Saturday, September 03, 2005

Chief Justice Rehnquist Dies at Home

Chief Justice Rehnquist Dies at Home

By Associated Press
17 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died Saturday evening at his home in suburban Virginia, said Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg.

A statement from the spokeswoman said he was surrounded by his three children when he died in Arlington.

"The Chief Justice battled thyroid cancer since being diagnosed last October and continued to perform his dues on the court until a precipitous decline in his health the last couple of days," she said.

Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court as an associate justice in 1971 by President Nixon and took his seat on Jan. 7, 1982. He was elevated to chief justice by President Reagan in 1986.

His death ends a remarkable 33-year Supreme Court career during which Rehnquist oversaw the court's conservative shift, presided over an impeachment trial and helped decide a presidential election.

The death President Bush his second court opening within pour months and sets up what's expected to be an even more bruising Senate confirmation battle than that of John Roberts.

Rehnquist, 80 and ill with cancer, presided over President Clinton's impeachment trial in 1999, helped settle the 2000 presidential election in Bush's favor, and fashioned decisions over the years that diluted the powers of the federal government while strengthening those of the states.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

How You Can HELP With Hurricane Katrina Disaster

Declared Disasters & Assistance

Resources for Hurricane Katrina

President George W. Bush declared major disasters for impacted areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is actively managing federal assistance to these affected communities in an effort to expedite response efforts and save lives. The full resources of the federal government to bear in helping the residents in the impacted states with emergency needs and recovery support.

How to Get Help

>>Individuals in declared counties can register for disaster assistance with FEMA

Register online on the FEMA Web site,
Register via telephone toll free at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362)
Register using TTY 800-462-7585

>>Citizens affected need be mindful of instructions from state and local officials.

How You Can Help Hurricane Katrina Victims

Voluntary organizations are seeking cash donations to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina in Gulf Coast states. Volunteers should not report directly to the affected areas unless directed by a voluntary agency. Self-dispatched volunteers can put themselves and others in harm’s way and hamper rescue efforts.

Donate Money

American Red Cross
1-800-HELP NOW (435-7669) English,
1-800-257-7575 Spanish

Operation Blessing

America’s Second Harvest

Donate Cash to and Volunteer

Adventist Community Services

Catholic Charities, USA

Christian Disaster Response
941-956-5183 or 941-551-9554

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee

Church World Service

Convoy of Hope

Lutheran Disaster Response

Mennonite Disaster Service

Nazarene Disaster Response

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Salvation Army
1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)

Southern Baptist Convention -- Disaster Relief
1-800-462-8657, ext. 6440

United Methodist Committee on Relief

For further information: visit the for the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD.

Also on DHS.GOV

Press Room: United States Government Response to the Aftermath Of Hurricane Katrina


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Hurricanes includes links with information on food and water safety.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Hurricanes Environmental and Health Issues


BREAKING NEWS! Natural Disaster On The U.S. Gulf Coast

Press Conference with Officials from Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Departments of Health and Human Services, Energy, Transportation, and Defense

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact 202-282-8010
Washington, D.C.
August 31, 2005

Secretary Chertoff: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. The federal government is continuing to lead one of the largest response mobilizations in United States history to aid those who have had their homes and their lives devastated by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones and who continue to suffer in the aftermath of the storm. We will work tirelessly to ensure that our fellow citizens have the sustained support and the necessary aid to recover and reclaim their homes, their lives and their communities.

President Bush has declared major disasters for affected areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama. Along with these declarations, the full range of federal resources and capabilities is being directed, as we speak, to assist and protect those citizens who have borne the brunt of this catastrophe.

The Department of Homeland Security has declared this an Incident of National Significance, the first ever use of this designation under the new National Response Plan. The National Response Plan, which was stood up earlier this year, gives the Department of Homeland Security the lead responsibility to coordinate federal response and recovery efforts. The plan is designed to bring together all federal resources to increase our ability to quickly get relief to those who need it most.

