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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Obama Addresses the Nation on Gulf Oil Crisis; Estimate on Oil Leak Rises; Interview With Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey
Aired June 15, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again. We are live in Louisiana on this, the 57th day of the BP disaster.
And, as you know, President Obama spoke about the spill with the nation tonight. It was his first address from the Oval Office. We will show you plenty of it tonight and have analysis as well.
But we begin with two new and frankly stunning developments, first, the stunning new estimate of the amount of oil now flowing into the Gulf, 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil a day. That's how much the government is now estimating is gushing out of that well, up to 60,000 barrels.
Now, it was just last week that they gave their upper estimate as 40,000 barrels, today, 60,000 barrels. That is, by the way, 60 times higher than what BP and the government officials first estimated it was. Remember that? They said it was 1,000 barrels a day. and even after the NOAA estimated 5,000 barrels, BP tried to hold on to the 1,000-=barrel figure. Take a look at how the numbers have been lowballed for weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're estimating 1,000 barrels a day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 barrels a day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five thousand barrels a day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The flow rate technical group has determined the overall estimate potentially flowing from the well is at a range of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day.
ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD COMMANDANT: Twelve thousand to 19,000 and 12,000 to 25,000.
We should be in the range of somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 barrels a day with that system once it's in place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, today, the upper range is 60,000. We should point out, when Steve Wereley, a professor at Purdue University, estimated it might be 70,000 barrels weeks ago, BP said his estimate was inaccurate, flat-out wrong, they said. They even called it alarmist.
Well, sound the alarms, because now it's estimated at 60,000. And it wasn't until just a few days ago that BP reluctantly agreed to actually send sensors down into the well and directly measure the flow. How about that?
All along, they and the government were saying it didn't matter how big the leak was. Sound the alarms. We will have more on this in a moment.
The other big development today that you need to know about occurred on Capitol Hill. What was revealed about BP's safety plan and the spill response plans of other major companies is stunning.
Now, we have known for a while that BP had promised they could handle a spill of 250,000 barrels a day, right? That was in their regional oil spill response plan filed and approved by the woefully inadequate government agency overseeing them, the MMS. It's obvious now, of course, they could not handle a 250,000-barrel-a-day spill. They haven't been able to handle the spill they have now, which is now allegedly 60,000 barrels a day.
We have also known for a while that, in their own plan, BP discussed how to deal with and protect walruses -- walruses in the Gulf of Mexico. And, in case you're saying to yourself, wow, I didn't know there were walruses in the Gulf of Mexico, there aren't. They were in BP's plans, however.
We have also learned today, though, that, according to documents released by Congress, other big oil companies have very similar spill response plans. Shell and Chevron said they could take care of 200,000 barrels a day.
Now, if they have some secret solution that cleans oil faster, there's a lot of folks here who would love to hear about it. But chances are, they don't. Chances are, their numbers are just as made up as BP's numbers were.
And it turns out BP is not the only company that plans to protect walruses in the Gulf. Four of the five oil companies have plans that call for protecting walruses, which, by the way, were not spotted in the Gulf -- well, actually, they were last spotted in the Gulf about three million years ago, according to what I have read.
One more shocker: Three of the companies said they were getting information from an expert, a scientist who has been dead for years.
Congressman Edward Markey led today's hearings involving the oil companies. He's going to join us live in just a moment.
But we begin with the new flow rate.
Joining me now, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, and Garland Robinette, radio host at WWL in New Orleans.
Billy, when you hear this new flow rate number, 60,000, and you learn that BP just agreed to send the sensors down this weekend, I mean, does it just blow your mind?
BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: Why we didn't have the sensors down there from the beginning? If we had a way to gauge it, that shows they're not forthcoming in this, just like they said 30 acres of Plaquemines Parish has oil in it, and we showed you it's a little over 3,000. So, we can't believe anything they're saying on this.
COOPER: Garland, the one time I was able to talk to a BP official with Bob Dudley. And I asked him what -- some researchers from Woods Hole were willing to come and measure. This was weeks and weeks ago.
And he said, well, maybe that wasn't allowed, because there wasn't like bunk space for them, because -- because space is tight. You have been watching this up close every single day. What do you make of BP?
GARLAND ROBINETTE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I think it's evident -- everything you have said today -- we can't trust anything they say, not because of the media, not because of prejudice against oil companies. They have proven to us that they are totally untrustworthy.
COOPER: Do you believe these new numbers?
COOPER: I mean, at a certain point, it hurts the government's credibility when you have new numbers coming out every week.
