tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN October 1, 2015 11:00am-1:01pm EDT
silverton, as the clean river. >> senator bennett? >> thank you. since there are no other senators here today, i can say without fear of contradiction it is an enormous privilege to represent the most beautiful state in the country, colorado. i know senator gardener feels the same way. it reminds me how much inspiration we draw from the people we represent. you cannot come to the north or south and think about the people who built that community. or take the alpine loop trail, which i have done, and see railroads built at almost 14,000 feet by people. first of all, i always think how the character must have been like, the collaboration and how
it would feel to the people who built silverton. when you are traveling a lot through colorado, you never stop when you're in one of these jobs is. a favorite place for me is is the hotel that's right on the banks of the animas river, the double tree there in durango. if you get a room on the back, you open up the doors, and you can hear the river going by. there is nothing quite like it. let me first say, as mr. corra was saying, this community is open for business. there's lots to do in the winter and the summer months. people shouldn't take the long lesson from what we're trying to do here. you said this wok us up. in southwest colorado, that's
the heart of the issue going forward. we need to clean up the water from preventing future blowouts. i wonder if you could use an opportunity to talk about how the business community in durango is thinking differently about this. what did you wake up to and what can congress help do to help tackle this problem. >> all right. thank you for that. i think what we woke up to, on a personal level, we woke up to maybe our river wasn't as pristine as we always had assumed. we woke up to the fact that, gee, my kid splashing around in the water as a toddler, am i super comfortable with that. in reality, that water is is safe i trust the numbers from the epa. the water is safe. but it doesn't mean that the water is pure. it doesn't mean it is as good as
it should be. below the town of silverton, below cement creek, the river is essentially dead. there aren't fish and bugs in that river. there is 50 miles of pretty mild weather. we will take you on that stretch. that naturally cleans it up. the metals drop out at that point. so we do have a pretty clean river in town. but a lot of business owners i speak with, they are concerned about the optics. so they are concerned we've got this tainted impression across the country. i not the same phone calls as brad got. so what i think that you can do is we can fund some real cleanup up there. it needs to be done in a sensitive manner so it doesn't impact silverton. and i think it can be. the mines in cement creek aren't directly in the up to. and i think if it's done
properly, like in mow an, utah and other places, that the town will pft in the long term. if the optic is, hey, we are taking proactive action to clean this up, that goes for a long way for the businesses of silverton and certainly durango. >> on the same point you said in your testimony that silverton was ready for a new relationship with epa, a different relationship with epa. the epa is committed to constructing a temporary treatment plan, a as you know, but has not found a way to commit a permanent facility. tell us about the way you would like it to go going forward as we try to seek a solution to this. it is also important. mr. corra points out at the very end, and people need to understand this, the water being treated would not be right in silverton. it's north of the town. >> we are the top of the
watershed. and we understand that. and, yes, has this been a long problem. but i don't believe that we have to go status quo. now i want to make a point i'm not a politician. i have not been to every meeting with the epa. but a as a general citizen, also being part of the incident crisis team, my personal concern a has been lack of transparency, listening and analyzing all of these hearings that have been going on. again, my personal opinion is their testimony stands for itself. that's very concerns when you fight that into your backyard. he says mow an.
i said leadville. there is a well-written book on leadville and the impact on the community of leadville. just as many positive stories out there, there are also the horror stories. i personally see it as a wait list. that's my concern. i agree with mr. corra a that something needs to happen now is and today. i travel up to the actual site on a regular basis and i see the blue tarps and the i see the remediation. i see the holes and i see the sediment. again, personal experience the fact that gina mccarthy has never stepped foot in my county. the fact that we had to fight to get the epa to come do a meeting. the fact that not a all
situations work oblissfully are concerning to me as a third generation is silvertonian. is it immediate money, when we asked that when the epa came to town, there was a lot of we'll get back to you. i would love to trust. i would love to know that it would be instant, that it would come right away. but i don't. and hearing the real estate agency say just the talk of the stigma deals are getting canceled. loans are not being offered for construction loans within our new anville community are alarming for me. do i believe the intention is is there? yes. but i'm also a realist.
i know what i have seen and what i have heard in our relationship with the epa. i also would like to knowledge that we understand, and this might be weird to say. we are in an arranged marriage with the epa. we have been working with the epa for over 25 years. they're here. they've been here. it is this accident that they caused that brought this to the forelight that really made us the poster child from super fund or to not. where we are concerned as a community is is that it's your immediate neighbors. our definition of neighbors has changed. it's durango to farmington, to every county in town in state that touches that water. and we acknowledge that. we respect that. and we preach being brought to
the table here today. what my personal experience is while silverton hasn't been invited to the meeting. i received hate e-mails. we have had tourists turn down water. there is an impression and a stigma. and, again, we agree that that is our concern for long term. to say your cash register didn't change today does not mean it is not going to change tomorrow, next year, four years, five years. what is that going to look like? i'm thinking long term. for us to figure out and calculate what's happening today is going to be time in the future for when the tax numbers can come in and when the stories continue to roll. this is less than a couple months. it feels like 10 years. but it has only been less than a couple months. but what i ask, again, in the pioneer spirit, and this is
again personalized, is is is that we think outside of the box. is it the magic bullet? i don't know that. i can't say that. what does it actually mean to be on a priorities list, wait list, immediate remediation? we as well ant to see immediate remediation, to see that the work that's happening up there is wonderful. but let's keep going, let's move forward, let's make it permanent. we also want a water treatment plant. but does it have to be done like it has been done since the '80s. i don't know that. again, we're turning over our trust to you. >> thank you. to follow up on some of the comments that have been made about the funding and some of the 495 or the claims themselves, to your knowledge, as anybody been reimbursed for a claim that has been filed?
>> no. >> no. >> there is no timeline given for what it will be filed? any time frame to the best of anybody's knowledge? >> the county actually set up with the epa meeting place where people could come to get help filling it out. it is not an easy form to fill out. but the county was proactive in helping folks fill that out. and i believe they can still get help if they need to. i think the incident command center has kind of been -- has stood down at this point. but i think there is still some help out there. >> senator bennett, do you have any follow-up questions or anything? >> let me ask you one question which is, is there more that
senator gardener and i can be helpful to you as you try to interact with these federal agencies or think about what legislation we might want to pass? >> well, the epa is a pretty big machine. we found that out when they come to town in force. they were up in silverton on a small skill. it turned into a big scale is. when they came in, incident was a pretty big group of folks that showed up. but i think that could be something that works against them almost. so many people that came. and a lot of different folks would show up every week. we would ask for certain things. the next group would can come in and the ball would get dropped i think the size might actually be a detriment. i would agree that a
collaboration would be good if possible. because there are a lot of experts from the mining industry that have done a lot of good work up in the mineral creek drainage. they have done a lot of cleanup on their own on a piecemeal. they do one here, one there. and that is an opportunity to see the best things happen. you see experts that have been doing it. they put in bulk heads. they have seen a lot of cleanup. not that the epa doesn't have experts. but there are people who have been there a long time. i would agree i think a collaboration is really the best way to go. >> okay. well, i appreciate it. i just want to, as chairman gardener says at the outset is, thank each and every one of you for coming here today. it's a long trip, i know. and you've got day jobs you need to worry about. so we're very grateful. but this testimony has been incredibly helpful.
