chemicals that threaten the health and well-being of our fish -- they are called Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs. And it is under U.S. leadership that we now have agreement to ban the 12 worst of those chemicals.
Also, under the President's leadership, we now have a revised Law of the Sea treaty, which treaty is essential to our national security, our commercial interests, our environmental interests, and which treaty faces a major deadline in November for the U.S. to join, for the U.S. to ratify or, if we fails to -- and the Senate so far refuses to act -- if we fail to, to see those national security, environment, and economic interests threatened.
So, from the international point of view, we have a very strong record with regard to oceans. Domestically, too, this administration has taken very important, strong steps to begin to restore our fisheries, whereas previous administrations stuck their heads in the sand, while more and more of our fish were driven to the brink of extinction. We have acted in the New England area to dramatically reduce fish harvests and also here on the West Coast with regard to a variety of species, dramatically reducing fish harvest.
Finally, because of those actions, in New England, for example, we see some evidence of some fisheries beginning gradually to come back.
We also fought in 1996 in the Congress to secure the Sustainable Fisheries Act. This important new law finally gives us the tools we need to stop over-harvesting fish, to reduce the damaging bicatch of fish species, and to begin to take measures to protect essential fish habitat. Again, presidential, vice presidential leadership to get that new law in place in 1996.
And last, but most importantly, really, the President has announced a major new Clean Water Action Plan. He has asked Congress for a new infusion of funds -- $2.3 billion over five years -- to take on the worst remaining sources of pollution that are degrading all of our waterways and certainly our coastal ocean waters. So the Clean Water Action Plan also a priority.
So the background here is that the President and Vice President come with a strong record with regard to oceans. Nonetheless, we knew and know today that there is much more that needs to be done with regard to the oceans. That's why we wanted to seize the opportunity of the international Year of the Oceans, that we recognize this year to host this conference.
Some facts: We know less about the oceans than we know about the moon. What we do know -- second fact -- is in many respects disturbing. We know that the oceans face a growing and myriad number of stresses and strains -- pollution, over-harvesting, the growth in human population and the increase in the extraction of proteins and fish resources from the oceans, more of us living on the coast and contributing to pollution of our coastal waters, and now the threat of climate change. Many myriad stresses on our ocean resources.
But there are other problems as well. From a commercial point of view, it's essential to the United States that we have well-maintained, competitive ports. Our ports face intensive competition from ports in other countries around the world. We need to maintain those ports and to make sure that they are ready to compete in the 21st century.
And the third area where there are concerns is with regard to national security. Again, we need the ratification of the Law of the Sea treaty.
What happened here, through a series of very intensive working sessions with a variety of participants from all walks of life, all of these priorities were identified -- people spoke to them, people offered their ideas on how we could put an agenda for action together. They underscored each of these stress points that I've mentioned -- the environmental stresses, the need to remain competitive in the 21st century, and our national security need to pass, to ratify the Law of the Sea treaty.
So here today, the President, hearing the reports from the working groups, hearing the report that the Vice President will issue to him today, will build on the initiatives the Vice President launched yesterday to start putting the building blocks in place for a very important program of action.
First, the President will announce that he will extend the moratorium on all off-shore oil drilling for at least another 12 -- for 14 more years, until the year 2012. Plus he will put in place a permanent ban on off-shore oil drilling in those areas where we know are environmentally or culturally sensitive. That is, our national marine sanctuaries.
Second, the President will issue and executive order to protect and restore our coral reefs. Coral reefs are considered the rainforest of the sea, home and nurturing grounds to a variety of fish species. The President will direct that we restore at least 18 of those coral reefs by the year 2002.
Third, the President will direct the agencies to issue new policies by October to stop over-fishing of depleted fish stocks, to decrease by catch of fish species and, importantly, to protect essential fish habitat.
Fourth, the President will announce a ban on the catch or importation into the United States of under-sized swordfish, that is swordfish under 33 pounds.
Fifth, to address these pressing commercial needs, the President announces today a new $800 million fund to modernize, to repair our ports.
