Transcript of Meeting with D.C.-based Alaska Press

January 7, 2005

(Contact: Melanie Alvord -- (202) 224-8456) From time to time, we will make transcripts available to the press via email of interviews Senator Stevens has with the Alaska press based in Washington D.C. on issues related to the Commerce Committee. Below is such a transcript. This interview took place on Friday, January 7, 2005. Alaska Press – January 7, 2005 Chairman Stevens: Alright, let me tell you, we have started our new phase here in terms of my offices. We have organized the Commerce Committee. We’re going to set up the Commerce Committee Subcommittees when we get back. We’ve been going through a series of interviews with members of the Committee to make sure that we have an agreement about what I’d like to do with regard to subcommittee staffs and subcommittee jurisdictions. But, the Full Committee has been organized. Senator Inouye and I have had several meetings with our chiefs of staff and my chief of staff is Lisa Sutherland, and the general counsel will be David Russell, and the Deputy Chief will be Christine Kurth. We have been working with Senator Inouye and his people to try to establish a rapport on the Full Committee level so we can start out on a bipartisan basis to the maximum extent possible and start producing some of the results that we all seek from this Committee. This Committee used to produce the largest amount of legislation of any committee in the Senate and it has jurisdiction over so many things that you just can’t believe the scope of jurisdiction of this Committee. If you think of anything involving interstate commerce it’s within the jurisdiction of this Committee. There may be overlaps with other committees, but at least this committee has jurisdiction, whether it’s oceans, space, science and technology, economic development, aviation, communications, it goes on and on. We’ll end up I think by having ten subcommittees. And, we’re going to start the practice of making sure that each subcommittee has a staff director selected by the subcommittee chairman and that takes a little bit to get all of those people in the same frame of mind and working together. But, we’re on our may to doing it. This Committee will have tremendous impact on Alaska over the next six to eight years and I’m looking forward to making sure that’s the case. Now, other than that, if you have any basic questions about the Committee, I’d like to have them taken care of first and then we’ll go to Alaska matters. Question: I do, actually, it’s something we talked about a little bit the other day at Senator Murkowski’s reception. You mentioned that you intend to have some follow-up hearings on climate change and I’m just wondering if you have had a chance to think out what sort of approach you want to take to climate change at this point. Senator McCain had one tact that he went after. What is it that you want to do? Chairman Stevens: I’m not going to try to answer a question like that yet. We’re going to create a global climate change subcommittee and one of our colleagues will take that over and we’ll have some conferences. And, I would like to have some hearings where there’s some balance with regard to the information that the Congress receives. We have, (Dr.) Akasofu’s International Arctic Research Center, which has been doing in depth research on a multi-national basis on the whole subject of global climate change. They have come to some conclusions that are contrary to the ones we have been given in the past. Mainly, they say, that it is clearly not the actions of mankind that have brought about the changes that we’re seeing and that it may be in part that. But, so far the technology has not been developed to separate out that portion which is caused by mankind and that part which is strictly a natural evolution of the globe. So, I think we’re going to spend a lot of time on that. I don’t know who is going to be Subcommittee Chairman, and we may have some differences, we’ll have to wait and see. But, I’m not going to announce what my policy is. I just want to make sure that the information that’s received by our Committee and by the Senate and the Congress as a whole is balanced with regard to the scientific community. We want to follow sound science with regard to our actions on global climate change. Question: So, as a general matter, you think the jury’s still out and you still need to find more information about this? Chairman Stevens: I don’t think there is an abrupt schism in the scientific community. I think everyone says what I’ve just said – we still need more information. We need more real inquiry into these basic causes, but we shouldn’t come to a snap judgment on whether these are permanent. We do have, in Alaska, some real effects of global climate change. There’s no question about it, but we have to devise some way to deal with Alaska problems. It’s sort of related to what we’ve just seen in the terrible disaster in the Pacific because there are some people who say that points to global climate change. I don’t know how anyone gets to that conclusion right now, just on the basis of what we know so far. That’s what I’m saying, we want to get sound science before we make judgments. Question: And, just one little quick follow-up. So, in your mind, for example, the thing that (Senator) McCain and (Senator) Lieberman have proposed about climate change, you’re not there yet, you’re not ready to say you would support something like that, this whole proposal they’ve laid out about dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. Chairman Stevens: No, I think we have to have a review of the science before we make any judgment about that and the issues that are being raised. Senator Lieberman talked to me yesterday about his bill on the tsunamis. They want to make sure that the Atlantic has the protection of the Pacific. Well, for every 100 tsunamis in the Pacific in history, there’s been one in the Atlantic. We set up the tsunami system in the Pacific because that is where the threat was. Because something is happening of this magnitude in the Pacific, we don’t know whether that indicates there will be something of similar magnitude in the Atlantic, but history shows that is not the case. So, we have to be sure before we denude the system we have now in order to spread it out nationally – we haven’t even completed that yet, you know, we’re only half completed in terms of the tsunami warning system in the Pacific – and to slow it down in order to put something up in the Atlantic, where there is no indication yet that there