and our office will continue to work with you to make sure we put this right. thank you, senator gardener for holding this hearing. >> thank you for your preservation. thank congressman tipton. and witnesses, thank you for your time and testimony. there is a lot of work we need to do following up. ideas on reimbursement, time frame. we have to figure out what the time frame is going to be. lost opportunity. form 95 can be filed two years. does that mean somebody next summer is after they realize they have seen an impact, can they file? or does it have to be during the time frame. again, we will get the answers from the epa for those questions. but you have a commitment from senator bennett and i to continue to work on these issues. whether it's the 1872 mining law, good samaritan law. these are things -- we can't wait. and you're here today as part of
so this hearing is the latest in a series that congressional committees held concerning the spill into the animas river last summer by an epa contractor. we carry most of those, not all, live. go to c-span.org. i want to remind you that coming up at 12:30 eastern here on c-span3, the president of latvia will discuss the geo-political situation in eastern europe and plans for increased defense spend anything that country and the my grant crisis in europe. that will be live 12:30 eastern here on c-span3.
and to get us there, the environment and public works committee held a hearing impacting the epa's gold king mine disaster. this took place a couple of weeks ago. the hearing looked into the epa's response and the subshe kwepbt impact on the environment and the economies of some of the states, communities, and indian tribes. the sole witness was gina mccarthy, administrator of the epa. >> well, thank you. good morning, mr. chairman and members of the committee. i'm gina mccarthy. i'm the administrator of the united states environmental protection agency. again, i thank you for the opportunity to appear today and to discuss the august 5 gold king mine and the epa's subsequent response. this was a tragic and unfortunate incident. the epa has taken responsibility to make sure we clean it up
appropriately. epa's core mission is to ensure a clean environment and to protect public health. and we're dedicated to continuing to do so. our job is to protect the environment. and we will hold ourselves and continue to hold ourselves to the same high standards that we demand of others. they were conducting an investigation to assess mine conditions in ongoing water discharges so we could dewater the mine pool and further assess remediation. while excavating, the lower portion of the bedrock crumbled and approximately 3 million tkpal hropbsz of pressurized water discharged from the mine into cement creek, this is a tributary of the animas river. officials were informed within hours of the release before the plume reached drinking water intakes and irrigation diversions and notification to other downstream jurisdictions
continued the following day, allowing for all of those intakes and diversions to be closed prior to the plume's arrival. in the aftermath of the release, we initiated an internal review of the incident. and we released an internal review summary report which includes an assessment of the events and potential factors that contributed to the gold king mine incident. the report provides observations, conclusions, as well as recommendations that our region should consider applying when conducting ongoing and planned site assessments, investigations, and construction or removal projects a at similar types of sites across the country. epa will implement and share its finding with external reviewsers. as you know, the department of the interior is leading an independent assessment of the facts that led to the gold king mine incident.
the goal is to provide epa of an analysis, including the contributing causes. both internal and external reviews will help inform epa for ongoing and planned site assessments, investigations, constructions, and removals. one of our foremost priorities to keep the public informed and our response activities. it is closely coordinated with federal partners and officials in colorado, utah, the tribes, and navajo nation to keep them approved of water and sediment sampling results which are routinely posted on our website. water and sediment have returned to pre-event conditions and supported local and state decision makers as they made the decision to lift water restrictions along the animas and the san juan river. finally, i want to clarify epa was working with the state of
colorado to address both the potential for a catastrophic release and the ongoing adverse water quality impacts caused by the significant mine charges in the upper animas watershed. based upon 2009 to 2014 flow data, approximately 330 million gallons of contaminated water was being discharge said from those mines in the watershed to cement creek and the animas river. that's 100 times more than the estimated release on august 5th. epa was and continued to work with the state of colorado, as well as the a animas river stakeholder group to address these significant discharges from mines in the upper a animas watershed that are impacting these waters. i think it's important to note that all across the country our super fund program has successfully cleaned up more than 1,150 hazardous be waste
sites and successfully responded to or provided oversight for thousands of removal actions to protect human health and the environment. that reflects our longstanding commitment to protect human health and the environment. all of the affect said residents of colorado, new mexico and the tribes can assure epa has and we will continue to take responsibility to ensure that the gold king mine release is cleaned up. thank you, mr. chairman. that conclusion my statement. i'm happy to answer any questions you or the committee may have. >> thank you, administrator. let me go ahead and try to stake out where i think your position is and what your position is so others can address that position. both the epa and the contractor now there was a risk of a blow outat the gold king mind. do you agree that the epa should have spent the time and money to do the necessary engineering and water pressure tests before work
began there? just yes or no. >> sir, my position is the state of colorado, the animas river stakeholder group knew it. it was in the work plan. we were actually there, sir, because of the danger of a blowout. >> okay. so your answer is no. did epa designate the cleanup here as time critical to cut corners and avoid having to do a detailed engineering study? >> no, sir, we did not. >> why didn't the epa ask is the inspector general is or another federal agency or group like the national academies that does not have a conflict of interest? there have been a lot of concern about a conflict of interest that would have been there with the doi. why didn't you address one of them as opposed to the doi? >> it is is important to remember that we have put on hold other similar mining
responses many of which are time critical. we went to doi because they had the expertise. they are bringing the army corps in. we believe they are independent. the oig is is investigating this incident as well is. >> so you're saying then doi, those who are saying that doi would have conflict of interest are not accurate. >> i do not believe they have a conflict of interest. >> have the recent problems with office of emergency management contributed to the gold king mine spill or affected epa's response? >> i'm not aware of recent problems with our office of environmental management. >> and then lastly, senator bennett made the statement that there is no denying that the epa caused this disaster. senator gardener in his
statement complained that you were not available for some period of time. your schedule didn't -- to discuss this with senator gardener. is that incorrect? >> well, sir, we have taken full responsibility -- >> i understand that. >> and i was there on the 12th and 13th. the original response was quite hectic and ongoing. i certainly didn't want my presence there to confuse the situation. but i'm not aware the senator reached out in any way. i didn't respond right away. >> did you hear a statement that he made? >> i did not hear his statement, sir. >> you might look at that. >> now, another topic, because i have a short while here and it's very important. while you're here, the department of justice recently told a federal court that epa would submit the final carbon rules to the federal register by september 4th and that publication would occur by late october. did the epa submit the rules to
the federal register by september 4th? >> i'm sorry, sir. i don't have those numbers in my head. i didn't expect this question. >> well, i know that. but it's significant, though. we need to know. that was the deadline that was given. and whether or not you complied with the deadline. >> i don't have the exact data. i'm more than happy -- >> do you have staff sitting here that might be able to answer that question? >> we can certainly get you the answer as quickly as possible. i do not have my office of air and radiation staff here given the subject matter of the hearing. >> are you aware that delaying publication interferes with the ability of congress to do -- and the public to legally challenge the rules for the -- before the big show. >> i'm aware both you and i want this to get in the federal register as soon as possible. >> senator boxer? >> thank you, senator. thank you, mr. chairman.