And sixth, and finally, in terms of the national security imperatives that we face, the President will push and ask the Senate once again to ratify the Law of the Sea treaty.
As a wrap-up to all of this, the President will charge the Cabinet to look back to the effort that was launched 30 years ago, the first time this nation charted for itself an oceans action strategy -- it was 30 years ago, the Stratton Commission. The President today will charge his Cabinet with coming up with an oceans strategy for the 21st century.
So that's where we've been, what we've accomplished in the last two days, and some of what you can expect to hear from the President today.
Q If off-shore oil drilling is an environmental risk, why is it only off the coast of California and the East Coast, why not the coast of Texas and Louisiana?
MS. MCGINTY: The moratorium are based on the most ecologically sensitive areas. The moratorium is in place where, under current technology, the risks would be too great to proceed with exploration or development. So it's an equation between how sensitive the area is and what kind of technologies we now have to explore and exploit those resources. In the Gulf, the area where there is exploration and development -- the Gulf of Mexico is less environmentally fragile than off of California, Florida, some of the other areas where we have moratoria; plus there are technologies, horizontal drilling and other kinds of technologies, that have been developed there that make it environmentally safe.
Q Do you look at political concerns, as well?
MS. MCGINTY: Well, it is very true that people who live in coastal states value, cherish their ocean resources, their access to the beach. They are concerned about the possibility of environmental damage or damage to those resources from spills or other hazards and accidents. So it is -- I think it is very true to say that people care about their beaches and their oceans and in many of these coast communities do not want to see further oil drilling and exploration.
Q The industry is saying that the administration is totally ignoring how successful they've been in recent years in developing new technology that makes it safer and that this is going to impact consumers. My second question on that is, Pete Wilson also asked for a permanent ban on moratorium; why not do a permanent ban?
MS. MCGINTY: Well, I guess when you have the voices from right and left, and you sort of chart someplace right in the middle, you might be doing something right. But the bottom line is the President has really charted the most prudent course here. We have launched in the last few years a very effective dialogue with the oil industry. That dialogue has resulted in a record for this administration which is equal to or surpasses previous administrations in terms of the amount of oil leasing -- oil and gas leasing -- we have done.
The Clinton administration has equaled or surpassed previous administrations in the amount of oil and gas leasing that we have done. But it is a priority for the President that that exploration, that development of those resources be done in the most environmentally sound manner possible. The actions he takes here today recognizes the imperative of further protections for some of our fragile ecological resources.
Q Question about the Law of the Sea Convention. Is it only a question of ratifying the agreement, or are there other steps the Senate has to take to get there?
MS. MCGINTY: All the Senate needs to do is ratify it. And we had a unanimous voice in support of ratification of the treaty through these last two days of proceedings. And it's true, whether you are talking to the military, whether you are talking to commercial interests, whether you are talking to environmental interests, all agree that this treaty is essential to U.S. interests in the 21st century. And the flipside of that is that if we don't act by November, we lose the right, if you will, to have a seat at the table as the very important implementing decisions are being made by the world community to implement the provisions laid out in the Law of the Sea.
Q Has it taken effect yet?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: No, not for us. Well, one important thing that Katie was mentioning is that if we don't, by November, ratify the treaty, the Deep Seabed Authority, which is the authority under the Law of the Sea that is going to be dealing with issues of extraction of minerals and other resources from the seabed -- we're not going to have a seat at the table. Other countries, other voices are going to be making those decisions, not us.
Q Is the treaty in effect in general?
MS. MCGINTY: The treaty is observed as a matter of international comity and convention -- people observe this provision. But there's no guarantee that that will continue as every other country is now formally a member and the United States, if the Senate doesn't act, will not be by November.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: I mean, for example, one of the problems you might encounter is security of claims. If you're not a member, if you haven't ratified the treaty, then you don't have the ability to utilize the dispute resolution mechanisms and the other -- that are provided in it that are provided in it for dealing with issues like securing, say, a claim to the deep seabed, or securing your right to lay underwater cables that carry telecommunication and other information.
