15 August 2003
Power Blackout Not Caused by Terrorism, Bush Says
Promises to find cause of power grid failure
President Bush ruled out terrorism as a possible cause for the
blackout that swept across the northeastern and upper midwestern
sections of the United States August 14.
Bush, speaking to reporters August 14 in San Diego, California,
said that federal and state officials are working "as quickly as
possible" to restore power to cities struck by the massive power
The cause for the blackout, which covered states from New York
to Michigan as well as parts of Canada, is still unknown, Bush
"One thing I think I can say for certain is that this was not
a terrorist act," the president said.
Once power has been restored, Bush said authorities will investigate "what
caused the blackout. But most importantly, what we now need to
do is fix the problem and to get electricity up and running as
quickly as possible."
"My focus is to work with state and local authorities to help
deal with the immediate problem," he said. "Of course, we'll have
time to look at it and determine whether or not our grid needs
to be modernized.
"[O]ne of the things we'll have to do, of course, is take an assessment
of why the cascade was so significant, why it was able to ripple
so significantly throughout our system up east."
Bush said that quick communication between federal, state, and
local authorities and the organized response to the outage show
how far the country has come since September 11.
"It's a serious situation, but the people whose lives have been
affected need to know there's a lot of people working to enable
them to get on about their lives in a normal way," he said. "And,
hopefully, electricity will be restored soon; I can't tell you
exactly when, but I know a lot of people are working overtime to
get it done."
Following is the transcript of Bush's remarks:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(MCAS Miramar, California)
August 14, 2003
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE TRAVEL POOL
Manchester Grand Hyatt
San Diego, California
5:24 P.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Today our country, a major portion of our country
was affected by rolling blackout. Canada was affected, over 10
million people in Canada were affected, as well. And I have been
working with federal officials to make sure the response to this
situation was quick and thorough, and I believe it has been.
We're focused on two major things right now. One is to work with
state and local authorities to manage the consequences of this
rolling blackout. In my judgment, the governors and mayors of the
affected states and cities have responded very well. We've offered
all the help they need to help people cope with this blackout.
And they've -- to this moment, have said they've got the resources
necessary to handle it. The emergency preparedness teams at the
local level and the state level are responding very well.
I also want to thank the people in the affected cities and states
for their calm response to this emergency situation. It has been
remarkable to watch on television how resolved the people are about
dealing with this situation, and I'm grateful for that. And I know
their neighbors are grateful, as well, for the proper and calm
The other thing, of course, we're working on is to get electricity
up and running as quickly as possible. And federal officials are
working with state and local officials to get the electricity grid
up and running. Our goal, of course, is to do this as quickly as
possible. Obviously, the sooner we can get electricity up, the
more normal people's lives will become.
One thing I think I can say for certain is that this was not a
terrorist act. I've heard reports about a lightening strike in
Niagara Falls, New York, and federal officials, of course, are
investigating the veracity of that. We'll find out here what caused
the blackout. But, most importantly, what we now need to do is
fix the problem and to get electricity up and running as quickly
I was pleased to hear that many of the airports up east are beginning
to have flights leave, and that's good. So, in other words, slowly
but surely, we're coping with this massive national problem. Millions
of people's lives are affected. I fully understand that their lives
will not be normal for the short run, and hope that they continue
to cope with this in a manner that they have done so far. I'm confident
we can get things up and running as quickly as possible and people's
lives will go back to normal.
Q: Mr. President, does this suggest that even with all the attention
paid to homeland security that the electrical grid is still vulnerable,
should it have been a terrorist attack?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think, you know, one of the things we'll
have to do, of course, is take an assessment of why the cascade
was so significant, why it was able to ripple so significantly
throughout our system up east. And that will be a very important
part of the investigation once we deal with the immediate -- and
the immediate, of course, is to take care of people.
You know, for example, in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg has ordered
out thousands of police officers on the street to help bring calm;
fire fighters are working overtime; emergency crews are out working
well. My focus is to work with state and local authorities to help
deal with the immediate problem. Of course, we'll have time to
look at it and determine whether or not our grid needs to be modernized.
I happen to think it does, and have said so all along. But this
will be -- this is going to be an interesting lesson for our country,
and we'll have to respond to it.
Q: Mr. President, do we know why this happened?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I say, I saw a preliminary report. But
we'll find out why, and we'll deal with the problem.
Q: Mr. President, you said that the state and locals had said
they have all the resources they need. Can you talk about what
the federal government might do, or might already be doing to help
THE PRESIDENT: Well, one thing, of course, we're doing is we're
getting the airlines running. The FAA is -- as I understand, has
cleared flights out of LaGuardia and Newark, for example.
The organization of Homeland Security is aimed at quick communications
with state and local authorities and I think that that communication
was quick and thorough. I talked to Secretary Ridge several times.
Governors have been notified and mayors have been notified, and
we're prepared to do anything that we can upon request.
Q: But it doesn't sound like they've asked you, yet, to do --
THE PRESIDENT: Not much, because they're well prepared. I mean,
the first thing that I think America is already pleased about is
the fact that we're better organized today than we were two-and-a-half
years ago to deal with an emergency, and the system responded well.
Secretary Ridge was telling me 30 minutes ago how quickly the local
authorities responded and how good the communications were between
the federal government, the state government, the local government.
It's a serious situation, but the people whose lives have been
affected need to know there's a lot of people working to enable
them to get on about their lives in a normal way. And, hopefully,
electricity will be restored soon; I can't tell you exactly when,
but I know a lot of people are working overtime to get it done.
Thank you, all.
5:30 P.M. PDT