We are extremely pleased with the response that every element of the federal government, all of our federal partners, have made to this terrible tragedy. We've had full participation from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, all of the units of the federal government. We will work tirelessly to ensure that state and local authorities benefit from the full mobilization of our capabilities and receive every needed assistance.

I've spoken several times with President Bush, as well as with the governors of the affected states, the Mayor of New Orleans and other officials to assess the situation. Later today, my colleagues and I will be meeting with President Bush to discuss additional steps as we move forward.

The situation in all of the affected areas remains very dangerous. We want to emphasize that citizens should follow the instructions of state and local authorities, who have asked that people remain in shelters and stay away from impacted areas until further notice.

For additional information, as well as for guidance on how to assist the victims of this disaster, please go to the FEMA website,, or the American Red Cross website,

At this time, we'd like to update you on some of the specific federal efforts currently under way to save lives and aid those in need.

Let me first touch on those efforts undertaken through the Department of Homeland Security and its principal representative on the ground, FEMA. FEMA has deployed 39 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams from all across the United States to staging areas in Alabama, Tennessee, Texas and Louisiana. We are now moving them into impacted areas to provide emergency medical assistance.

FEMA is also moving supplies and equipment into the hardest hit areas as quickly as possible -- truckloads of water, ice, meals, medical supplies, generators, tents and tarps. There are currently over 1,700 trailer trucks which have been mobilized to move these supplies into position.

The Coast Guard has worked heroically for the last 48 hours rescuing or assisting well more than 1,000 people who were in distress and held high and dry above the flood waters. I want to commend their efforts and their willingness to put their lives in danger to help others.

In addition, Coast Guard ships, boats and aircraft continue to support FEMA, state and local authorities, with rescue and recovery efforts which are continuing to go on. The Coast Guard has activated three National Strike Teams to help in the removal of hazardous material. Ships and boats continue to support the national relief effort.

Let me now recognize my Cabinet colleagues who will talk about what their departments are doing as part of this overall federal effort. We're going to hear from Steve Johnson, the Administrator of EPA, Secretary Samuel Bodman from Energy, Secretary Mike Leavitt from HHS, Secretary Norm Mineta from Transportation, and Assistant Secretary Paul McHale from the Department of Defense.

Before I turn it over to Steve Johnson, let me just introduce Admiral Whitehead of the Coast Guard who's here, and FEMA Deputy Director Patrick Rhode. Both of them have been very deeply involved in helping to operate our recovery effort here.


Administrator Johnson: Thank you very much. Today, I'm exercising my authority under the Clean Air Act to temporarily waive specific standards for gasoline and diesel fuels, to ensure that the Hurricane Katrina natural disaster does not result in serious fuel supply interruptions around the country.

As we're all well aware, we're seeing increasing serious impacts from the hurricane in a number of fuel markets around the United States. Yesterday afternoon, I exercised this authority with respect to four states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. It has become clear that the consequences of the hurricane have become more widespread. So today, I'm sending letters to the governors of the remaining 46 states and territories, providing temporary relief from volatility and sulfur standards.

This action will result in a needed increase in fuel supply. These waivers are necessary to ensure that fuel is available throughout the country to address public health issues and emergency vehicle supply needs.

Under the Clean Air Act emergency authority, I am making the waivers effective through September the 15th, 2005. These waivers only apply to the volatility standards, the rate at which fuel evaporates, and the amount of sulfur in diesel fuel.

EPA is committed to working with our state and federal partners to address this extraordinary natural disaster.

Thank you very much, and I'd now like to turn it over to Secretary Bodman. Sam.

Secretary Bodman: Thanks, Steve. First, like my predecessors, I would start off by expressing our thoughts and prayers as they are focused on those who are dealing with this horrific disaster in the Gulf Coast. As with any natural disaster, the first priority is human health and safety, restoring electricity and fuel, and doing so safely is a very important priority, but follows after looking after the people and their safety.

The Department has sent teams down to the affected region to get a firsthand assessment of the damage and to work with not only our colleagues in FEMA but also with the state and local officials related to these issues.