ROBINETTE: Of course. It certainly does.
Part of me says one of the big rating companies today came out and said the GDP may benefit from this. So, part of it, I think, is, it's just little old Louisiana, and what does it matter if we have the wrong rates or why or whatever? What's the worry?
COOPER: You think, if this was happening elsewhere in the country, off the coast of the Hamptons or Martha's Vineyard or something...
ROBINETTE: If a Robert Kennedy Jr. or Arnold Schwarzenegger was seeing this off their coast, it would have been solved day two or three, I think.
COOPER: What do you -- why do you think BP has been reluctant to try to measure this, Billy?
NUNGESSER: Well, I think a lot of people say that they could be held responsible based on what they release.
I talked about several things that were proposed not by Joe Blow off the street. Versabar had that device that could have captured the oil, lifted it to the top, and measured every inch of it. It wasn't even considered.
Now, Versabar is not going to talk about it, because they do a lot of work with BP. But I talked to the owners of Versabar, and they were shocked. They have a thing called the bottom-feeder. It can go down there, cover it, lift the barge, put another one over it.
But because it counts every inch of it, it wasn't even considered. They don't want you to know how much oil is coming out. And they never did.
COOPER: Garland, you talk to people every day on the radio. You've -- for me, you became a hero during Hurricane Katrina. I used to listen to your radio program every day.
ROBINETTE: You're saying that to me?
But, I mean, what are people saying to you? What are the big issues that you see moving forward?
ROBINETTE: The one is that the United States doesn't seem to want to hear. We're no longer part of the United States. Every state of the union that produces oil in their land gets 50 percent of the money.
We get less than 10 percent. It's not a United States. I think we have a president that understands equal opportunity, understands not being able to sit at the counter like everybody else. That's us.
COOPER: So, you think, if the state -- if the state got more of the oil revenues, they would have more money, that they would be able to do this?
ROBINETTE: We could help ourselves. Everybody says we're whiners. Well, give us what you get. That's all we're asking. And we can do it ourselves. But that's just unheard of.
In his speech tonight, he wants to do a restoration committee. He's the first president that's ever said that. And we're grateful, but we have got 30 years of plans on a shelf that we can go tomorrow to renew the wetlands.
COOPER: For you, what -- we're going to talk a lot more about what the president said. But, just briefly, what did you think?
NUNGESSER: Well, we need -- we need a quicker response. Right now, two to three weeks picking up the oil, said that all along. COOPER: The president said tonight that, by mid-July, they are going to have 90 percent of the oil basically being collected. He got those figures, frankly, from BP.
NUNGESSER: Well, but BP, if they -- why wasn't that deployed 50 days ago? We should be bringing every asset to the Gulf to fight this thing. If something fails, we have got a backup there. What is mid- July?
COOPER: By mid-July, they say they're going to have enough sort of containment vessels that will be able to handle enough of the oil.
NUNGESSER: Why haven't they have on their way...
COOPER: Well, that's the question.
NUNGESSER: ... 50 days ago? They could have been here from anywhere in the world. I mean, who is getting -- where is this schedule? Mid-July? Maybe next month? Maybe in two weeks?
We're allowing them to play with our livelihood here by throwing July, August, with no accountability for it.
COOPER: We are going to have a lot more with Billy and Garland Robinette.
We're also going to talk to David Gergen about the president's speech.
As always, you can join the live chat now at AC360.com.
Coming up next: the man in charge of BP America called to Congress today and told to commit hari-kari by one of the members, a startling moment. We will play that for you. He wasn't the only one grilled on Capitol Hill. So were executives from the other big oil companies. We will talk to the lawmaker who ordered them to appear -- coming up.
And his first Oval address since given -- taking office, President Obama outlining his plan to end the spill, restore the Gulf, make BP pay. Will those promises actually lead to action? He's going to meet with BP folks in the White House tomorrow. We will preview that ahead.
COOPER: While BP officials continue to refuse to appear on our program, which is certainly their right, they can't hide from appearing before Congress.
Today, the chairman and president of BP America, Lamar McKay, testified before the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee. McKay, along with the executives from four other oil companies, were blasted by lawmakers.
And McKay got the worst of it. Listen to what Congressman Cliff Stearns of Florida and Joseph Cao of Louisiana said to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CLIFF STEARNS (R), FLORIDA: It's really outrageous that you sit here and tell us that you're going to hunt to the unified command, when we have had 11 people killed, we have had a huge environmental disaster. And you're still sitting here as a CEO of BP?