MS. MCGINTY: I just offer another example that came out of the discussions yesterday. Our national security, our military is very concerned that if we are not a party, their need to have freedom of the seas so that they can engage, for example, in drug interdiction activities will or may be compromised. They're concerned that if we're not a member, while other countries will have thereby secured their sovereign right to that area off their coast that extends 200 miles -- their exclusive economic zone, it's called in the treaty -- that the United States will be left short without that protection, while other countries are claiming their sovereign rights. So it's very -- it's just imperative that by November the Senate act to ratify it. And this was a very representative conference of all kinds of interests. There was not an exception in the crowd to the imperative of getting this treaty ratified.
Q This new $800 million for the ports, where does the President propose that money come from? Is it a new tax, a new fee, the tobacco agreement?
MS. MCGINTY: It is a fee that shippers would -- will pay into a fund. The fund will be dedicated to the job of upgrading and maintaining our ports.
For some background on this, there previously was a fund in place, a fund that was designed in such a way that at least a portion of it the Supreme Court found to be unconstitutional. And that meant a -- posed a very dramatic threat to our ports because, all of a sudden, the money that's desperately needed to deepen the ports, to dredge them, was cut off. So the President is acting here to put a new fee in place which would be dedicated to the job of maintaining and improving our ports for the 21st century.
Q Is there an established opposition in the Senate to the treaty, or is this just something that they haven't addressed?
MS. MCGINTY: Well, there is -- at least the Chairman of the Senator Foreign Relations Committee has expressed his disinclination to move forward with this treaty. We are unaware of any other single voice in these proceedings or in the Congress who is opposed to the ratification of the treaty.
Q So did I understand your answer earlier about why not just do it indefinitely? I interpreted what you said was that because we've worked constructively with the oil industry this seemed like an appropriate way of splitting the difference rather than just implementing it permanently.
MS. MCGINTY: Well, the President has charted the most prudent course here. From our dialogue with industry, we have a very good sense at this point of what kind of technological capabilities that we have right now, or might hope to have in the next 10 years; what kind of oil reserves we currently have and could expect to have in the next 10 years; what the global oil situation looks like in terms of supply and demand now and for roughly the next 10 years. The course that the President charts here is based on that very important information that we received both from the industry interests themselves, as well as our scientists, our marine biologists, and others, who gave us the other half of the equation, and that is, here where our most sensitive ecological resources are on the shelf.
Q To follow on Nancy's question about the Gulf of Mexico, you felt not only was it not a particularly threatened ecosystem, but that's where the most drilling is taking place now anyway, right, so you're not going to mess with the existing exploration programs?
MS. MCGINTY: Well, it's not the entirety of the Gulf of Mexico, however. Again, this is a balancing act between where the resources are most fragile and where technology can offer safe exploration and drilling. It is only in the -- and my geography is bad -- it's only in the western Gulf where there is intensive oil exploration, drilling, and activity. The eastern Gulf, that's not the case. The eastern Gulf is ecologically much more fragile as you begin to get into the Florida Panhandle and then down into the Keys. So the eastern Gulf, that's a different equation. Even with advanced technology, those resources may well be too fragile to withstand oil activities there. The western Gulf, we don't have that situation and we've got technology that can enable exploration and extraction in a responsible way.
Q Two quick questions. This proposed tax for the harbors, that requires congressional approval, right?
MS. MCGINTY: Yes. And the President has submitted a request to Congress to proceed to institute this new fund.
Q And a question for Terry. On the swordfish, won't you just be increasing the bicatch of swordfish by banning the sale of small swordfish? I mean, fishermen are going to get them in the nets, no matter what, right?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: One of the big problems that we have right now is that our domestic industry has made great strides in complying with the international standards that we negotiated through ICAT -- which is the Convention on Atlantic Tunas. But it also includes swordfish. That convention, among other things, banned the catch, the harvest and sale of undersized swordfish.
The problem we have is that many other countries are not complying with that ban. The purpose of this prohibition is to make sure that everyone is playing by the same rules and that our domestic fishermen are not disadvantaged.
