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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Police Reopen Al Gore Investigation; Hurricane Alex Makes Landfall
Aired June 30, 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 from the Gulf.
Two big breaking stories tonight, one involving former Vice President Al Gore, lurid and embarrassing sexual allegations from a masseuse, a closed criminal investigation now reopened, the potential damage to the Oscar-winning Nobel laureate almost incalculable. It's just a lot -- it's a lot more than just an inconvenient story, especially if it's the inconvenient truth. All the allegations and the new investigation coming up tonight.
The other breaking story we're following right now: the first hurricane of the season, Hurricane Alex. There it is, upgraded to a dangerous, damaging Cat 2 now in the process of coming ashore.
Chad Myers tonight is monitoring late developments from the CNN Weather Center.
But we begin with Reynolds Wolf right in the thick of it on South Padre Island, Texas -- Reynolds.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Anderson, the storm is going to make landfall, the hurricane making landfall about -- roughly about 100 miles to the south from our location. It looks like Texas will escape the mere brunt of the storm.
But that is not to say that they weren't scathed by this thing. Again, strong winds have come through here, in fact, so strong, that we had to shut down some of the bridges that go back to the mainland.
On the other side of the Intracoastal Waterway, back into Brownsville, we have got widespread reports of not only some tornadoes dropping down in some places, but also some flooding in the area.
But I have got to tell you, the city of Brownsville was prepared. They did hand out over 60,000 sandbags in the area. They have got, again, shelters supplied for roughly 2,000 families. And also Governor Rick Perry declared 19 different counties in Texas disaster areas and also deployed 2,500 troops to the area. So, they're doing the very best they can.
Again, they really did dodge a bullet. Two years ago they weren't as lucky when Hurricane Dolly made landfall, in fact, less than a mile from our present location. That was also a Category 2 storm, came through the island. At times the water was up to three feet in many of the streets farther back. I can also tell you that we had an opportunity earlier to make our way up and down these roadways. And there has been quite a bit of flooding here on the island. As soon as one feeder band comes through, the water begins to pile up, in fact, over four inches at some places.
Then, as soon as the water begins to recede, an additional feeder band comes through, bringing with it some heavy rainfall, some strong winds. At times, the damage to some of the buildings has been fairly impressive, a lot of tile damage we have seen in the area. Some power outages have also been popping up across the landscape, which is really no surprise when you have a tropical storm or tropical system like this coming through, hurricane-force winds closer to the center.
Out in our area, we have had some winds topping 60 miles per hour, strong hurricane, a Cat 2, came very close to being a Cat 3. Chad will talk about that coming up.
Let's send it back to you -- Anderson.
COOPER: Reynolds, thank you very much.
Let's bring in Chad Myers.
Chad, this one has gotten very big, very fast.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It did. It really -- it got into some very warm water and it got into low shear. Low shear means that there's not wind all over the place trying to break up these thunderstorms.
This was out all by itself. It became the big dog all by itself. It has now made landfall right there across 110 miles south of Brownsville right onshore here, coming -- there's the eyewall right on land. Now, there's a place called Punta de Piedra. And if you want to look at it on Google Maps, you can see it. It basically means rock or stone point.
And that's the area there that the northern eyewall is making landfall right now. I guess the bigger story is not what it's doing here. Is it making flooding, making some small tornadoes? Yes.
What will it do for the rest of the Gulf of Mexico? What will it do to the oil areas? And if you would believe this or not, the eye is 624 miles away from the oil slick. Yet, because of the waves of this thing, they had to shut down the burning, when they kind of round it all up and set it on fire. They had to shut down the skimming.
The waves were six to eight feet. Now, these booms behind these boats, these skim boats, are a foot to two feet high. So, what's that going to do with the six-foot wave as it washes over the back and takes all your oil off with it anyway? That's what's happened here.
So, these cleanup efforts have come to a standstill here across 624 miles from where this thing literally made landfall. I have got to take you to something really cool. I love this three- dimensionality of this. This is the eyewall right now. Literally, this is what it looks like.
And my producer Dave is going to spin you around. And you will be able to look right down inside the eye, right down in there. You are literally looking at what the hurricane hunter aircraft will be looking at on their radar in their plane right now, except you're not getting bounced around at 105 miles per hour in a cargo -- in a cargo plane.
MYERS: And so it's just a little bit more tranquil. And you can keep your dinner down a little bit better -- Anderson.
COOPER: So, Chad, how long will the water around the Gulf be bad for the oil operations?
MYERS: Oh, yes, excellent question.