Frankly, would call for your resignation. I'm calling for it today. I'm not asking for you to apologize. I'm asking you to resign.
REP. JOSEPH CAO (R), LOUISIANA: Mr. Stearns asked Mr. McKay to resign.
Well, in the Asian culture we do things differently. During the samurai days, we would just give you a knife and ask to you commit hari-kari.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Pretty surprising stuff, perhaps an example of the anger out there.
McKay was joined on Capitol Hill today by the executives from four other oil companies. This was really fascinating. As we told you at the top, three of the companies said they were getting information from an expert, a scientist, who is actually dead.
Four of the companies have plans to protect walruses in the Gulf from a spill -- walruses not having been here for three million years. And then there's this. This is what BP calls its quick guide to a regional oil spill plan. Now, there's a section on safety and a section on spill assessment.
Take a look at this sheet, all right? That's what it looks like. Now check out this one. This is ExxonMobil's quick guide to an oil spill plan in the Gulf. Does it look familiar? It should, because it is virtually identical to the sheet from BP.
Now let me show you Chevron's solution. This is their quick guide to a regional spill. And wouldn't you know, and except for different fonting and maybe a change in a word or two, identical to the versions from BP and ExxonMobil. Finally, ConocoPhillips with a carbon copy of the other guides.
These are -- I mean, these are companies that are making billions of dollars each.
Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts is the chairman of the subcommittee. He called McKay and the other executives to the Capitol today.
And he joined me earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Congressman, some of the stuff that you revealed today on Capitol Hill was just stunning. I mean, we have seen that BP's response plan listed a dead scientist as a contact and talked about walruses in the Gulf when there was a spill, when, believe, there haven't been walruses there for some three million years.
But to learn that other companies out there have pretty much the exact same plan, with the exact same language, and quoting -- you know, referencing the exact same scientist, and even talking about saving walruses, was incredible to me.
REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, it's probably obvious that none of the companies have actually invested in 21st century technologies that make it possible to either shut down the leak or to respond to the damage which is being done out in the ocean and to the livelihoods of people.
The one new technology that they invested in was apparently a Xerox machine, because they each had, for all intents and purposes, the same plan with the same mistakes in it, walruses that they could respond to in the Gulf of Mexico, dead people with their phone numbers who haven't been around since 2005.
So, I think it's just an indication of how completely disinterested that each of the companies were in making the investment in a capacity to respond if an accident occurred. And we see the results every single day.
COOPER: Well, also a sign of just how lax the government oversight was, I mean, basically rubber-stamping these so-called safety plans or spill response plans.
I mean, did you literally think that they just -- somebody made up this plan and then they just Xeroxed it? Because you're saying it's like 90 percent the same wording.
MARKEY: Either they Xeroxed it or the same company sold the same plan to all of the oil companies, and that was their spill response.
COOPER: And, in BP's response plan, they said they could handle 250,000 barrels of oil a day. These other plans are a little bit more cautious. They say 200,000 barrels.
But my point is, if they have the technology to handle 200,000 barrels, they should speak up, because folks at BP and a lot of folks here would love to hear this technology. Chances are their numbers are as made up as BP's 250,000-barrel-a-day figure.
MARKEY: What we learned today -- and they all admitted it -- that none of them have the capacity to respond to a worst-case scenario.
And that can be 250,000, 200,000, 100,000, 50,000, 30,000. They admitted that none of them have the capacity. So, this whole basic plan that was put together by the oil industry was, go to the MMS. Get them to approve ultra-deep technology, and just coast by, not actually putting in place the ultra-safe drilling technologies or the ultra-fast response capacity that they would need if something went wrong.
And they just cut corners. They shortchanged safety. And -- and the people in the Gulf are the victims.
COOPER: When you hear today that now the government flow rate team says it's upwards -- it could be 60,000 barrels -- that's their new high estimate -- I mean, do you believe these numbers at this point? I mean, it seems like every week there's a new number, and BP, for the longest time, has been clinging to the lowest possible numbers they can get.
And, in fact, when an independent scientist weeks ago said, well, it could be 70,000, they attacked that guy. They said it's inaccurate. They said it's alarmist.
MARKEY: You know, right from the beginning, I have not believed BP. I have not believed their numbers. It's why I forced them to put up the spill cam, so that experts could analyze this flow rate.