Q In other words, you're telling me that American fishermen are not catching --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: The American fishermen have complied with the ICAT standards for swordfish, Atlantic swordfish. We want the other countries to come into compliance with those international standards.
Q On another international issue like that, on the turtle exclusion devices, didn't the court rule that illegal?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: There was a challenge by several Asian countries to a ban that the United States had placed on the importation of shrimp that is caught without turtle-safe methods. And that challenge was filed with the WTO, the World Trade Organization. The WTO did rule in favor of those Asian claimants. We are now appealing that decision.
Q Just one more thing on the technology issue. If the technology becomes advanced enough, could you waive the ban or lift the moratorium at some point within the 10-year span?
MS. MCGINTY: Well, the directive that the President will issue will recognize some parameters that come into play here. For example, if there were a national security reason for revisiting this decision. In terms of technology, again, I think we have a sense through our dialogue with industry of what might be on the horizon, and so, no, the President is acting here to say, with the exception of a national security concern of some kind, that this moratorium should stay in place in these areas until 2012.
Q The three new research vessels that -- is going to get, will any be on the West Coast?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: Yes, one of them. And we've already, as you know, for this year made the decision to provide the necessary stock assessment resources on the West Coast because of the problem with the West Coast ground fisheries. So we're going to be chartering out -- we're going to do whatever is necessary to make sure that we have adequate information.
One of the problems that we all face is that there is a paucity of information about some of the stocks. We must have good information in order to make these management decisions. You can't manage what you don't understand, and that was also one of the key issues and the themes of this conference.
I'd also point out one of the other issues that Katie brought up, and that is the problem that we're seeing with the oceans, the fact that the chemistry of the ocean is changing. Just as we've seen climate change, we're seeing the chemistry of the ocean change. One of the principal points the President has made in his Clean Water Initiative is that we have to control polluted run-off; that is one of the huge threats to our resources and to our economy. And that is something that he is going to expound on today, but it's in our budget, we're requesting it and the Congress needs to fund it.
Q Terry, where are the other research vessels based? And do they make up nearly all of this $194 -- or what else makes --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: In addition to the vessels, there will be additional funds for the implementation of Magnuson Stevens, the new fishery act amendments.
Q Does that mean you're going to be hiring more biologists? (Laughter.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: We haven't made specific decisions on what we're doing, but obviously there are personnel issues as well as the need to acquire additional resources for evaluating the stock assessments that we're going to be conducting.
Q Where are those ships going to be based?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: All around the country. Like I said, one of them will be out here on the West Coast, we have needs in the Gulf and on the East Coast. We're going to be looking at all alternatives, by the way, on how to collect this data -- through our own vessels as well as using commercial fishery vessels. I mean, one of the key things that we need to do here is to engage the industry in this process. We can't do it alone and we shouldn't do it alone. There's a lot of expertise out there; we need to utilize it. We also need to utilize the resources of the academic community, so we're going to consider chartering out, we'll consider putting our scientists on fishing vessels, and we'll use our own research vessels to conduct these stock assessments.
Q Does this mean we'll get annual surveys of the West Coast ground --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: We are going to do annual surveys. We cannot afford to do it every three years, as we have had to do in the past. We must have that information on an annual basis.
MS. MCGINTY: Let me say one thing by way of clarification for -- Terry referred to the Magnuson Act. It's the same thing that I earlier referred to in terms of the Sustainable Fisheries Act, the law that the President worked hard to pass in 1996. The Sustainable Fisheries Act was an update amendment to the Magnuson Act.
Q So all the $194 is in the proposed NMFS budget over the -- it's not another agency?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: Right.
Q What's the current budget, do you know?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: The current budget is about $340 million. That's an approximate increase of 40 to 50 percent over the level of funding when we came into this administration.
Q Back to oil drilling. Are some marine sanctuaries not off-limits to oil drilling?
