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Special Event

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson Comments on Los Alamos Nuclear Secrets, Midwest Gas Prices Following Senate Hearing

Aired June 21, 2000 - 1:41 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to switch on our live camera in Washington where Energy Secretary Bill Richardson is commenting on the high gas prices. Let's listen to what he has to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

BILL RICHARDSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY: I had already formally accepted Senator Warner the invitation to testify before his committee, so...

QUESTION: Why do you believe there was no espionage involved in this case?

RICHARDSON: Well, first, so far, there does not appear to be espionage involved. But this is being determined by the FBI investigation. I'm pleased that the FBI has authenticated the disks as the correct ones. That has taken place. I'm pleased, too, that it appears that they did not leave the X Division. I'm pleased that there does not appear to be espionage. I'm pleased that they're -- gotten fingerprints on some of the wrappings. So the investigation is proceeding, but there's still more questions that need to be answered.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you respond to what you know is a wide discussion about the effects this might have on your political career?

RICHARDSON: I don't even think of my political career. I don't even think about any speculation about any future office. I just want to do my job, I want to conclude this investigation, I want to deal with oil prices. So the politics of it -- we need to get the politics out of this. This has become too partisan. And I did not utter one partisan word in that hearing, and that's what I intent to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

RICHARDSON: In other words, not to utter a word.

(LAUGHTER)

WATERS: That's Energy Secretary Bill Richardson wrapping up his day after a rather tense -- are we going to pick up?.

RICHARDSON: There may be price gouging, there may be collusion, but we have to get the facts, and that's what the FTC investigation is doing. We believe that there to get the facts that's what they are doing. We believe that there are some unexplained answers, such as why is it 38 cents more to produce gasoline in Chicago and Milwaukee when it costs 2 cents to produce reformulated gasoline? Why the disparities between Chicago and Milwaukee and the rest of the country where prices are relatively lower and more stable?

So those are questions that need to be answered. This is the EPA's bailey wick and we will work with the Environmental Protection Agency. I envision meeting with some governors very soon -- with Carol Browner -- to discuss this issue and see how we can work together with the states to get gas prices down. We got to get these prices down because, in Chicago and Milwaukee, they're too high. And there are unexplained reasons for it and we have to have aggressive action to make sure they stabilize.

QUESTION: But no RFU waivers you see?

WATERS: OK, there we have it, Bill Richardson expressing the sentiments of many folks in the Midwest and asking the same questions they're asking about the high price of gasoline, the secretary saying its in the bailey wick of the Environmental Protection Agency and to do with this reformulated gas regulation ordered by the Congress.

The secretary, as I was saying earlier, has just stepped outside of a hearing room where Republicans were demanding his resignation because of the Los Alamos nuclear secrets: the loss of the hard drives and then the rediscovery of the hard drives and the lack of security there at the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a Democrat, said at that hearing that Richardson had shown contempt for Congress by not showing up at a first hearing called by the Congress and would never again, in the senator's words, "receive Senate approval" for government office.

As you know, Bill Richardson had been named as a possible running mate for Al Gore in the upcoming presidential -- upcoming election for president and vice president of the United States. That apparently is in jeopardy if the Republicans have anything to say about it.

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