We've also begun working with other agencies on planning even before the storm came ashore, and have been in close contact with the state and local authorities assessing the overall impact of this storm on our nation's power infrastructure.

As many of you know already, last night I approved a company's request for a loan from our nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or the SPR, as we call it. Currently, we are reviewing additional requests. Once we have an announcement on these requests, we will share that information with you.

I would like to thank particularly Administrator Johnson and his colleagues at EPA. The entire staff of the EPA has worked very hard to get this waiver through to increase the supply of gasoline throughout the nation. And as I just spoke to Secretary Chertoff, in my view, this is really a big deal. This is something that should materially change the supply of gasoline fuels in our country.

Today's announcement by EPA will mean that Americans will have access to greater amounts of gasoline and a more efficient distribution of these materials throughout our country.

I would also like to thank Secretary Mineta for his leadership that led to the waiving of the rules governing trucker hours. That has enabled emergency supplies and more gasoline to be delivered to the afflicted region.

Taken together, these three steps, the things that we've done, the things that EPA has done, as well as the Transportation Department, I believe will increase the supply and availability of gasoline for our nation's citizens, and hopefully will help the rest of the nation manage itself in a fashion that will enable us to be helpful to those in the Gulf Coast region who are suffering so mightily.

Thanks very much.

Secretary Leavitt: In addition to our thoughts and prayers at the Department of Health and Human Services, our actions are focused intensely on this throughout our Department. This afternoon, I've declared a public health emergency for the entire Gulf region that will have the effect of dramatically simplifying and accelerating the procedures necessary to expedite emergency actions.

We are also erecting a network of up to 40 medical shelters. They will have the capacity collectively of 10,000 beds and will be staffed by some 4,000 qualified medical personnel. The first of them is now in place, and, as we speak, we are treating patients in the Baton Rouge area.

Within 72 hours, we anticipate another ten of the shelters will be stood up and will be operational. We're focusing first on military facilities that we'll be able to detail later this afternoon.

Within 100 hours of the first ten being done, we will follow with a second ten and so forth. Patients that are requiring additional treatment beyond that which will be available at these medical shelters will be transported to hospitals throughout the country. We've identified 2,600 beds in hospitals in the 12 state area. In addition to that, we've identified 40,000 beds nationwide, should they be needed.

We continue to ship pallets of basic first aid material and medical supplies to the area. The Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration are assembling public health teams. We are gravely concerned about the potential for cholera, typhoid and dehydrating diseases that could come as a result of the stagnant water and the conditions.

The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration will be focusing on chemical and toxicology matters. We'll be also working with local officials on sanitation and on food safety. We're concerned about mosquito abatement, and our teams will be focused to assist local officials on those points.

May I say to those who were blessed to get through this incident with their own personal safety intact, stay safe. We urge them, those in the affected areas, to keep themselves safe and healthy. By that, listen to public and local health officials. We're concerned about carbon monoxide poisoning, for example, on those who are using generators, stoves and other kinds of -- other means to keep themselves warm and lighted.

We encourage them to boil water and to drink safe water. Water-borne diseases can be a terrible aftermath of this kind of an incident, particularly for those who are feeding young children.

We also encourage them to be conscious of food safety. Food that has been sealed in a refrigerator continually for less than four hours will be fine. Food that has rested for some time at more than 40 degrees could be unsafe.

May I suggest that the Department of Health of Human Services will be working to do everything we can as long as we need to help people in need. We know that there will be -- that the elderly will need particular care, that there will be mental health requirements and assistance required. And we are deploying teams into this region for the purpose of helping with mental health and childcare. We stand ready to unite with the rest of America to assure that this tragedy is overcome.

Secretary Mineta: We at the Department of Transportation join with all of our colleagues in expressing our deep regrets and sorrows to the families who are suffering. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Although we are still in the process of assessment, it is clear that there has been significant damage to the transportation infrastructure in the affected regions. And the Department's -- the Department of Transportation's focus is threefold. First, as an immediate and urgent matter, we are working with our colleagues at the federal Cabinet level to move emergency supplies into the region and assist with the evacuation. This is under the ESF, the Emergency Support Function, a responsibility that the Department of Transportation has.