MS. MCGINTY: There are some that in the original congressional legislation that set up the marine sanctuary where oil drilling or exploration -- oil drilling would have been precluded. There are others for which it's not, although for most of them there is a provision which talks about disrupting the seabed and would discourage disrupting the seabed. So you could imagine that that would encompass some oil drilling activities. But it's not clear, and for some the protection is not -- would be a matter of question. So the President wanted to remove all doubt; when it comes to marine sanctions, they should be protected.
Q Does anybody know what day in the year 2000 this expires? Is it January 1, 2000?
MS. MCGINTY: I would have to get back to you on that. I honestly don't know. You're referring to the Bush executive order directive. I don't know. We'd have to get back to you on that.
Q One last question on the Gulf of Mexico. Is it not as ecologically sensitive because it's already been destroyed by the industry? Because you've got that whole dead zone thing just floating off the coast of Texas and Louisiana.
MS. MCGINTY: Well, I think that there is some of that. I mean, it is an area that has seen and been home to fairly intensive exploration and development over the years. But to give industry their due, the technologies they have put in place I think have dramatically improved their operations there in the west Gulf. But I do think that just geographically and biologically, it's a different ecosystem than, for example, the east Gulf of Mexico, where there's more reef and then getting into the Florida Keys, which makes it more sensitive.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: We should clarify the dead zone is not something associated with the oil industry. This is due to nutrient loading into the Gulf. Nutrients from a number of different activities run-off.
MS. MCGINTY: And that's why the President's Clean Water Action Plan is so important.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: That's exactly right. It's related to harmful alga-blooms, red tides, brown tides the pfiesteria problem we had in the mid-Atlantic states. In fact, it hits every single coastal community in this country in one form or the other -- paralytic shellfish poisoning out here, red tides in the Gulf. These events shut down -- pfiesteria -- they shut down not just fisheries, they shut down economies. The Eastern Shore of Maryland, in just a two or three-week period, lost $40 million last year as a result of just one incident of pfiesteria. And it was all due to polluted run-off.
Q The environmental groups or some environmental groups I think have sued NMFS over its implementation of the Sustainable Fisheries Act. Is the point in here meant to address that? I think it has to do with whether or not you allow over-fishing of some smaller stocks within the broader region.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: Yes. I think, frankly, that there's been a fair amount of misunderstanding and misinterpretation by a lot of people of what we have done here. We were charged by the Sustainable Fisheries Act to issue guidelines to the councils. There are fishery management councils around the country -- it's their responsibility to develop regulations that deal with the commercial fishing industry and the harvesting of commercial fish stocks. These guidelines deal with a number of issues associated with the harvest of these commercial stocks -- for example, over-fishing, bicatch. They also deal with a collection of economic and social data.
One of those standards that we issued dealt with over-fishing and bicatch. On the over-fishing, you're right, there is one discreet provision in those guidelines that deals with mixed stock fisheries. And what we said was that we should not allow the weakest stock in a mixed stock fishery -- that is, if you've got 12 or 13 stocks in this fishery, you should not allow one stock that is perhaps weak to drive the entire fishery. Otherwise, we will be shutting down fisheries around this country.
We'd shut them down here on the West Coast, we'd have to shut them down in the Gulf, we'd shut them down on the East Coast. The impact on the economy, on these coastal economies, would be staggering. And we don't have to do that. What the guidelines say is that you councils have to take into consideration this problem of dealing with a mixed stock fishery, and you have to do it in a way that is going to allow you to continue to, hopefully, harvest those stocks that are healthy, but also begin the rebuilding process. But maybe you'll have to rebuild over a longer period of time in order to do that.
We're not saying we want you to over-fish. We're saying that we want you to do this in a responsible way. And we've given the councils guidance on how to do it. It's up to them to develop their amendments to their plans. And we've also told them that they can only do this under limited exceptions. You cannot, under any circumstances, develop a plan that would push a particular stock into a threatened or endangered category under the Endangered Species Act. So it's only a very limited circumstance under which you can do this.
Now, as far as bicatch is concerned, frankly, I don't understand why they sued us on that. The bicatch guidelines say that we are to eliminate bicatch in these fisheries. And to the extent you can't entirely eliminate it, you are required -- the councils are required to reduce it to the maximum extent possible. So we think that we have issues guidelines that are absolutely consistent with the Sustainable Fisheries Act.