Let's get to that, because you know what? I think this is probably going to be at least three to four days before we see what happens here, before it settles down, because the winds here are 100 to 105 miles per hour, OK, so, 90 miles per hour, 80, 70, 60.
But the waves are still coming in. The wave are still propagating here into the Gulf of Mexico. This will take at least four days for this water to literally settle down. This is a big bathtub, where the water is just kind of sloshing back and forth. And the waves are going to prohibit the skimming and the burning for at least -- well, I would say until at least Saturday, maybe even Sunday afternoon.
COOPER: Wow, that is bad news, indeed. Chad, appreciate it. We are going to check in with you throughout this hour as events warrant.
The storm is having a big impact, as Chad has just been pointing out, on oil recovery operations in the Gulf.
Tom Foreman joins us now with more details on that -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, you know, Chad pointed out some good things there about the distance here, about 600 miles from the target over here to this.
But the effect here is more than just that surface work that Chad was talking about there. I'm going to move this out of the way now. And we're going to look at the next part here. This is the relief well they have been drilling down there.
Right now, BP says they can continue doing this despite the storm, because the platforms that they're working on there can hold up. They had hoped to add one more ship to the effort to drain off oil from that top cap we have heard about. But that has been delayed, because that can't move in.
But the good news is the waves are not affecting the drilling of those relief wells. These platforms involved in that are able to continue this, and they will keep working -- Anderson.
COOPER: And, Tom, how -- how is the progress on that going?
FOREMAN: Well, it's pretty good, according to BP.
They say the distance between the first relief well, this one right here, and the main well here, the Macondo well, the one that's damaged that they're trying to fix, is about 20 feet right now, if you go side to side there, 20 feet right in here.
Now, how do they know that? They know that because what they do is, they send an electric pulse right down through the main well here, and then they put sensors down in over here, and the electromagnetic field tells them how close they are, and they're slowly closing the gap from one to the other.
They plan to keep doing that as they drill another 900 feet down. Now, this gets really interesting, if you look at this. We are going to fly in here and give you a sense of how hard this is. This gets really dizzying. It gives you an idea of how hard this is.
As you dive down, you are going to go down to 2,000 feet, 3,000 feet, 4,000 feet of water, all the way down to 5,000 feet. That's where the blowout preventer was. That's where all of this began.
But the relief wells we're dealing with now, Anderson, really have to go much, much, much deeper. Look at this, all the way down here. Now you're talking about pushing 18,000 feet. They're at 16,770 right now.
And this is the well we're talking about. It's getting closer. But they have to keep angling down another 900 feet before they think they will be close enough to an intercept. But I'm telling you, this is very dicey work under a mile of seawater, under two miles of seabed.
FOREMAN: This is threading a needle in the dark, to be sure, Anderson.
COOPER: And, once they do that, they hit all that pressurized oil and natural gas, won't they have the same problem containing it that they have had up top?
FOREMAN: Well, in theory, no. You remember, when they tried it up here at the blowout preventer, it just blew away. Well, that's because that's kind of a small area by comparison, even though it's fairly big.
In theory, all of this rock around here should help contain all of that gas and oil from gushing every which way. And, as soon as this reaches here, and they touch this, what they will do is they will pump thousands of gallons of that heavy drilling fluid, which they call mud, in. And what's going to happen, in theory, is, as that pumps in here, the oil will push it up this pipe, up, up, up, up, up. But look at this. This is more than two miles of pipe. Every way that it pushes it up, the weight of the mud will get heavier and heavier as it builds up.
And they hope that will eventually stop it. But I will say, Anderson, this is, as I said before, very difficult work. That's why this second relief well is already under way in case this one does not work, Anderson.
But, for now, in the storm, at least that work can continue, no delays unless a bigger storm comes along.
COOPER: Great. Tom, thanks very much.
We are going to continue to follow the story...
(TRAIN WHISTLE BLOWING)
COOPER: A train passing by right now.
We're going to continue to follow the story throughout the hour. Let us know what you think. Join the live chat now under way at AC360.com.
Up next: where the oil is going from here. Did BP try to withhold crucial evidence from researchers? Stunning allegations from a U.S. congresswoman. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
And the latest on Al Gore, the breaking news: police reopening their investigation of Al Gore and the masseuse who claimed he had unwanted sexual contact with her.
COOPER: We're continuing to follow breaking news tonight: Hurricane Alex hitting about 100 miles of Brownsville, Texas, winds of 105 miles an hour.
As we mentioned, rough seas from Alex have made it impossible to skim off oil from the water, burn it or effectively corral it with boom. The skimming boats are back in port. A big tanker that could be collecting another 25,000 barrels of oil a day cannot be hooked up. Until things calm down, they can't lay dispersants on the ocean's surface. So, there's nothing to stop the oil from coming onshore.