To date, we have shipped 13.4 million liters of water, 10,000 tarps, 3.4 million pounds of ice and 144 generators, among other essential supplies. Secondly, we are working to restore at least minimal transportation infrastructure in the region. That includes highways, airports, seaports, and oil pipelines.

We have deployed teams from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to the region. They are working closely with Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama state officials to clear roads and inspect bridges, establish communications and increase operations at major airports, and to move generators to pipeline pumping stations to restore the flow of petroleum products to the Southeast.

We are also looking at maritime assets that we can deploy to New Orleans to reestablish port operations there. And finally, we are beginning the process of evaluating the total damage and needs for long-term rebuilding. In all of these efforts, we are working closely with state and local authorities, and with our federal partners and with private sector transportation service providers.

Now, I'll turn it over to Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul McHale.

Assistant Secretary McHale: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. In responding to this crisis, the President has captured the message quite succinctly, and that is, it's all hands on deck.

We in DOD understand that commander's intent. Secretary Rumsfeld, Department Secretary -- Acting Deputy Secretary England have communicated to our Department at all levels a requirement that we pro-actively lean into the mission, and that we be fully prepared to assist DHS, FEMA, and our interagency partners in supporting their lead efforts in responding to this natural disaster.

Let me just give you a thumbnail sketch of what we in the Department of Defense have been doing, not only over the past several days, but, in fact, over the past several weeks as we anticipated the impact of this hurricane.

The commanding officer of our operational response is Admiral Tim Keating. He is the Combatant Commander of the United States Northern Command. He has, at the direction of the Secretary of Defense, formed a joint task force, JTF Katrina. It is commanded by Lieutenant General Honore, United States Army, ordinarily the commander of the First Army, now commanding, for the time being, the JTF that has been formed specifically for the tactical response, regarding this relief effort.

Lieutenant General Honore has for the past several days been at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, where he is closely coordinating with his FEMA counterparts.

Let me just give you, again, a very succinct summary of some of the kinds of capabilities that we have been providing and that we anticipate we will provide on behalf of the Department of Defense.

We ultimately expect that we will make available a fleet of approximately 50 helicopters to support FEMA's operations. That would include aerial assessment of damage, movement of FEMA personnel and other interagency partners who, for reasons that are obvious, had difficulty achieving ground transportation.

We have transported from California eight civilian swift water rescue teams to assist those civilians who are still trapped by the collected water. We anticipate providing from the Department of Defense a 500-bed mobile hospital. That will be deployed in the New Orleans area. We may provide -- it's under active consideration -- as many as 800 personnel to assist the American Red Cross with shelter support.

Some of you may have seen media broadcasts that relate to the movement of United States Naval Forces. That reflected again the proactive, very aggressive message given to us by the Secretary of Defense that we are not to merely be passive in our response to FEMA requests for assistance, but as a fully cooperating partner to anticipate the kinds of needs that FEMA may bring to our attention, and to put in place in a forward-deployed status those kinds of DOD capabilities that will likely be called upon.

For that reason, we are moving to the area approximately eight ships that have various competencies in terms of medical support, humanitarian relief, transportation in a maritime environment. We are forward-deploying everything that we think might be required by FEMA. And we'll be fully prepared to respond to FEMA's request for assistance when they inevitably are forthcoming.

We anticipate the movement of the hospital ship USNS Comfort from Baltimore, Maryland to the Gulf region. It will depart on September 2nd, and likely arrive in the Gulf region on the 8th of September. As of today, there are more than 11,000 National Guard in state status deployed in and around the affected area providing humanitarian relief, assistance in maintaining civil order. Those Guard personnel are currently under the command and control of the governors of the affected states.

We're looking toward the possibility of medical surge capabilities. We've had to provide that kind of support in the past, for instance, during the hurricanes last year in Florida. We are identifying medical specialties that FEMA may call upon us to present. We've also been working very closely with HHS on those issues.