I think that the number could even go higher. I think that we are in a worst-case scenario. I think that BP was trying to limit their liability, because they pay a fine per barrel of oil that's out there. They were lying or grossly incompetent. And -- and I think that the livability of the Gulf has, as a result, been -- been victimized by BP.
But these numbers, these are the numbers that we should have known in the very beginning. If we had known it was 60,000 barrels per day, it would have changed the number of skimmers, the amount of boom, the amount of protection for the health of the workers, the amount of chemicals that went into the ocean, the amount of compensation that would be needed for the people onshore.
All of it would have been different, and BP kept it from the government and from the people.
COOPER: Congressman Markey, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
MARKEY: Thank you. Thanks for having me on.
COOPER: Still ahead, we will have reaction to the president's prime-time speech from the Oval Office. Is it really possible they're going to have 90 percent of the oil cleaned up in a matter of weeks, or contained? That's what the president said tonight. Billy Nungesser, David Gergen, Garland Robinette are back with us.
And later: saving the most vulnerable victims of this catastrophe, baby birds devastated by the spill now allegedly being harmed by BP workers sent to clean up the oil mess in the marsh -- details on that ahead.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: As we said, tonight, President Obama used a potent weapon in every president's arsenal, addressing the nation from the Oval Office. It's the first time he has done that.
Right out of the gate, he called the oil spill an assault on our shores and talked about waging battle, starting with the cleanup efforts already under way. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And in the coming weeks and days, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that's expected to stop the leak completely.
But make no mistake: We will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever's necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.
Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness.
And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says nearly 40 percent claims in his state have not yet been paid. He's demanding more transparency and oversight.
Today, he gave some examples why. He said some people have reportedly been paid before filing a claim. He also said, according to BP's own data, one claim was filed by a 215-year-old man, obviously a bogus claim or an error, either way, evidence of some major glitches.
A lot of people besides Governor Jindal were looking for President Obama to talk tough tonight. Did they hear what he -- what they wanted?
Joining me again, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, radio talk show host here in New Orleans Garland Robinette. And let's also bring in senior political analyst David Gergen.
David, we haven't heard from you so far. You have worked in White Houses of both Republican and Democrats. You have seen a lot of these Oval Office addresses. What did you make of this one?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Crisp, well- delivered speech. The president looked good. But, Anderson, I think this was his last shot to convince the people that he -- convince the public that he's really taken command, effective command, of this situation.
I may be wrong, but I don't think he succeeded in that mission.
I think a lot of people are looking for more decisive action, especially on what he's going to do to clean up and fix up the coast, and do it quickly. Billy, he has been telling us for a long time now action has been delayed. There's chaos down there. You have been reporting that.
Candy Crowley has been reporting that. John King has been reporting that. We did not hear an action plan tonight to do that, to do that quickly. I think if -- we heard a lot of language that was military in nature. Thank goodness our Army does not go to war like this.
COOPER: It raises a good point, Billy and Garland. I mean, if -- if this was a war, as -- you know, James Carville has been saying this thing. The governor has. You have.
And the president is saying, look, this is an assault on our shores. If we wage war the same way we have waged this, would we survive?
NUNGESSER: Absolutely not.
You know, when you go to war, you throw everything at it you have got. You don't take a 10-minute break and work 20 minutes because it's 90 degrees. You don't lay your weapons down if you're being shot at. This oil is attacking our way of life, our coastline. And we're working -- we are taking a two-hour boat ride to the location. We're working 20 minutes and resting 10.
COOPER: You're saying that, with BP cleanup workers, that's what -- because those are the rules, that's the way it works?
NUNGESSER: Absolutely. It's not happening. We're not getting anything accomplished.
We have got a lot of things out there. We're trying, but there's no organization in place, no sense of urgency to attack the oil before it destroys our coastline.
COOPER: What did you think of what the president said?
ROBINETTE: I was grateful that he's the first president ever that's uttered the words we're going to do something about coastal restoration.
But, again, like you have said, we have proof -- Katrina and now this -- this country -- forget Louisiana and New Orleans -- is not ready for any catastrophe, much less the oil companies. We have had two presidents say to us very succinctly, we will do what it takes. We will do it. Give us 50 percent of the oil revenues that you give to five other states that produce oil on their land. What is it? Are we not part of the United States?
COOPER: David, I want to play for our viewers something else the president said. He made a hard push for Congress to get behind his clean energy plan. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we've talked and talked about the need to end America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.
Time and again, the path forward has been blocked, not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.
We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean-energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America's innovation and seize control of our own destiny.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now -- David, now, Republicans are already saying, look, the president is playing politics with this disaster, trying to use this as an opportunity to push forward his energy agenda.