administrator mccarthy, i want to point out that senator bennett did praise you for being able. there is confusion. one you said you were, one you said you weren't. anyway, i'm moving on. >> i certainly had a conversation with senator gardener. >> good. >> i'm unaware of being unavailable. >> we'll clear it up. administrator mccarthy, the super fund called for epa to issue rules requiring certain industries to provide financial assurances for cleanups so that taxpayers are not on the hook. in 2009, epa identified the hard rock mining industry as the first class of facilities requiring financial assurance. in other words, that they would be there should their action cause a problem. epa is under taking this rule making. now you are under court order to finish that rule by december 2017. can you describe the steps epa
is taking to ensure these critical rules are promulgated according to the court's schedule. >> we have committed to an august 2016 draft. prior to that draft, we intend to work with our sister federal agencies so we can be assured that the financial responsibility rule will be as accurate as it can be in terms of how much the parties should take for cleanup and how best to ensure the financial ropblt will be solid and appropriate. >> my understanding, senator, is that we do have an ability to require financial responsibility for our existing and new active sites. the challenge for us are these legacy sites that we are talking about, like gold king mine where
we do not have a responsible party that we can lean to that we will not be able to address those issues with this particular rule making. >> okay. administrator mccarthy, in response to the gold king mine spill, you issued a stop work order at all hard rock mine sites. and you asked a review of weather those sites pose a potential for a blowout, similar to what happened at the gold king mine. i want to that you know for that. because clearly we don't want to play russian roulette with these mines. it has resulted in suspension at three sites, including three in california, four in colorado. again, i appreciate your quick action to identify other sites that could present a concern. can you describe what actions are being taken to assess the potential risk at these sites?
>> i can, senator. you're absolutely right. we were concerned that any similar situation learned from the independent review that is being done from doi before they proceeded. we have identified as best we can all the sites that epa is engaged in, which is a small fraction of the sites that you want to look at. it is over a couple hundred. we are looking at the similarities between this and the gold king mine incident. and we are allowing sites to proceed where there is an imminent haz hard. hazard. if not, we are waiting for the review to be done to make sure similar sites learn the lessons we are going to learn on the basis of what happened at the gold king mine and what the investigation by doi and other independent entities indicate. >> thank you. i think that is wise. cleanups of abandoned mines by
good samaritans is who will be responsible if something goes wrong during the cleanup. this is my concern. who pays if things go wrong and something could easily go wrong. so if good samaritans are not responsible, who would be on the hook for those costs? would it not be tax payers? >> yes, it would be. >> that is why i think it's critical that we can work together to come up with some rules that makes some sense so we can include good samaritans but not have a situation where they just go in there. look, if epa made this kind of mistake, and i know it weighs heavy on your heart, that epa is in there. and look what happened. now a good samaritan comes forward without any of the expertise. it could happen again. so we have to be very, very careful about it. i just want to say, the obama
administration is going to install a fee for hard rock mining. you can't just wish it away and wish it would be cleaned up. so i hope as a result of this hearing and your openness to perform that we can make good reforms in epa. and also where we can have a new era to truly clean up the sites. thank you. >> thank you, senator boxer. >> thank you, mr. chairman. administrator mccarthy, i would like to follow up a little bit on what the chairman started visiting with you about. on august 18th, the epa announced that the department of the interior would conduct an independent investigation to the causes of the spill and issue a report by late october. doi announced that the bureau of
reclamation would review. there are several conflicts of interest you have spoken about and you don't believe were involved. you're disagreeing with there being conflicts. what i'm curious about, if this is an independent review, and we assume that's the way you set it up to be, most certainly there would be a contract or document as to what the expectations were from the doi. is there a memorandum of agreement concerning what the doi would review. and if there is, why haven't we received copies as requested by this committee. epw staff has requested the documents, including the charge questions or the scope of the doi's work. this is as of last evening. why has your agency not publicly released the documents. will you commit to sending them to us following the conclusion of this hearing? >> well, senator we were as i
think as sensitive as you were to making sure this review was truly independent. one of the decisions we made to ensure that was for epa not to actually ourselves control the scope of the investigation. we thought it was important for the independence of doi that they articulated that scope themselves so epa wouldn't be accused of narrowing that inappropriately. so we are leaving that up to doi. and i am happy to follow up to see if i can be helpful in getting information on how they have defined that. as far as i know, epa has not seen that documentation either. >> i'm sorry. but you said that you have an independent -- you're anticipating an independent review. but you don't know if the epa has seen the document which lays out the scope of the investigation by an independent firm?
>> epa did not dictate the scope of that investigation. >> but certainly you would have seen a copy of what was expected from the independent agency. >> they will dictate that themselves. they will live with whatever scope doi believed is important by an independent investigator. >> by now that document should exist, shouldn't it? you have indicated you have stopped work based on the preliminary report. it must be based on an understanding of the review in the first place. >> my understanding is that doi indicated they would do the review. they understand they would be establishing the scope. it's my understanding they are intending to complete this review in october. >> so either the documents exist and your agency has not seen them. or second of all, the documents are still being developed, at which time my question would be -- because if not, we should
be able to see a copy of them and it shouldn't be that tough to get them. >> sir, i am continuing to make sure epa is not perceived as interfering in this investigation in any way that would question the independence of doi's review. and that's what we're going to continue to do. >> if it's an independent review, though. >> yeah. >> it seems to me the independent review agency would have at least provided you with a copy of what they would be reviewing and how they would do it. >> in this case i do not believe we have seen that type of documentation. >> you have not? >> we have seen the press release. that is what we have seen. i know their review is is going to be looking at the incident skpeufts contributing factors. beyond that i haven't seen a limitation how they will conduct that. >> has there been a preliminary report issued to your agency from the independent doi --
>> no, sir. the only communication we have had was to look at the press release that was issued. we are hands off on this to address the very issue that you are concerned about, which is our independence. >> but the reason why i'm asking the question is just a moment ago you indicated that you have already shut down work. i believe you shut down work at other locations based on the information already received and learned. >> yes -- no. >> did that not come from doi? >> oh, no, no. that was from our -- look, from our own national mining subgroup or team, national mining team, at epa has done a review of all the npl, the mines that are on our npl list. they have taken a look a at what might be closely similar to this effort. and they are can consistently looking to see what should continue or not. if there is any similarity or chance we need to learn lessons here, the reviews, assessments and work is on hold pending the
result of this investigation. >> would that report, which created the need to suspend the existing operations, would that be available for this committee to review? >> it is available. it was a memo i sent. it was a directive to the agency, which i thought was appropriate to do, to be very cautious. there was no way in which the gold mine release would happen again at another site because i was unclear. and i will remain unclear until the independent review is is done about what was the real contributing factor. what happened that we need to make sure so it never happens again. >> thank you for your testimony. >> thank you. >> senior cardin. >> one thing i would hope all of us would agree upon is that we do want the independent review. and we want it done with the integrity of an independent review. >> yes, sir. >> to seniors what happened.