And lastly, we have in excess of 1.5 million cases of pre-packaged MREs in the event that that food is required to augment the food supply.

Our commitment is unequivocal. We stand in a supporting role, and we are not only willing, we are eager, in a time of national crisis, to provide whatever relief we can in support of DHS. And Secretary Chertoff takes the lead on behalf of our federal government in providing assistance to people who are so desperately in need.

Secretary Chertoff: Thank you, Paul.

The magnitude of this challenge is enormous, but the combined capabilities of all parts of the United States government represented here and in other agencies has been brought to bear. The President has been unambiguous in his mandate that we exhaust no -- we leave no stone unturned and leave no effort unexhausted in proceeding to do whatever we can to rescue, alleviate suffering, and address this terrible tragedy.

We're going to take some questions. If you simply tell us who you'd like to address the question to, we'll have that person answer.

Question: Mr. Chertoff, for you. Can you give us some sense of what you and your colleagues think you have accomplished so far, given the great need down there? Is this just the teeny beginning? Are you halfway there? Is this a tenth, a lot more to come? What is your sense of that?

Secretary Chertoff: You have to look at this problem in stages. The first stage is, of course, lifesaving. We have to make sure we have found people who are at risk either because of high winds or because of the flooding. We've got to locate them; we've got to rescue them. I think we've made a lot of progress there. Well over a thousand people have been rescued, using Coast Guard helicopters. Boats manned by federal, state and local authorities have been out pulling people down from roofs and I think there were people on a container, for example, that had to be rescued. So we've made a lot of progress in that respect.

A second piece of that initial rescue element involves what we have to do with evacuation. Again, we have made substantial progress there. There was a voluntary -- actually, a mandatory evacuation before the storm hit. We are now positioning the assets necessary to evacuate the Super Dome. We're going to be doing the other steps that are necessary to complete the evacuation. So that's the first stage, and we're well into it.

A second stage is obviously going to be to then create the conditions that will allow people to shelter, with food and water, safety, for some period of time. We've got groups that are identifying locations for that, assembling the necessary materials. We've already indicated, for example, that those who are being evacuated from the Superdome will be going to Houston to the Astrodome. That process is well along.

A third process, which is probably going to take a longer period of time, is assessing the damage: dewatering, for example, those areas that have been flooded; evaluating what the condition of the infrastructure is, and then seeing what steps need to be undertaken to repair and rebuild that infrastructure. That is a longer time frame; we've begun that process, but I think that the time scale there is going to be measured in a longer period.

Question: One thing we haven't heard yet are the steps you'll be taking for security against the looting that seems to be expanding in the region.

Secretary Chertoff: I believe I'll call on Paul McHale to talk a little bit about the National Guard's role and DOD's role.

Assistant Secretary McHale: Obviously, the first point we emphasize is that law enforcement and local security is, first and foremost, a matter of civilian law enforcement capabilities. We in the military provide certain backup capabilities, but the first line of defense against criminal conduct is provided by our law enforcement agencies at all levels of government -- state, local and federal.

If, for some reason it does appear the level of criminal threat exceeds the immediate capability of civilian law enforcement, the National Guard in state status, under command and control of the Governor -- not under command and control of the Secretary of Defense -- can work side by side, lawfully, with civilian law enforcement agencies, police officers, to maintain public order.

We anticipate at this point that the nature of the criminal activity is such that civilian law enforcement and National Guard in state status will be able to establish and preserve civil order. In an extraordinary circumstance that we do not at the present time anticipate, if the capabilities of law enforcement and the Guard were to be exceeded, the President does have certain statutory authority to make certain declarations and then to use the active duty military in order to restore civil order. And although we don't expect that to happen in this case, we do have units that are on alert, as we always have such units on alert, prepared to deploy in order to use active duty military forces for the lawful restoration of civil order.

But those are the three tiers -- civilian law enforcement, the National Guard in state status, and then ultimately, under extraordinary circumstances, active duty military forces, as we have used those military forces -- rarely -- but have used them in the past.