GERGEN: Well, that's what they're saying, Anderson, but, on this one, I stand with the president. I think he stood up for what he believed. That was courageous to do that in this situation.
And, fundamentally, he's right, in the sense we do need to move to a different energy future. And Anderson, very importantly, when George W. Bush or a conservative is in office, but George W. Bush, after 9/11, used the lessons of 9/11 repeatedly to advance his international agenda. Fair enough. That's politics.
I think that's what President Obama did tonight. I think it was completely fair.
COOPER: It's interesting to hear President Obama say that we're going to sort of bring this area back better than it was before. It reminded me almost of what President Bush said after Katrina, about rebuilding the levees bigger and better.
I wondered, if people here, if that sort of made people -- sort of remind them of some of the promises made that weren't delivered on so far.
NUNGESSER: It is. You know, he talks about green energy. Plaquemines Parish has the number-one category seven wind in southwest (INAUDIBLE). We have been working on a wind farm, turbines in the river for the last two years. The grants haven't come as quickly as we would like to make those things happen.
We're doing all those things, and we're also producing energy, but we also want to save our wetlands. And I think the concentration right now has to be on stopping it from destroying our way of life.
COOPER: Do you worry -- when you hear sort of Republicans attacking Democrats, Democrats fighting back, do you worry that suddenly politics is just going to overwhelm this from Washington, or is it already happening?
ROBINETTE: It -- it -- that's been the gridlock forever. We're a plane that's going down, and these idiots are looking right and left.
We're just trying to survive. We don't give a damn about the Demo-don'ts or the Republi-can'ts.
COOPER: Demo-don'ts and Republi-can'ts?
NUNGESSER: And I have given the president...
ROBINETTE: Well, every time I have a Democrat on, they tell me what the Republicans can't do.
ROBINETTE: When I have the Republicans on, they tell me what the Democrats don't do.
COOPER: I see.
ROBINETTE: But they never tell me what they're going to do.
So, we have got a nickname for them.
NUNGESSER: And the president, when he's come down here, things have happened.
And -- and -- but it shouldn't take the president coming down here. The leadership under him should be able to get the job done. And, unless we are deploying all the assets everywhere in the world to stop this oil and pick it up, we're not doing our job.
COOPER: David, is it right, do you think, for the president to meet tomorrow with BP executives in the White House? I mean, it's really his first face-to-face meeting with these folks.
GERGEN: The wonder is, he didn't meet with them, you know, 54 days ago, 55 days ago. I don't understand that.
We talk to foreign leaders who we don't particularly like. We sit down with them all the time. Yes, I think he should be talking to them. And, you know, I think he ought to be raising hell with them. They got some points that they need to raise.
But what we need is joint action. We don't need blame. We don't need to play politics. We need action on the coast.
These two gentlemen are right about that. It's stunning to me that, you know, eight weeks later, we still do not have a command system in place to protect the coast and to move effectively on the coast. And that's still not there tonight. We heard more about BP. That was reassuring.
But in terms of payments, but in terms of protecting these coasts, we still don't have -- we don't have an action plan, we don't have a good command structure in place yet.
COOPER: The president talked about an escrow account that he wants BP to set up, didn't put a dollar figure on. Do you guys support that? It's an obviously.
GARLAND ROBINETTE, WWL RADIO HOST, NEW ORLEANS: Absolutely. We've been begging for the money forever. One thing I'd love for you to ask the president, alternative energy. Well, I'm for it. So, it's only 3 percent of all the energy in this country. If you put hundreds of billions of dollars, you might quadruple it to 10 percent.
Nobody wants nuclear. Nobody wants oil. Solar, you don't want the transmission lines. Wind, you don't want the transmission lines.
What is it exactly we're going to do to get up to alternative energy where he carries this country? Nobody ask that question.
COOPER: Guys, I appreciate you've been on tonight.
ROBINETTE: We appreciate you.
COOPER: Thank you very much.
David Gergen, as well, thank you very much.
Our coverage continues. We're here all week.
Still ahead: the campaign to shut down another BP oil rig by two dozen lawmakers and a whistleblower say, a rig called the Atlantis could be vulnerable to a blow-out. We'll explore that ahead.
We also got more reports on the growing tensions over rescuing birds that are struggling to survive. Are the birds' best interests being served? And there are enough resources and expertise devoted to the mission.
We'll talk about that -- ahead.