as you said, to prevent this from happening in the future. so i think we all support a that. and we appreciate your commitment to that independent review. i want to ask a broader questioning. i was listen to go my colleague's testimony. hard rock mining of course took place in many parts of our country. clearly the states impacted the most are the ones we heard about today. they all create some environmental challenges. some have been under control and have been pretty well understood. others are much more problema c problematic. and we are still evaluating the risk factors as to whether action is is needed. and that was what's part of the process that led to this particular episode. i was impressed by the senator's comments that we haven't reviewed the laws for a long period of time.
i understand the cal environment we're operating under. i would hope we would get your evaluation as to whether the current laws, either the clean act or the rules for inactive mines are adequate. do we really hold the right person accountable for the reclamation. do we need to have a dedicated funding source to deal with these urgent needs in order to protect the environment and water for the communities involved? it seems to me that considering the challenge. and if senator heim rick is is correct, we need to be at least understand this and have more transparent awareness that there is ongoing problems every day. and yet are we taking appropriate actions to make sure
our communities are as safe as they need to be. how do we go about doing that. >> senator, just to put this problem in perspective, we are talking about 23,000 abandoned mines in colorado alone. more than 161,000 in the west and alaska. and so clearly this is a very large challenge. i think i would point to the fact that the administration in its fiscal year 16 budget actually proposed a fee charged on hard rock mine to go support a fund that would allow us to do a better job at tackling these abandoned mines and the continual impact they are having on water quality. and i think it's important to remember that many federal agencies have jobs to do in this. but there's no leadership position that actually is the one that's accountable for the speier issue. and it makes it very difficult.
from epa's perspective, we really track the mines only, you know, a small percentage of what's out there on the abandoned mines actually make it into the npl list, which is our responsibility to track and monitor and to take action if there is imminent action or short-term action. in this case it was a mine that is not on that list, that the local community didn't want on that list. but the state was unable on their own wherewithal to address this challenge. and we have been working 17 to 20 years to try to figure out how to address the 400 mines in the upper animas river. you know, it is an incredible challenge. but when epa responded when the state wanted us to look at this issue, the pressurization behind the gold king mine, which had been going on unattenuated for quite some time.
we went with them on the site. we developed the work plan with them. it went to public meetings to the stakeholder group in the animas river. incident was completely open, completely transparent. everybody agreed on the next steps. those are the next steps we took. >> i thank you for that. i just ask that you keep us -- advise us as to whether you have adequate tools. we talked about your budget with a dedicated funding source, whether the laws are strong enough. we want to protect the community and hold those responsible, accountable for the reclamation. it seems that the tools could be stronger. >> yes, sir. thank you. >> thank you, senator cardin. senator sullivan. >> administrator mccarthy, i want to echo what our panel mentioned at the outset. senator udall talked about life
out west. that's something we all agree with. we certainly want clean water. i agree with senator boxer we all want to make sure polluters are accountable to help make sure we want to keep our water clean. but i want to emphasize what senator gardener talked about. it the government should be held to the same standards. >> i believe a higher standard. 12k3w4r i believe that's why the npl sites are on the npl sites. >> what do you think would happen to a private company if they had done what they had done with the animas river? accidentally causing a blowout. very significant pollution. some arguments saying it took too long to notify. what do you think would happen
to a private sector company that that happened to? >> in my estimation. again, the facts will be borne out or not by the independent review. but the way in which you do an action like this which is difficult to do is is you first make sure that if there is an accident -- >> let's assume that -- >> i'm trying to explain. my answer is -- >> i don't have a lot of time. >> right. >> what do you think would happen if you guys hired a contractor. it accidentally caused eruption. >> that's right. >> what do you think would happen to a private sector company? >> exactly the same thing epa did if they take the same -- >> but what kind of penalties -- >> there would be no penalties unless it was against a settlement or an order. >> mr. chairman, i would like to submit a wall street journal article that lays out several examples of even smaller than this, private sector companies
where there was an accident, there was pollution. and officials were criminally charged, some went to jail. >> without objection. >> if you think that the epa should be held to the same standards as a private company or higher standard, do you think anyone from the epa should be criminally liable or go to jail for what happened? >> i have not received the independent review that will fully tell me what happened at that site using an in voice and i. and i am looking forward to that. the sequence of events when you have a spill is to keep your people safe at the site. it is then to stop the spill as quickly as possible. it is then to ensure the cleanup. that is exactly what epa is is -- >> all i'm saying, administrator, is is your agency has on a number of occasions, criminally charged people for accidental spills. and some have even gone to jail. on spills smaller. so if you're going to hold your
agency to a higher standard than the private sector, you need to be aware of what you have donees an agency in the past. and i do want to mention, this is frustration in the country, frustration of why people have focused on this. we have, like the other states, abandoned mines in alaska. we also have abandoned legacy wells. i know it is not epa's responsibility. we have wells that are still leaking oil right now, right now. and if you are private sector ceo in charge of a company like that, you would be in jail. right now blm allows abandoned wells to leak all over the state of alaska. they don't clean these up. let me talk more broadly. i assume you also believe the epa should be following the law like the private sector is and u.s. citizens have to do, correct? >> of course, sir. yes. >> so are you familiar with the
michigan verse, supreme court case had utility air regulators versus epa? just a recent case, north dakota, alaska sued the epa. are you familiar with those cases? just came out as a preliminary injunction? >> are you talk building the clean water rules, sir? >> these are three instances in the last year and a half, two supreme court cases where the epa has either violated the constitution, the clean water act, or the clean air act? >> sir, i wouldn't characterize it that way. but i understand -- >> that's exactly the way to characterize it. raoetd the opinions. what would happen to a private sector company if it was continually violating the law the way the epa does. >> i don't believe we're violating the law, sir. >> have you read the michigan versus epa case? >> i am familiar with that.