Question: What's your assessment of the status of the National Guard in that region, though? We've been hearing so much about the deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan -- do you have a deep enough bench to also do this domestic function?

Assistant Secretary McHale: The simple answer to that question is, yes, we do have a deep enough bench. I looked at the figures this morning -- I'll invite General Scherling, who is a member of the Air Guard herself, and who is currently on duty with the J-3 of the Joint Staff, to address the same issue. But I looked at the figures this morning and as of late this morning, 60 percent of the Louisiana and Mississippi members of the Guard, between 60 and 65 percent, would be available for state active duty under command and control of the Governor.

So despite the fact that significant portions of these Guard units are currently deployed overseas, a very robust capability remains within the affected states, and in fact, as I said, we're now using more than 11,000 of those forces for missions to include security and law enforcement in those areas. But again, I emphasize, that's under command and control of the Governor, not the Secretary of Defense.

Let me invite General Scherling up here, who can comment upon the availability, the training and the authorities of the National Guard in these areas.

General Scherling: Yes, the National Guard would be able to assist the states at the Governor's request. I would also add that the active duty military and the National Guard provide a deep bench for any of the missions that are requested by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. And so we are prepared to anticipate those requests.

Question: Secretary Chertoff, will you walk us through some specifics in terms of the types of housing that might be made available? You're talking about a whole city, essentially, that's been evacuated. Where are those people going to go, and how do they go about getting the resources?

Secretary Chertoff: That's, obviously, a huge challenge. It's going to be addressed in a number of ways. First of all, there were people who obeyed the instruction to evacuate, which was issued on Sunday, or who perhaps anticipated the news. They got out; they found themselves hotel rooms, maybe they moved in with family. We have teams that are assembling that will give them what they need in terms of assistance for temporary rental housing, things of that sort.

Then there are people who we had to evacuate after the storm. Those people will be -- their needs will be addressed in a number of ways. Those in the Superdome are going to be going to the Astrodome, and we're going to be standing up facilities there to take care of their needs. Others may, in fact, go to trailers that are assembled. I spoke with the Governor or Alabama; he offered -- they have state park cabins that are -- can be made available for people who need places to stay.

We have a housing task force which is in the process of identifying all the locations and different kinds of housing assets we can bring to bear. We recognize that this is a two-step process. There's the immediate process of moving people and sheltering them for a relatively brief period of time. Then, given the nature of the damage, we anticipate there will be somewhat more intermediate or semi-permanent housing that will have to be available, and I think that is a process we're deeply engaged in with the other departments of government and taking a look at.

Question: Can you explain the chain of command in this first use of the law? Are you in charge of local and state officials? And if there's any conflict between you and the locals and state, how does that get worked out? Also, what's your relationship to the Defense Department in this --

Secretary Chertoff: Let me try to explain this -- and this is -- this shouldn't be news because it's been a plan that's been public for many months. First of all, we come in to assist state and local authorities. Under the Constitution, state and local authorities have the principal, first-line response obligation with respect to a disaster of this kind. Obviously, the law recognizes they can't do it themselves, so we have a very detailed system of plans that allow us to work with them. We coordinate our response at DHS through FEMA.

Under the National Response Plan, all the departments of government play a role in the federal response to a disaster. DHS has the coordinating or the managing role to individual efforts that have to be undertaken -- public health efforts, transportation efforts, energy efforts are led by the individual departments of the federal government that have expertise in that area.

So it's a team effort. And like any team, everybody has a position to play, and the head of the team is the President. And the President has, of course, the ultimate responsibility for all of the federal effort here. I can tell you the President is very deeply and personally involved in the details of what we're doing. We're going to be meeting with him later today. And, of course, again, I want to emphasize, the federal government does not supersede the state and local government, we fit with the state and local government in a comprehensive, response plan.

Question: Mr. Secretary, how much have you spent so far -- has the federal government spent so far on some of the recovery and relief, and how much do you anticipate the entire effort will cost?