COOPER: There's another BP rig in the Gulf, in the spotlight. It is called the Atlantis, second biggest oil rig in the Gulf, bigger, deeper than the Deepwater Horizon, one of the most complex deepwater platforms in the world.
A former BP contractor and at least two dozen U.S. lawmakers say there's reason to believe the Atlantis may be unsafe.
Joe Johns tonight is investigating.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One hundred and twenty-two miles off the Louisiana coast in deeper water and able to pump more oil than Deepwater Horizon ever did sits BP's monster of an oil rig. They call it Atlantis. It runs on technology some say rivals the space shuttle.
But when you ask for the engineering documents, the blueprints, the schematics, the drawings that show you how to put this thing together, you'll get a surprise. Ninety percent -- that's right -- 90 percent of the safety documentation for Atlantis was missing as of the end of 2008, that's according to the advocacy group Food and Water Watch, which got the information from a BP project supervisor-turned- whistleblower.
The group says Atlantis is an accident waiting to happen and they're in court, seeking an injunction, claiming Atlantis needs to be shut down now because in an emergency, no one would know how to.
WENONAH HAUTER, FOOD AND WATER WATCH: In a production facility as sophisticated as BP Atlantis, there are millions of components, moving parts, that the operator needs to know where they are to turn it on, to shut it off in case of an accident. And it's outrageous that 90 percent of this safety documentation is missing.
JOHNS: The whistleblower himself is schedule to testify for Congress this week. And last month, two dozen members of Congress sent a letter to the administration, asking for the rig to be shut down.
(on camera): But why can't you just go out to the rig, look around and see if everything is in order or not?
HAUTER: Well, for one thing, the BP Atlantis goes 7,000 feet into the sea and then even deeper into where the oil is. So, a lot of these components aren't visible from the platform.
JOHNS: BP says reports claiming it's operating with incomplete or inaccurate engineering documents aren't true and that operators in the platform had access to up-to-date drawings needed to run the platform safely. BP says it's done two investigations into those assertions and says it's nothing more than a minor internal process issue that has no bearing on the safety of the platform. (voice-over): Internal emails suggest that as far back as 2008, BP knew it had a problem. One employee said BP had incomplete drawings of the rig's internal structure, but BP worried that turning such documents over to people who have requested them could lead to what one official called "catastrophic operator errors," because they would assume they were correct.
And why doesn't the Interior Department step in and shut down Atlantis while BP gets its paperwork in order? The press secretary for the department said they could not comment because the matter is under litigation. But in a court filing, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the investigation of the claims about Atlantis should be done by mid-September.
Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Interesting. Joe is following other stories for us tonight and he joins us with the 360 news and business bulletin -- Joe.
JOHNS: Anderson, a Colorado man is in police custody in Pakistan tonight for trying to hunt down Osama bin Laden. Pakistani officials say Gary Brooks Faulkner was picked up near the Afghan border carrying a pistol, sword and night vision goggles.
Police in Aruba and Peru are pledging to join forces in a murder investigation of a college student whose battered body was found in Joran van der Sloot's Lima hotel room June 2nd. Investigators hope the cooperation will lead to new information about the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway five years ago in Aruba. Van der Sloot was twice arrested but never charged in that case.
Customers eager for the latest iPhone faced huge setbacks today in their quest to pre-order that gadget. Online systems, as well as those at Apple and AT&T stores crashed repeatedly. The new smartphone will be in stores June 24th.
And you're looking at the charred remains of what was once a 60- foot -- 62-foot tall statue of Jesus in Monroe, Ohio, near Dayton. An apparently lightning strike last night sparked the fire, which spread to a church amphitheater.
And this is what it looked like, there, you can see it there. They used to call it "Touchdown Jesus." But now, it's being called "terminator Jesus."
And I guess that's why they call a lightning strike an act of God --Anderson.
COOPER: Wow. Sad News. Joe, thank you very much.
Still ahead: a baby bird found dead, bird eggs crushed, a nesting site that people here say may have been destroyed by cleanup workers. The story is coming up. Also ahead, the "Culprits of the Catastrophe." We're naming names. See who we're adding to our list tonight.
COOPER: Welcome back. We're live in Louisiana.
I want to show you something. We've obtained photos taken recently by members of the Plaquemines Parish Inland and Waterway Strike Force, of a brown pelican nesting site in Queen Bess Island. Now, I want to warn you that some of these photos are going to tough to look at. You can see a chick lying dead in a nest, nearby eggs that have been crushed.