>> have you read the regulators -- >> i understand there is a preliminary injunction. >> no. these are two u.s. supreme courses that said the epa violated the clean water act and the clean air act and the and the north dakota federal court just recently said the waters of the u.s. rule, which we've debated here, a lot of us think it violates the law. do you think a private sector company could serially violate the law and not pay consequences? >> so this is the way the process works when you do rules. epa interprets the law as best it can. it develops the rules. the vast majority of them do go to court and the vast majority, epa wins. the time we don't, we listen to the court and take action. that does not mean we violated the law and the constitution. >> i think you need to reread the cases, because that's exactly what the supreme court said. thank you, mr. chairman. >> the "new york times" reported
recently that president obama has told his administration to take in at least 10,000 displaced syrian refugees over the next year. coming up, the immigration subcommittee holds a hearing on the number of impact of refugees entering the u.s., live at 2:00 p.m. eastern. >> student cam is c-span's opportunity for students to think critically of issues of national importance by creating a five to seven-minute documentary in which they can express those views. it's important for students to get involved because it gives them the opportunity and a platform to have their voices heard on issues that are important to them, so they can express those views by creating a documentary. we do get a wide range of entries. the most important aspect for
every documentary that we get is going to be the content. we have had winners in the past created by just using a cellphone, and we have had others created by using more high tech equipment. once again, it's the content that matters and shines through in these document rharies. the response has been great. we have topics ranging from education, the economy, and the environment, really showing a wide variety of issues that are important for students. >> having more water in the river would have many positive impacts to better serve the tulsa community and the businesses inside it. >> we've definitely come to the consensus that humans cannot run without food. >> prior to the individuals with disabilities education act or the i.d.e.a., children with disabilities are not given the opportunity for an education. >> this year's theme is the road
to the white house. what's the most important issue you want candidates to discuss in the 2016 presidential campaign? it's full on into the campaign season. there are many different candidates discussing several different issues. one of the key requirements in creating a documentary is including some c-span footage. this footage should complement their point of view and not just dominate the view. it's a great way for them to include information from the video that furthers their point. >> the water resources reform and development act. >> we've all heard the jokes about school meals and certainly growing up, the burnt fish sticks and mystery meat tacos. >> there's a vital role that the federal government plays. it's especially vital for students with disabilities. >> students and teachers can go to our website, studentcam.org. they'll find more information about the rules and requirements. they'll also find teacher tips,
rubrics to help them incorporate into their classroom, more information about prizes, incorporating c-span video, and ways to contact us if they have any further questions. the deadline for this year's competition is january 20, 2016, exactly one year away from the next presidential inauguration. coming up at 12:30 eastern time, we'll take you to latvian president raimonds vejonis at the national press club. the latvian president is expected to discuss the geopolitical situation in eastern europe, plans for increased defense spending in his country, and the refugee crisis in europe. until then, part of a discussion looking at nato's role in eastern europe. >> you just said that people are always asking you what is vladimir putin thinking. and i was just about to ask you that. so i will rephrase that
question. do we even understand what mr. putin wants in ukraine? >> so i go back to the original premise. i'm not sure that i can guess what mr. puts wants in ukraine. i've read the pundits just like you do, and i agree with most of them. i look at, again, the capabilities and capacities that mr. putin is creating and ask, to what end would they be. so what we see now, some like to call it a movement towards a sort of a frozen conflict. i don't like that term. i think it's more of a warm conflict. i think that mr. putin is continuing to provide those things that allow the conflict to simmer in the southeastern part of ukraine. why would he do that?
i think that what he has demonstrated is that he can destabilize and keep the situation unstable in the southeast. and why would he do that? if the situation is unstable in the southeast, this discourages foreign investment. this keeps ukrainians in the field, a cost and a burden to the government of kiev. if it keeps the situation in southeast ukraine unstable, it continues to demonstrate to the people of the rest of greater ukraine possibly that their government can't influence or retain control of this area. so all of this is de stabilista and not helpful to a government in kiev that needs to get on with reform, that needs to it on with economic recovery, that needs to encourage international
investment, et cetera, et cetera, etc. and a warm conflict in the southeast part of ukraine is detrimental to all of these possibilities. >> do you think nato is eventually going to get okay with the idea of sustaining warm conflict? >> again, i'm at great risk to speak for nato, so i won't do that. i think that what is important is that the nations of the west, more than nato, eu and others, continue to see what is happening in eastern ukraine. we talk about getting to minsk, the minsk agreement being the final point at which we measure what's going on in ukraine. and the implementing ingredients of february last year, 12 february, point to the minsk agreement of the year before.
in that minsk agreement there are some pretty important points, one of them, which i like to talk about often, is the reestablishment of the international border of ukraine, the reestablishment of the sovereign actions of ukraine inside of its internationally recognized borders. there are a lot of things that need to be done before we are there. remember that we have had well over 1500 armored vehicles and armored capabilities moved into eastern ukraine. we have air defenses there now. we have russian command and control structures there now. we have immense stockpiles of equipment and kit to support those forces in the east. in order to get all of that out to reestablish the border, the sovereign border of ukraine, that will take months and months. what about a good show of faith
to show that we have a responsible way forward to reestablishing the international border of ukraine? >> what do you think are the chances then of the minsk agreement coming into fruition in the next couple of months? >> next couple of months? >> in the coming months. i mean, the kremlin has already continued to provide military support to the separatists in eastern ukraine. >> i think this is a long term proposition, not a short term proposition. >> so defense secretary ash carter has in some ways sort of become the secretary of reassurance. everyone he go everywhere he goes, he is reassuring our allies, israel, japan. definitely in the case of our
eastern european allies. almost all of the reassurance steps we've taken so far militarily seem to be temporary. we've seen rotational deployment. we've seen more exercises. we've had supplemental funding. what needs to be permanent? what is the new normal? >> so i like the second part of your question better than the first. i won't use the "permanent" word. what the new normal is, is that i think we will see these assurance measures for quite some time. and it's more than the united states. it's about our nato allies being a part of assurance. again, coming out of wales, we set ourselves -- i was tasked as the military leader to develop assurance measures. and they were broadly described as air, land, and sea, north, center, and south. and so we've set about building those assurance measures, air,
land, and sea. you can't do sea in the middle, but, you know, physics is physics. north, center, and south. and so we have done that. we have a great rotational presence, several nations but certainly the united states, of ground forces which are, we say heel to toe and continuous, in the baltic nations, in poland and romania, so that we have a land presence there to train, and then that land presence also facilitates exercises or receives increased presence to do more exercises. in the air presence, we have trimmed our air policing stance so that we, before the russian incration cratiovasion of crim
three. we had amari in the north, and we've done one in the south, either poland or romania, continuously since that time. then our sea presence has taken several forms. increased positioning of our mine countermeasures groups. as you know, now the u.s. has four forward destroyers, aegis capable that we have continuous presence in the med and other locations. so we have developed these air, land, and sea assurance measures, north, center, and south. i think that's the new normal. and i think that we saw that affirmed through the last series of ministerials. and that will be i think further defined as we go through warsaw. >> what about permanent u.s. forces in nato east? what's your view on that? >> i think we will never see --
define "permanent." you're talking about u.s. bases with commisaries and hospitals and schools? >> you can rachet it back. we don't have to talk about schools. >> i'm not hopeful that we would see a large new movement of forces out of america into europe, for a lot of reasons. one, you don't uproot all the jobs of a large force in america, in today's world. i think what you're going to see in the future is increased rotational presence. i think you'll see an increase in our forward stationing of stocks and supplies and capabilities. and then forces can go back and exercise and work to create a presence.