I'd also point out that on over-fishing -- this mixed stock fishery -- the Sustainable Fisheries Act is an attempt to balance a number of goals. On the one hand, to be good stewards of the environment, but also to recognize that we have a very large economic stake in this resource so that we can harmonize these two interests. And we think that that's exactly what we've done.
Q Can you say a little bit more about this ports tax? Do you have any sort of formula on which it will be computed, or is it on the length of the ship, is it on the weight of the goods? How would that be calculated, does anybody know?
MS. MCGINTY: I think we'll have to give you that it is a fee that shippers will pay, but beyond that I can't elucidate it more for you.
Q How many new research vessels are planned and will they all come out of the additional $190 million, or, if not, what other activities are contemplated for that amount?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: Well, as I said, part of that $190 million is going to be used to continue to implement the various provisions and mandates of the Sustainable Fisheries Act, but a very large portion of that is for the fisheries research vessels. There are three vessels, but in addition to that -- in addition to owning and operating these research vessels, we are going to be using other vessels. We'll be using -- working with commercial fishermen, as I said earlier; we'll be working with the academic community; we will charter out; we'll look to the private sector to assist us.
I mean, the principal point here is that it's not who owns those vessels, but rather having access to the platform in the ocean to acquire the information that we need to make the management decisions. That's what we're seeking. We need the data. We need the information on these fish stocks in order to make the types of management decisions that the Sustainable Fisheries Act requires us to.
Q Could you characterize the problem, or the perceived problem to date with Pacific groundfish that leads you to want to monitor much closely -- or closer?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: Well, the problem with Pacific groundfish is that we have a number of species that are in the over-fished category. We have taken steps -- or rather the Fishery Management Council on the West Coast has taken steps to reduce the level of fishing effort for that fishery. But one thing that the industry and the environmental community has pointed out is that you need more information. We don't have enough information on all of the stocks.
We had been conducting, because of resource limitations both with our ships as well as dollars, stock assessments every three years. That's simply not adequate. And we met with the industry earlier this year and we promised that we would be doing this on an annual basis and we've deployed assets out here to conduct surveys this year.
MS. MCGINTY: Just to add to that for a second, Terry, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think -- the point that Dr. Baker had made the other day, I think, currently, we only have one research vessel that's dedicated to the West Coast --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: To the West Coast.
MS. MCGINTY: -- which includes the entirety of the West Coast and Alaska.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: Right. That's a good point.
MS. MCGINTY: So which species among that group of fish -- I think I know, but you're the expert -- would be recognizable by people who live on the West Coast --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: I can give you a list of them if you'd like.
Q Sir, do you foresee using any of the $194 million for observer programs, to getting a handle on bicatch?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: That's all part of it. We've announced a couple of programs recently -- a pilot program on the West Coast to examine the bicatch problem, to put observers out on the water.
Q There'll be more of that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GARCIA: There will be more of that. One of the key elements and the effort to reduce bicatch will be observers.
Q Do either of the actions on oil drilling require congressional approval -- can permanent ban drilling in the sanctuaries by executive order?
MS. MCGINTY: Yes, and the actions come pursuant to authority he has in the Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Act to withdraw land that he thinks should be withdrawn from development.
Q Including permanently in the sanctuaries?
MS. MCGINTY: The statutory provision isn't qualified in any way. It simply gives the President the authority to do those withdrawals as he deems to be in the national interest.
MR. LOCKHART: A couple of logistical things for the rest of the day and then if there's any other questions. The President will be recording his radio address at the end of the day today, so I expect the embargoed transcript to be available sometime after 12:00 a.m. We will make that available in the filing center for those who you who would rather come along first thing in the morning and look at it.
Secondly, there is a, I think at this point, better than 50/50 chance that we'll have an advanced text on the Portland State commencement address. We will make that available -- if it's available -- tonight late in the filing center. But those of you who have early deadlines for Saturday, if all things work well, when you wake up tomorrow morning they'll both be in the filing center.