Local officials say that crews sent by BP to clean up the area are responsible for this kind of destruction. They say that workers are walking on the nest, being careless with their equipment. For wildlife rescue groups, these photos underscore the urgency that they be made part of the cleanup operation.
Gary Tuchman has an up-close look.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Deep into Louisiana marshland, searching for pelicans and gulls struggling to survive.
(on camera): There are thousands of birds just in this one location, one small barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. At any time, every one of these birds could plunge into the water to get a fish and ends up mired in oil.
(voice-over): And that's what Michael Carloss with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is looking for.
MICHAEL CARLOSS, LA. DEPT. OF WILDLIFE & FISHERIES: See a little opening in that grass? I think he's sitting right in there.
TUCHMAN: We then see it, too, a baby seagull drenched in oil, barely moving.
The gull is one of more than 600 visibly oiled birds that have now been rescued in Louisiana since this oil disaster occurred, and brought for cleaning and care to a center that has opened in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.
The bird we have spotted is being rescued by state and wildlife workers. Other birds are rescued by federal wildlife workers. However, there are many other bird experts and enthusiasts who want to participate in rescues, but are being told at this time by the state and federal agencies they are not interested in help from outsiders.
Drew Wheelan from the American Birding Association says there are hundreds of people from other parts of the country experienced to dealing with birds covered with oil. DREW WHEELAN, AMERICAN BIRDING ASSOCIATION: I cannot see any reason why they would not want as many people here as possible.
TUCHMAN: The Humane Society of the United States agrees, the president of the organization is saying, "We need more trained people and boats working in the Gulf, and we need more boats deployed to search in a more systematic way for the animals in distress."
But the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says, "We have the resources to handle the job at hand at this time. The volunteers who have offered services simply need to be ready to respond when the call comes, when that time comes."
CARLOSS: I think the misconception may be that we're not doing our best. And, you know, I would argue that our field staff was doing their absolute best.
TUCHMAN: State officials say even if they haven't dealt with oil spills, they know their birds and their bird habitats. Plus, they say, almost boat and housing resources are being used.
CARLOSS: It's a chick, too.
TUCHMAN: As a baby seagull is handed over for cleaning, we don't know for sure if it will survive. What we do know for sure is that there's plenty of disagreement about the rescue operation and that there are many more birds that needed to be saved.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Grand Isle, Louisiana.
COOPER: I should point out that Gary Tuchman is actually allowed to get close to the bird as it's being brought up to the dock, it doesn't seem like a big thing. But for today's CNN crews, including myself, we weren't allowed to do that.
We're back with Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish.
As we look at some of those photos that we were seeing from others and Plaquemines Parish, crushed brown pelican chick and nest with broken eggs. And what do you make of what's going on out there?
NUNGESSER: Well, like we said all along, the organization, the ability to go out there -- you don't go on those islands. You work from around the island with skimmers, vacuums, like we talked about early on. And they're overwhelmed as far as rescuing. Now, we did get permission, BP is going to stage some boats to bring the birds in so that trained crews can stay out long hours looking for the birds. So, that was a good thing.
COOPER: So, there's been concerns the birds have to be brought back long distances back to --
(CROSSTALK) NUNGESSER: And the problem has been the contractor that's been hired by BP not wanting to give up any control or expand their operation. They're getting paid to do this. The Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries has been helping out and they have now agreed to train some volunteers since some people are coming in to help expand this operation. It has been overwhelmed for a long time.
And just like the oil, we can't wait until 1,000 birds come in and say we don't have the capacity to help them. We have to ramp up in anticipation. We know there's more oil coming ashore. We should be ready to accept those birds, be ready with the teams to go out there.
For him to say there's no hotel rooms -- is that reason to leave those birds out there to die?
COOPER: Right. Federal wildlife official I talked to said, look, you know, we've got, I think they said 165 people were kind of that maximum capacity in terms of logistics, hotel rooms to stay at. You're saying there's plenty of local people who live here who would like nothing more than -- they have boats -- to go out there.
NUNGESSER: We got eight marinas in Plaquemines Parish. Let's set up a place at each marina and go out from there. Like we said, divide it in grids.
You can't work the whole Gulf from one or two locations. Take an area. Set up a place there. Work that area. Work another area. It would save on the boating time, on the stress of these animals, having to take that long ride to Fort Jackson.
We need many more locations setup. Be proactive, not reactive to a crisis in which we're in right now.
COOPER: Billy, it's been a long day, one of many. I appreciate you've been with us.