but i just don't, in all honesty, i do not see large u.s. forces permanently, meaning hospitals, schools, commisaries, returning to europe. >> what are the next steps in ukrainian military training and assistance, then? are we training these guys to do lethal things? i know we're not providing lethal aid at this point. if we are, if we are training them to do lethal things, why won't would he gie give them le weapons? >> that's a good series of questions. what we do in the future with the ukrainians is largely up to the ukrainians, what they ask for. currently we're there training their national guard troops. i've been there. i visited the training at a training range literally inside the polish border, extreme
western part of ukraine. and we are training them in small unit skills, just like we train ourselves in small unit skills. and any time a small unit has weapons in their hands, how does one define that? that weapon is lethal. it could also be defensive. i mean, it's just really -- this is, how do you apply the words. so we're in the midst of a training program for their national guard troops. i believe there is ongoing discussions now to move to minister of defense troops after that. i would not want to prejudge any discussions that either our or ukrainian decisionmakers make at this point. >> can you walk through for me, though, the rationale at this point in not giving them, providing them lethal weapons? >> i think that i can best do
that by reciting what you have heard the pundits say. and that is that lethal weapons now may be seen as provocative in a situation where there is hope that we have reached a wall or at least a decrease in the fighting. i think that's what you hear most say. >> but you sound like a man who does not believe that. >> you have heard me, many in this group has heard me before. i have testified that i believe that as we approach this problem, that we should not take any option off the table. all options should be considered. that has been my advice, and it hasn't changed. >> warsaw.
can we talk a little bit, before we get to problems of the east, what can nato do about problems in the south? and i'm speaking specifically now on migration. what should the role of nato be here, and is this something that will be taken up in a real way next year? >> so once again, i will not put words in the mouths of 28 political insiders. what i always talk about is nato has things it can offer if our political leadership chooses to do that. let me point you to two great examples. the problem of piracy off the horn of africa. nato partnered with the eu. the military competency, the military command and control structure, the military force structure of nato, married with the eu's unique other governmental capabilities
reaching into the judiciary, policing, and other "assure" functions so that the military competencies afloat, married to the competencies ashore. clearly the ships and merchant lines have also helped. but what you saw was a great marriage of what nato can bring to a problem with what the eu can bring to a problem. and it virtually eliminated piracy off the horn of africa. we have competences and capabilities we can bring to a company. one more quick example is the ongoing progress, slow but measurable progress, we're making in kosovo. the mission working with the
rule of law are you judiciary, policing, coupled with k-4, being recognized by belgrade as the force keeping and maintaining what we call the safe and secure environment, and guaranteeing freedom of movement. so we have a k-4 nato capability, unique military capacities and disciplines, married to the other governmental capabilities of the european union, bringing opportunities to kosovo. so i think there are places where nato in concert with other entities that can address other parts of the root problem, there is opportunity. but again, there is entirely a decision to be taken by our nato political leadership. >> do you see a challenge then
for nato in figuring out a way to balance allies' concerns in the east versus the south? >> well, i think it's best been said, probably three ministerials, including at wales, and that is, we have to be big enough to do both. we have to be big enough to do both. and the capabilities and capacities, i know you're tired of me saying that, but the capabilities and capacities that we build and sustain in nato, in our military capabilities, these are applicable to both problems. you know, the air and maritime parts of the vjtf are equally applicable in the mediterranean as they are in the north sea or the black sea. so there are things that apply to both. so as we go forward, building and enhancing our readiness and
responsiveness, all of that brings tools to the table that can be used either east or south. the problem in the south is that there are so many more tools that need to be in the kit bag that are beyond nato's core military competency that we would need to be in concert with others to truly get at the issues in the south. >> thank you very much, general. i give you your audience. we're ready for question and answer. let's start right there. >> thank you, transatlantic academy fellow, warsaw, poland. had my question to you, sir, is about russia's antiaircraft denial in the baltic sea region.
we know there is a quite aggressive posture of baltic sea fleet of russia. we have also air incidents, very many of them. we have issue of iskander mills deployments. we have rocket brigades. we will have them the next few years. irrespective of what nato will do on the fence issues. and these are danger weapons with the de facto range of 1,000 kilometers, offensive weapons. also we have huge pressure of russia on byeloruss. what should be the strategic response towards that and what do you think will be feasible in that matter? thank you.
>> okay. actually i think i saw about three questions embedded in that. so i'll try to dissect those a little bit. first, because it's theiest to de -- the easiest to deal with, talk about the air and sea incidents you mentioned. first, we need to recognize that all nations have a right to exercise and train. we do as well. what is important is that we do these exercises and training iterations responsibly, that we adhere to norms in how we conduct them, that we properly announce them when they start, when they finish, who is going to be a part of them, what the objective are. and as we have agreed to in the past many times, invite each other to come and be a part and view said exercises.
and so when it comes to exercises, if done properly, we should not challenge these. we do them as well. clearly there are some issues, and you have brought some of them up, not squawking, wrong airspace, flying through congested airspace, not announcing start and finish, large size, not invited to view. there's things that need to be worked out. but let's at least say that russia as well as the west has all the rights to train, if done responsibly. we have mechanisms, by the way. one of the places where we actually still have good mill to mill communication, we do a series of talks called incsea, it constants for incidents at sea, so we can continue to try to deconflict what is happening out there.
so as to a2ad, anti acceaccess air denial. as you brought up, you broadened it some to land attack capabilities. antiaccess area denial or a2ad, as we talk about it, is a growing problem. kalinigrad is a large platform for a2ad capability, as you have pointed out. i would also point out, in their occupation of crimea, russia has developed a very strong a2ad capability in the black sea. essentially their coastal defense cruise missiles range the entire black sea and their air defense missiles range 40 to
50% of the black sea. so a2ad is not limited to the north, to the baltic region. it it has grown already in the black sea. frankly it's one of the things we're beginning to watch that they developed in the northeast mediterranean, as we see these very capable air defense capabilities beginning to show up in syria. we're a little worried about another a2ad bubble being created in the eastern mediterranean. so how do we react to that? first and foremost, we have to realize that in peacetime we need to exercise and operate in this airspace to assure that we have and declare that we have open access to the baltic seas and the black seas. we have seen exercises announced
and conducted both in the baltic and the black seas. those will continue as part of the assurance measures that we talked about before. so we need to operate in those spaces to contest that they are not forbidden spaces. they are international, open areas of water and air. and then second of all, as an alliance, we need to step back and take a look at our capability in a military sense to address an a2ad challenge. this is about investment. this is about training and capabilities, et cetera, etc. >> there were a slew of questions in the back. all the way on the end. >> my name is andy moravchek, a senior fellow at the transatlantic academy. so you've called on the uniform evens to do more militarily,
maybe -- on the europeans to do more militarily. the sanctions are estimated to cost them a quarter or half a percent of gdp. they're spending a lot of money on economic renewal and things like that. so to spend money on defense would mean to take money away from something else. in fact a lot of the big countries are spending less. so if you think they should, where do you think the money should come from? do you think they should be spending less on getting their own economic house in order, or what? >> so i'm going to answer your question, and you won't like my answer. that is a question you should pose to our political leadership. as a military individual, it's really not my remit to talk to nations about what they should do in an economic sense.