Q Could you make those available at the Benson Hotel, the mini-file, as well, tonight, if they're available?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, absolutely. You guys should talk when you get on the press plane and just figure out with John and Nanda what the best way of doing it is, but I hope to, on the flight up to Portland, get the speech finalized so that we can do that.
Any other questions?
Q Can you give us a run-through on what's going to happen in Springfield?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. The schedule is still a little bit in flux, but what I expect to happen is the President to meet with a smaller group of people from the school -- some of the families that were directly impacted in this tragedy. And after that meeting, he'll speak to a larger group of students, parents, family, community leaders from the Springfield area. I expect that both of those things will be closed, and there will be no coverage of either event. But I think the President's views on his trip to Springfield and more specifically about what -- or more broadly -- what the government can do in these situations will be addressed in his radio address.
Q How large a group do you think he's going to talk to at this -- will it be like an assembly?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. I don't know what the exact number on the smaller group is, but I think that's in the dozens. I think the assembly will be over 1,000. They apparently have some assembly hall there at Thurston High.
Q That seems like a large event. Why can't we get somebody in there to cover this thing?
MR. LOCKHART: We are going on the invitation, acting on the invitation from the school, and we are deferring to them on this subject.
Q We'd like to appeal to at least have one pooler.
MR. LOCKHART: I understand, but I think there are some strong feelings there locally, and we're going to defer to them. I take your point on that, but I think we're going to go forward with what the people on the ground, how they want to proceed.
Q I thought the radio address was supposed to be on the anniversary of the President's race initiative. Has that now changed?
MR. LOCKHART: You must have heard about that on Thursday. This is Friday, Warren. That's unless it changes again. No, I think there was some thought earlier in the week that we might do something to tie in with the Portland State address, more on immigration.
Q This is a serious question. Do you expect him to address the race initiative in his speech tomorrow? This is the anniversary -- he himself said it was a year-long thing --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, as you've heard us say we're really not looking at this weekend as the significant, as the end of the year, as the significant point, because that really is the end of September when the board will finish their work. I think, given the subject of the speech, there is a natural tie in to the race initiative. So in the sense of immigration and America's strength is in our diversity, yes, I think there'll obviously be a connection. But this is not, as I think, I said yesterday -- we're not viewing this as the University of California San Diego II speech at the other end of the year. I think you'll see more references to that as we get to the end of September and then as we start preparing for the release of the report.
Q The radio address is about what?
MR. LOCKHART: The radio address will be about school violence and what we can do in Washington to try to address some of the issues that have been raised over the last several months.
Q Are you going to be able to tell us who he meets with after he meets with them in that small meeting? There's that young boy who was sort of viewed as the hero who was shot and --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I think I know who you're talking about. I don't know precisely who's in the group. I'll find out later in the day. And I'll be in a position to try to help tomorrow as far as some sort of readout on the meetings. But, again, at this point, we're going to stay with the coverage plans as announced.
Q If you know later today if he's meeting with that young boy, I'd like to know that.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay.
Q Will you be with the President tomorrow then?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q So will you brief us what he told these people, or is that going to be private, too?
MR. LOCKHART: I should be in a position to offer some sort of readout, depending on what transpires.
Q And no local press will be in there?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q Joe, I got in late, so you might have been asked this already. Do you have any comment on the report that Judge Johnson referred to Bruce Lindsey as acting improperly as an agent of the President?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to refer you to Mr. Ruff's comment in the story that ran in the L.A. Times this morning. And if you need something more than that, I think Jim Kennedy is in a position to offer our thinking on that issue.
Q I hate to bug you on this one issue. The assembly tomorrow -- are there passes that people are getting? Because I was up in Springfield during some of this, and there was the feeling that at these funerals -- one of the funerals that was closed, since no one was actually checking, there was some local press who were able to possibly walk in there and just act like they belonged in there.
MR. LOCKHART: I'll ask our people there to look into that. I'm obviously standing here, don't know the answer to that question.
Nothing else? That was easy.
END 11:50 A.M. PDT