And with strong winds and high waves, the fear is that oil will be pushed deeper onshore or deeper into marshes. We will have to see what the next few days brings.
Tonight, we are "Keeping Them Honest," the government and BP. With the hurricane approaching today, we wanted to know what the plan actually was for dealing with a hurricane in the Gulf. So, we asked the Unified Command, and a rear admiral we spoke to would not tell us, would not give us any details. He said the plan is constantly evolving and therefore constantly going out of date. Therefore, he wouldn't release it. As for BP, new allegations tonight that the company has been yet again making it hard for independent scientists to do their jobs, to study what is really happening out there in the Gulf.
I say yet again because we have certainly seen this before, haven't we? BP, you remember, didn't release the video of the leak until weeks into the disaster, and only after being pressured to do so by members of Congress.
And we have heard directly on this program from a scientist on the team charged with measuring the flow rate, how much oil is actually leaking from the well. And he told us that BP held back high-resolution video from him and didn't let him -- them put sensors down underwater to help them measure the leak directly until the Coast Guard ordered them to a few weeks ago.
Tonight, new allegations that BP delayed handing over evidence that might suggest those deepwater plumes of oil came from its leaking well. NOAA researchers have already reported that they do, based on the preponderance of the evidence. But others from the University of South Florida wanted to be doubly sure. So, they asked BP for oil samples from the well to do what they call chemical fingerprinting.
According to the congresswoman you're about to meet, they didn't get the oil until more than three weeks later, and only after she and several other lawmakers interceded on the university's behalf, actually long after she interceded. She pressed BP on the 9th of June. Researchers got the oil on the 25th. It's stuff you could send overnight.
It's not like BP didn't have any oil lying around. They didn't actually have to drill for it. Hundreds of gallons a minute were being collected on the surface. Yet, days after researchers asked for vital material, and more than two full weeks after an elected representative of the people demanded it, that's how long it took for BP to come clean.
Congresswoman Kathy Castor was the lawmaker who spearheaded the push for samples from BP. She joins me now.
Congresswoman, why did it take three weeks and pressure from you and other Florida lawmakers to get BP to just simply hand over oil to scientists?
REP. KATHY CASTOR (D), FLORIDA: Well, the delay was unconscionable.
I mean, since the BP oil blowout in the Gulf, our researchers and scientists from Florida colleges and universities have been tracking the oil, the impact on marine life. They confirmed deep-sea oil plume that was discounted by BP, and then requested an oil sample that was met with resistance from BP.
COOPER: And, when you finally met with BP, they blamed it on, what, a miscommunication?
CASTOR: They said it was a miscommunication. But we have e- mails that demonstrate that the person involved put up a great deal of resistance, and, in fact, insisted that he receive all of the data from the University of South Florida scientists, implying that no oil sample would be forthcoming and really just show them -- show them their hand.
So, I met with BP executives the day after I learned about this in my office and pressed them. They said it was a miscommunication, but they would provide the oil sample, and yet it took three weeks to get that oil sample.
COOPER: It does seem -- and, I mean, I hate to say this, but it seems that, from the start, from the earliest moments of this thing, BP has gone out of its way to avoid providing scientists with the data that they need to study this leak.
It's one thing for them not to come on to this program or not to be transparent with journalists, not to be transparent with the American people, but to deny the very scientists who are studying this, in many crucial ways, whether it's the videotape, trying to determine the flow rate, or these underwater plumes, to deny them evidence that they need, scientific evidence, just seems incredible.
CASTOR: Yes. We need that -- we needed that oil sample to provide the direct link from the wellhead to the oil flowing on to Florida's beaches and Gulf Coast beaches.
But they also can analyze the molecular fingerprint of the oil to determine how it will evolve over time, how it will affect marine life, how it will affect the water column, especially since we have never used this amount of dispersant on an oil blowout before.
These are critical questions that we need the answers to. And when they delay three weeks, that means we're further behind in addressing the terrible impacts of this disaster.
COOPER: Congresswoman Kathy Castor, I appreciate you being on tonight. Thank you very much.
CASTOR: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, more than 2,000 oil-skimming boats in the country, so why are there only about 500 in the Gulf, where the oil actually is? We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.
Also, Alex, the latest developments on that, reports from the shore and Weather Center on Hurricane Alex, its 100-mile-an-hour winds now battering land.
We will be right back.
COOPER: Well, tonight, the skimming boats are in port, the waves just too big for them to operate.