NUNGESSER: Thank you very much.
COOPER: Appreciate it. Thanks.
We got lot still to come. I also just want to point out, someone in the hotel where I'm staying at today told me that someone called up to cancel their honeymoon reservation here in the city of New Orleans.
There's no reason -- you know, and people here in New Orleans want you to know that businesses are open. The restaurants are open. The food is great.
You can still get seafood. Oysters may be a little tricky to come by these days. Those are getting few and far between. But the seafood is fresh. It's good. I eat it every single day.
And this city is alive, kicking and doing great. And people want you to come down here, just as people in all the Gulf States want you to come. Most of the beaches are open. So, don't be canceling any reservations. Come on down. They need you more than ever.
And it's not a charity case. This is one of the greatest cities in America and it's a fun time. So, you should still come.
Still to come tonight: "Culprits of the Catastrophe." We are naming names of those responsible for the oil spill. See who's being added to our wall of shame tonight when we continue.
COOPER: I just want to repeat briefly what I said a moment ago, the oil is still spreading here in the Gulf. It isn't going anywhere here near -- right here near the city of New Orleans. We're here to press for answers and to take names and the list of people to hold accountable for this disaster. So, we've launched a new series, "Culprits of the Catastrophe."
Tonight's culprit isn't one person. It's an entire agency, the MMS, Minerals Management Service.
Here's what President Obama said tonight about the agency in his Oval Office speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility -- a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves. At this agency, industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight. Oil companies showered regulators with gifts and favors, and were essentially allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own regulations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, President Obama vowed to turn MMS into a real watchdog. Today, he put a guy named Michael Bromwich, top former federal prosecutor, in charge of the agency. He's got a tough job ahead of him. They've made a lot of promises.
Now, remember, President Obama has been in charge of this agency since he took office. They made promises about reform before.
Critics say they haven't delivered on that.
Here's David Mattingly tonight.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On what's become a laundry list of people and agencies partly responsible for the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, the Mineral Management Service stands out, way out. REP. GENE TAYLOR (D), MISSISSIPPI: As far as either the dead or missing battery, the leaking hydraulics, would you address those at this time? Because it doesn't sound to me, if that is true, that you folks were doing your job.
ELIZABETH BIRNBAUM, FORMER MMS DIRECTOR: I really cannot speak to those matters because those are matters that are subject to the current investigation.
MATTINGLY: That is Elizabeth Birnbaum, director of the Mineral Management Services, or MMS, until she resigned on May 27th. Birnbaum became head of MMS in July of last year. Her main job: to overhaul the agency that regulates offshore oil and natural gas drilling, something her critics say she didn't even begin to do.
BRENT COON, ATTORNEY, SUED BP AFTER TEXAS CITY EXPLOSION: She obviously failed. We wouldn't have the spill out there that we have now if she would have done all the things that she was assigned to do.
MATTINGLY: Attorney Brent Coon has focused on the oil industry for over 25 years and says the problems are far bigger than just one person at MMS. It's the entire way the agency conducts business. MMS not only oversees safety and environmental standards of oil companies but also collects revenues from them.
COON: How could you have an administration and an agency charged with the responsibility for getting money in, in royalties, and at the same time having the responsibility of restricting access only to those that were demonstrating the proper set of conduct? I mean, it's a built-in conflict.
MATTINGLY: A built-in conflict, which has led to a history of misconduct. A report released by the inspector general's office reveals that MMS employees accepted gifts, used drugs, and had sexual relationships with oil industry employees -- which critics say calls into question MMS' enforcement of some environmental and safety standards.
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: You can't trust MMS. They've shown that they're too cozy with industry.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), ENERGY & NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE: It is long past time to drain the safety swamp that has become the Minerals Management Service.
MATTINGLY: And that may be harder to do than one might imagine -- a so-called revolving door between the MMS and the oil industry had workers leaving the agency and going straight to work for oil companies. We contacted MMS for a statement and they declined to comment.
COON: It's sickening that we've allowed people at BP to go out and exploit our resources when they have a long history of deliberately defying our rules and regulations, policies and safeguards.
MATTINGLY: And that is why the Mineral Management Service makes our list of the "Culprits of the Catastrophe."
David Mattingly, CNN, Clearwater, Florida.
COOPER: So, MMS is the second member of the list. The agency joins the former CEO of BP we added to the list last night, Lord John Browne. We'll add new culprits to the catastrophe every night this week as we continue to cover what's happening here.
More from the Gulf -- ahead.