i don't mean to be flip with you, but the bottom line is that's a question better asked to military leaders. but let me do talk to a couple of things. the personal pronoun you used was "you." i haven't called on the nations to increase their spending. what i do as a military man is call on the nations to invest wisely the money that they have, and to help them understand, through programs that the sac team, the supreme allied commander for transformation and i work on, we give them investment targets and capability targets so we can help the nations understand what they are going to invest in, how they can best add to the alliance's capability. so we talk about that. and then the second thing that i do do is i encourage the nations to use their military force as a
part of our ongoing assurance measures and adaptation measures. and this is one of the places where we've had a good response. as we set up to build the original vjtf, we felt like we needed three or four center nations to have a sustainable rotation of the center part of the very high readiness joint task force or vjtf. and tho and when we went to the nations and asked, we had seven respond. so what they have done is put their forces into the mix and made them available to nato to do these things that we called for in wales. adapt the nrf, build the vjtf, adapt multinational core northeast, and build nfius, et cetera, et cetera, etc. i am as
encouraging about inside of those investment profiles, hitting the 20% target, which is that 20% of the investment should be on recapitalization and buying those capital assets which enable their militaries. but again, as the military, i'm more about helping them shape what they do buy, and then employ what they have. >> we had a question, the gentleman in the front. right here. >> hi. sidney freedberg with the reach from breaking defense. general, i was talking the other day with general hodges about his component of your command.
thanks. so you've talked to ben hodges. i call him the energizer bunny. he's one of the most -- i don't know how to say it. he's one of the most energized commanders you have ever met out there. he's really making a great difference in europe as he engages the armies of europe. now we're talking, in my u.s. hat, as ben is a u.s. commander, not a nato commander. so how to adapt. let's turn that back a little bit to when i first became the u.s. ucomm commander. two years and three months or so ago we were looking at how we were going to bring ourselves out of afghanistan, what the drawdown was going to look like in afghanistan, and then how, as ar]ykykykykykykykykykykykykykyky
brigade division and even core levels that we just had not done forever. so even before the invasion of crimea, we began thinking about how do we adapt u.s. force capability and nato force capability post d-i.s.a.p. of course then we had crimea, dombas, and other issues, and we saw that truly we do need to get back to our core capabilities and capacities in nato, those higher end capabilities that enable us to do collective defense when we now have a threat that demonstrates that they will change international borders by force. and so i think it was pressure, what we decided to do. now we've refined our approach cross the last 18 to 20 months so that we can build exercises
and training that sort of reenable, retrain, regrasp those skill sets that allow us to meet our collective defense capabilities. and so you've seen a series of exercises, and pretty soon driving jaguar 15 in the southwest mediterranean, primarily centering on spain, italy, etc. we will have a fairly large exercise that helps us to hone those larger force skills. >> right in the middle. the uniformed officer. >> thank you, sir. about the strategic direction you mentioned, what is the ucomm's relationship with africa? >> okay.
so the question is -- good to see you, my friend -- what is ucomm's relationship with africa. so it's twofold. as you know, the africomm commander, my good friend rodriguez, has no forces assigned to him other than a marine force. and so all of the afrikaan force structure is shared with ucomm. we were a force provider to rod rodriguez as he needs those. so the bases of u.s./european command, shared with our great allies like yours, all the way around through the mediterranean, are those platforms by which ucomm helps support africomm's missions.
item two, clearly your nations and other nations who are in the ucomm area of responsibility are affected by everything happening in north africa. all the things happening in north africa spill across the mediterranean into your nations. so ucomm, supporting nations like yours, our relationship is how do we help you deal with those issues. so i say all the time that my command has its own war fighting responsibilities. we have our own issues. but one of the things that ucomm soldiers, sailors, and marines do every day is they enable centcom and they enable africomm. so they have lots of
responsibilities. >> let's go to the back. >> first, thank you very much, sir, for your leadership in leading nato in this effort to reassure the allies and to deter any possible disturbance in the region. i cannot overstate the importance of nato presence, u.s. presence in the region as a factor to prevent any possible instability in the region. i have a question about the road through warsaw. as a historian i can't help thinking about this in more historical terms. there have been different roads, different powers use those roads for different purposes, to attack poland or to attack each other. so the fact that we are talking in the context of a road through warsaw, increasing nato
responsiveness and capability to prevent any possible conflict, i think it speaks to a great historical achievement of nato and how nato was efficient in breaking up the geopolitical curse that hovered over poland and our neighbors. my question, though, is about the future. sir, you mentioned the long term adaptation of nato as a kind of perspective for nato's summit in warsaw. could you please dwell a little bit more, what would be the main ingredients of the adaptation, and what kind of ambition we should set to ourselves to make it substantial? thank you. >> thanks for that question. and the answer is a bit broad, because again, what will happen is that the military commanders, myself, the sac, and the new --
well, here in an a couple of days we'll have a new sact, a french air force four-star. the military commanders will put on the table a series of recommendations for our political leadership to consider. i would not want to write now sort of put that cat out in the open. but i think that you could broadly understand that they will follow along the lines of what i said before. we need to continue to develop our readiness and responsiveness. we need to continue to invest in and develop a lot of capabilities. as you know, the alliance has nations which have a lot of great what i would call blocking and tackling center of mass capabilities. ground forces, certain air forces, certain naval forces.
what we lack are exquisite things like strategic lift, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, cyberdefense, et cetera, etc. we need to take on developing those capacities in places where we are thin right now. and then again, as we talked about, we have already succeeded at changing the readiness and responsiveness of portions of the nrf. we need to continue to adapt -- >> you can watch this east in its entirety at any time at c-span.org. we take you live to the national press club, as promised, for remarks by the president of latvia. introductory remarks now underway. this is live coverage on c-span 3. >> he has described latvia's accession to nato as, quote, the most important foreign policy decision in the history of latvia's restored independence,
period. when the crisis in ukraine began, one of the first issues latvia brought up was ensuring a greater presence of nato forces in the baltic region. latvia was also among strong supporters of european union sanctions against president vladimir putin over ukraine. at a press conference, after winning the presidential vote in june, the president said his priority will be external and internal security. the nation plans to double spending on defense to 2% of gdp in 2018. he called russia an unpredictable state and said the military defense capabilities of the baltic states must be
bolstered. while tensions between latvia's neighbor russia and ukraine persist, the country is also struggling with the refugee crisis. like many eastern european countries, latvia doesn't have any recent experience in dealing with refugees. hundreds of latvians protested recently against the government's decision to take in 776 refugees. next year, latvia plans to join the organization for economic cooperation and development or oecd. among the baltic nation's main targets is also to strengthen the transatlantic partnership. latvia wants to move forward with the transatlantic trade and investment partnership agreement between the u.s. and the eu. you may know of this as ttip. now i would like to hand over
the podium to our honored guest. please join me in welcoming latvian president raimonds vejonis to the national press club. [ applause ]=xyiñ >> good afternoon, everybody. it's a great honor for me to speak her together with such audience. in reality, this is the first time for me, first such audience. anyway, i will try to do my best. what we are doing, its independence has become a modern
and democratically developed country, joining the atlantic community. latvia and united states share many goals. we have a strategic partnership and close cooperation on security issues and also share mutual aspirations for successful development of trade relations. latvia also has strong interest and intention to deepen economic ties, in particular attractingj u.s. investments.ctb we have excellent examples of like 4"r a bank and a fiberglas company in georgia, usa. military cooperation is really
very strong had the and the u.s. is our main strategic partner. having said this, i would like to continue by expounding on a few ideas. first, security policy. nato and the u.s. engagement in europe. nato has been the heart of our transatlantic bond since the end of the second world war. and despite dramatic changes in our atlantic security environment, naturo has served well in ensuring peace and security. nato is performing its task because of its ability to continuously adapt. russia's readiness to change borders by force and increased military posture at our borders
leading rolerty in providing⌟5" military presence15r states. a also step up. we are ready to do more, including by increasing defense spending to two persons. for example, next year the defense spending will be 1.4% of gdp comparing with this year, 1%. we increase by 0.4%. in 2017, 1.7. it means we are moving very strongly forward to fulfill these needs.