Secretary Chertoff: I can't -- we're not keeping a running tally. I anticipate this is going to be a very, very substantial effort. I don't even think we have fully assessed all of the collateral consequences that are going to have to be dealt with. We have a substantial challenge, but we do have some substantial resources, and we're going to do what it takes.

Do you have an estimate -- this is kind of related -- the damage assessment in terms of how much it costs, how much financial damage assessment, and the number of people that are dead?

Secretary Chertoff: In terms of the number of fatalities, there are unofficial estimates -- there are official estimates, but I have to tell you that my sense is they are so -- they will probably turn out not to be accurate by a considerable measure. So I don't want to hazard a guess. In terms of the property damage, we're not going to know the full effect of this until we actually get in and look at what the consequences are on the ground.

You can look yourself at the pictures of large parts of New Orleans under water -- and let me remind you that some of these areas include very expensive infrastructure. You have office buildings with cables, wire, a whole lot of underground piping which could be adversely affected. We've got environmental cleanup issues here. There are issues of animal health, there are issues of public health. So the process of getting our arms around the total cost is probably going to take a while.

This has been a devastating tragedy, and I think the impact of the hurricane on an urban area gives it a character that is a little different from the kinds of impacts we've seen in other areas. They're all terrible, but the challenge when you deal with a particular -- particularly with a configuration of New Orleans and the surrounding parishes creates a special challenge because of the water and the flooding.

And so we're going to be, obviously, trying as quickly as possible to assess the total damage and develop a plan for doing what we need to do to repair and rebuild. But we're not going to have a definitive answer, I think, for a while.

Question: Mr. Secretary, could you address the problem of -- or anyone there -- of the levees and the possibilities of their being fixed in some way in the near future, and why they've been unable to heal the breach at this point?

Secretary Chertoff: Well, I'll address it, unless someone else wants to. I can tell you, my understanding is this. We've had a number of breaches of levees. At this point, it's partly a function of physics. If the water table in the lake, Lake Pontchartrain, is above the particular area of land, water is going to flow into the dry land and you're going to get flooded. My understanding now is that the lake level has begun to decrease to some extent. That may cause, in fact, some of the water to flow out. I know that in particular, though, there is a drainage canal that runs near the center of the city where there was a breach yesterday. My understanding is water may still be coming in, although it may be slowing up.

The Army Corps of Engineers and other experts are working very hard to find a way to fill that breach. The quicker they do that, the quicker the water will stop coming in. Eventually, the challenge will be to reverse that process and drain the water out of the city back into the lake or some other place.

Question: Can we ask you one question about fuel volatility, for those of us who don't understand what that means? Is it simply a matter that it's easier for a refinery to make a more volatile fuel and that allows them to make more gasoline?

Administrator Johnson: What it does -- fuel volatility is the measure of the fuel that -- when it volatilizes or when it burns at 100 degrees. And during the summer, particularly for those areas of the country that are non-attainment, because of ozone or other reasons, the lower the requirement is for volatility, the better it is for ozone. But it requires a formulation, and it's one of those specifics of the fuel types, that by relieving that temporarily, we actually can increase the fuel supply. So what it actually --

Question: So they can make more gasoline.

Administrator Johnson: So, basically, they can make more gasoline and it allows the supply to flow. Because, remember, there isn't just one type of gasoline across the United States. There are actually multiple forms of gasoline, so it allows a little bit better flow from the different supply chains across that United States.

Secretary Bodman: If I could just answer that -- it also enables refiners to use inventories which they already have that are so-called winter fuels, that are not now, until this waiver, available. And so it would have the impact of allowing these materials to be used immediately.

Question: Would that affect the price?

Administrator Johnson: Potentially, it could.

Question: Secretary Bodman, do you think there's the infrastructure in place or operating right now to deliver oil from the SPR to the refineries that have requested --

Secretary Bodman: The refineries that have requested fuel from the SPR, there is the capability, without question, of delivery. It's not a problem.

Thanks very much.


Related Information

United States Government Response to the Aftermath of Hurrican Katrina