is such a threat, I think we’ve got to have some real additional information before I take that on. Question: I was going to ask you about that. As I understand that, his proposal would be for up to 50 sensors, you know, for the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and some in the Atlantic. As a general matter do you think that’s a good idea? Chairman Stevens: Again, I’m going to talk to the scientists. I’m not going to talk to Senators or Congressmen about that. We want to know from a scientific point of view, is that warranted, and if it is, we’ll support it. Question: And, as far as Magnuson-Stevens, where is that headed? Chairman Stevens: Well, Magnuson-Stevens must be reauthorized and I intend to do all I can to see that it’s reauthorized. Question: Do you see more quotas, more processor quotas coming in the future? Chairman Stevens: Again, you know, you’re asking me questions that I’m not going to answer until I hear some – we’re going to listen more. Too many people in the past, on this Committee, have put legislation in and then listened to the scientists and to the people who have knowledge of the basic industry. I want people to stop and listen to those affected by these changes or by the proposed legislative changes before we say, yes, I’m going to support that. I’m not going to support legislation just because someone asks me to do it until I know what it’s all about and I’ve heard some of the evidence concerning the issues involved. Question: You said the other day, you’re going to need some time to staff up and figure out a game plan about what you’re going to do. Do you have any, even general, sense about when you might get into the meat of the Magnuson-Stevens Act? Will it be spring? Chairman Stevens: That will depend on how the Committee finally decides to allocate the subjects of the oceans. We have a tremendous number of issues involved in the oceans. I do intend to rejuvenate the National Ocean Policy Study, which was established by Congressional Resolution years ago and was abandoned in recent years. It has an ongoing function to try to keep track of issues about the oceans, which is not subjective, but is objective and is long-term. We do have the problem of the Watkins Commission Report on the Oceans, which was a presidentially-appointed commission, and its conflict with the Pew Commission Report, which was a privately generated report, which in many areas is inconsistent. They do have some areas of consistency. But, beyond that, we have a series of issues like reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. We have basic issues that involve fisheries and some that involve Coast Guard. I want to allocate these issues on the subcommittee level so that they don’t become bottle-necked by the demand for action on all of them at the same time. Obviously, one subcommittee cannot handle them all, is what I’m saying and I’m trying to split them down and there’s some concern on the Committee from some of the members about that, so we haven’t resolved that. It’s a basic issue we have not resolved yet and it’s holding up our announcing our subcommittees right now. Question: The Ocean Policy Study thing, is that something that was incorporated into a subcommittee before? Chairman Stevens: Senator Hollings and I asked for the Commission to be created and the President did appoint the Commission. They did a wonderful job. And, they’ve come up with a report. Question: No, I mean the thing that you were talking about. The thing that you used to have that was within the Committee structure? Chairman Stevens: It was, in effect, treated as a subcommittee and it had as its members, Senators who volunteered to be part of the study. But, we’re going to make it a subcommittee – Senator Inouye and I – in effect, a subcommittee on National Ocean Policy Study and continue, that’s a long-range thing. It’s not one that leads to legislation per se on anything other than a decade-by-decade basis. But the Watkins Commission Report, that ties in with the President’s initiative on the Oceans and we intend to work very closely with the Chairman on the Council of Environmental Quality in the White House and with our subcommittees to see if we can get on the same page and have the same objectives and the same priorities. Question: You mentioned the other day, that you’re planning soon, I think right away, to go out and talk with the airline industry people and about concerns. Chairman Stevens: I leave tomorrow for that. Question: So, what, are you. Chairman Stevens: I just spent some time with Marion Blakey, the head of the FAA, just before I came in to see you. We’re looking at the problems of the FAA. The problems of the FAA are basically funding, but the funding challenge arises because of the need for modernization and for the development of new technology to handle an ever-expanding air traffic control problem over the United States. So, I will be talking with them about that on Sunday and Monday and I’ll go onto other things later. Question: Do you have oversight of NASA through Commerce? Chairman Stevens: NASA is part of us. Question: And, do you see serious issues there? Chairman Stevens: There are very serious issues and it’s my hope that that subcommittee can be chaired by Kay Bailey Hutchison and by Bill Nelson from Florida, on the ranking side, on the other side, the Democratic side. We’ve got some very tough issues. We’re going to have to have a new NASA chief. My former staff member, Sean O’Keefe, has indicated he will retire within a month, I think and we’re waiting for the President to send up a nominee. But, very clearly it’s one of the areas we have some real problems and unfortunately most of the problems we have in Commerce go back to the seat I just left, the money, appropriations. Question: NASA seems to be more management, as well. Chairman Stevens: I think a lot of it is money in terms of their management problems because of the scheduling problems in replacing the shuttle and what you do in the interim and how we continue the space station under its current schedule and the approach beyond that. Those are all very serious problems and we’ve got some people on the Committee, on both sides of the aisle, who are extremely interested in that, I am. It’s one of those things we’ll spend a lot of time on. Question: Can you abandon manned exploration or slow it down? Chairman Stevens: You’re asking me questions I’m not going to answer again. I’m not going to state opinions about what we’re going to do until I‘ve listened to the scientists and NASA is a great example of that.