and in preparing the nato warsaw sentiment beyond europe and the baltic sea region, in particular we will need strong u.s. engagement in many areas, including security, so that our region remains as peaceful as it was today, was in the past and is today. the secondz!÷ point, russia-u e russia-ukraine. the russian aggression towards us to rethink general. the conflict in the ukraine alsf ñ
the current cease-fire in eastern ukraine is a good sign. we would hope this marks the beginning of an overall progress towards a peaceful settlement. i would like to emphasize that a complete and verified implementation of the minsk agreement, including reinstatement by ukraine of control over its border is a precondition for reviewing restrictive measures against russia. crimea will burden our relations with russia in the long term and will require strategic patience. the conflict in ukraine has
brought urgency to counter russian propaganda. we have to provide smart answers at the level of the eu and nato, and also taking into account needs to be addressed at a national level. the third point, eastern partnership, one of the main strategic priorities for latvia is eastern partnership. and our approach is consistent implementation of the eastern partnership policy in accordance with the summit declaration ensuring continuity of the eastern partnership policy. and the task of the eu, u.s., and other like-minded countries, is to strengthen partners'
resilience and ability to copy with their challenges. fourth, i already mentioned the ttip. another important issue on the eu/u.s. agenda, and we have partnership, the agreement rea,kpzñ will totally stimulate economies on both sides of the atlantic, but also strengthen our geostrategic partnership. i would like to note thatol&s a is a growing economy which
and we we have everything that the u.s. businessnrb9y needs, f instance we have one of the fastest internet in the world. we have an open business environment, develop technology policy, railroad infrastructure and ports. we consider that oecd member and the accession process to the oecd is an opportunity for continuing and improving our practices, improving services to our citizens. and hopefully we will finish our
technical discussions by the end of 2015 and join oecd in 2016. i would like to mention also energy policy. energy policy is of high significance on the latvia and transatlantic agenda. we believe it has an essential role in foreign policy, taking into account the close links between energy policy and geopolitics. the new eu energy union calls for increased cooperation in the dialogue with strategically important energy providers in transit countries, and besides energy security, latvia would
adopt the new strategy, improving governance and transparency which empowers consumers, enhances regional cooperation, and facilitates access to finance for energy projects. furtherñb1rsi2zpvñ develop reg fully functioning liberal, transport, and competitive regionali giving sm$ñzo84x the opportuni k and other lng exporting countries. k7
libera process due to our natural undergrou underground gas reservoir. but when we speak about energy, almost climate change is a very important issue. and we are looking forward to continue the constructive cooperation with the u.s. on the road to paris agreement, and hopefully in paris we will adopt the new regulation on climate change. i was absolutely brief introducing few important topics, but i am completely sure that our strategic cooperation will continue and develop the overall atlantic community will
become more integrated in the years to come. we have one common region but our future, free, peaceful, and prosperous as well. we can and must work together to reach this goal. now we're open for questions. [ applause ] >> thank you, mr. president. could you give us a sense, you mentioned the minsk agreement. how optimistic are you that that will be implemented or how many doubts do you have? >> i am quite pessimistic, not so optimistic like others, because we see that minsk
agreement must be fulfilled by all parties who sign this agreement. ukraine isies who signed the disagreement. ukraine is doing the best that they can and i hope that think succeed -- they will succeed and reach owl of these points mentioned in this agreement. with russia and we see that the key problem will year.up65 movements forward.
two persons of gdp for defense but anyway, in latvia and lithuania also is very strongly committed to reach two persons by 2018 and we will have -- at the same time we are looking for more nato partners' presence in the region because we saw from different military games that are organized by very prominent institutions here in the u.s. that we really need the strengths and the presence of nato forces in the region. not only by number of soldiers on our land but also by
increasing prepositioning of the different equipment ux ammunition in the region because in our case if we speak about possible aggression the most important issue is time of response. and if we want to shorten this time, we really need prior presence of nato forces in the region and also prepositioning of equipment, technique, ammunition in the region. it will be more shorter because if we just -- u.s. decides to help you will decide to but anyway we need many days to
transport equipment to europe. it means we need to find solutions. and also it will be one of the questions that we will discuss probably during the next nato summ summit how we will continue we strengthening of nato presence in the region. >> reportei >> you mentioned sanctions a little earlier. do you think the sanctions against russia should be extended beyond this year? >> yes, i think so. i think so. but anyway, economic sanctions really suffer also many countries and i said that the discussions will be very hard because europe's economy suffered from economic sanctions and some countries will discuss
a lot on that and russia is trying also to influence different countries to finding only solutions for certain countries, cheeper gas, cheaper energy, better financial conditions and so on it means they also are not sleeping, they are trying to find a way how to influence e.u. countries to be separate and not united but our strength of e.u. is in unity of e.u. countries. >> how about latvia? does latvia feel any harm from the economic sanctions against russia? does that affect your country? >> yes, of course it affects and
some branches suffer from economic sanctions, mainly related to agriculture. it's milk production, meat production and fish production. we can say it's the three main branches who will suffer a lot from that. but in the same time any crisis a good time to rethink and probably change markets where you are working and many companies during this year really changed markets and they feel i can say better than in the russian markets because russian ruble also is so
fluctuating that -- and they are paying with rubles and it's not so convenient for our business to our bank rates. >> you touched on this a little bit but this questioner wants to know how do you assess nato's and e.u.'s ability to protect the baltic states? >> as i said. i'm sure that nato is able to protect all nato countries according to paragraph 5 in different high-level meetings we were supported by leaders of
nato countries and i'm sure that it will work. >> you mentioned upcoming meetings and talking about increasing nato's presence in the baltic states. do you have ideas that you can share on how specifically nato could increase its presence in a better way in the baltic states? >> who what's more, first by increasing the number of soldiers on the ground and our commanders of armored forces calculated how much troops we need and we are speaking about up to battalion size unit in each of the baltic countries and poland. that means about 2,000 troops
together. secondly, the positioning of different military equipment, am snigs, et cetera. certainly we must work more closely together and propose what we can do with informational warfare because it's a problem not only for baltic region, it's problem for europe and here it's quite open, quite open market to ideas how we can deal with this problem because it's -- the strategic communication issue becomes more and more important in our life. >> there's close banking ties, ties in the banking sector between latvia and