Even though the boats are idle, the controversy surrounding them is only growing tonight, many here in the Gulf wondering why are there aren't more skimming vessels involved in this operation, why it seems that red tape is getting in the way.
There are reportedly more than 2,000 skimmers available in the continental U.S., but only about 500 are at work in the Gulf. Part of the problem is the 1990 Oil Pollution Act, which requires a certain number of skimmers to be prepositioned in various spots around the country.
Now, early on, the Coast Guard commander, Admiral Thad Allen, said he was concerned about leaving other areas of America vulnerable. But BP is accused of not trying to get all the skimmers they can. Shell Oil has a vessel that they have offered up that hasn't been -- that they have turned down.
Foreign countries are offering up their vessels as well, being turned away. A French company told the "Times Picayune" newspaper it had to sell nine boats to a Florida contractor to get around the restrictions.
On June 14, Senator George LeMieux of Florida sent a letter to President Obama, requesting that he wave the law blocking foreign skimmers from entering the Gulf. Sixteen days later, still no waiver on the Jones Act. Here is what the senator said today on the Senate floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. GEORGE LEMIEUX (R), FLORIDA: Mr. President, when this oil washes up on shore, when we have failed to respond from the offers of assistance from foreign countries, it's not just oil that is washing up on shore. It's failure.
And we need every resource, domestic and foreign alike, in the Gulf. And we needed them yesterday. In fact, we needed them 50 days ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Today, at a news conference, Thad Allen says the Jones Act has not been an issue. He said they have been able to use foreign-flagged vessels as needed.
Joining me now is "Newsweek" contributor editor Julia Reed and John Young, Jefferson Parish Council chairman.
Julia, do you buy that?
JULIA REED, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "NEWSWEEK": No, of course, not.
I mean, two -- you just got through talking about the hurricane. And we're not going to be able to get any new boats in there that we have been begging and pleading for, for now 73 days. Two weeks after the storm, several foreign countries, you know, more than a dozen, offered us boats.
The Belgians have state-of-the-art skimmers that are better than the ones we have got. Obama could have waived the Jones -- suspended the Jones Act, so the individual boats don't have to apply for waivers. He should have just done that. George Bush did it after Katrina. It was largely cosmetic, but this would have been a great thing to do.
Now, if he -- let's say he does it tomorrow. It's too late to get the boats in, in time. And we have got all these hurricanes coming.
COOPER: We also had this 1990 Oil Pollution Act, which requires the skimmers to be prepositioned throughout the country. But, I mean, if this is a war that is being waged right here, you would think...
REED: You drop that, too.
COOPER: ... you would drop that.
JOHN YOUNG, CHAIRMAN, JEFFERSON PARISH COUNCIL: Anderson, this is the worst oil crisis in U.S. history. Cut the red tape. Redeploy them down here. Let's not worry about what might happen. We have a situation here that we need to deal with. We need to cut the red tape.
COOPER: When you go out on the water, I mean, do you see skimmers out there?
YOUNG: I was out on the water Monday. I'm glad you asked that question. We saw a swathe of oil two miles wide, about 10 miles in length, not one skimmer in sight, not one.
REED: A friend of mine who flew over describes looking down on the tiny amount of work that's being done to clean up as watching somebody try to clean the Superdome with a toothbrush.
YOUNG: Anderson, the most -- the thing that you come away with when you go down there -- and I go down there two to three times, four times a week -- is the lack of equipment.
We need to intensify the equipment. We need to intensify the manpower. And, after 72 days, you would think we would have a sense of urgency. We lost a lot of valuable time with decent weather and decent seas. Now we have tropical storms are coming in. And this is just the beginning.
COOPER: We also -- today, there's been -- actually, for the last several days, there's been a lot of confusion about who, under this -- the moratorium, could actually put in for reimbursement.
Ken Feinberg, on this program in an interview with Chris Lawrence two days ago, said anybody who is affected by the moratorium could put in for -- as part of this $20 billion thing. Now they're making clear, no, no, no, that's not the case at all, and only drill workers can apply for recompense -- re-compensation through this $100 million fund that BP had.
YOUNG: Which is woefully inadequate.
REED: Yes. I mean, the $100 million fund is going to last about five weeks, if they have to compensate every drill worker's salary.
But all this -- I mean, that obfuscation and then going back and forth, it is going to be classic. I just hate to even predict how horrible it's going to be for people to make these kind of claims. But the fact that the administration just thinks, OK, we're just going to solve this with a bunch of billion dollars reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how long-reaching and far -- I mean, far-reaching and long this is going to be.
I mean, whole economies are going to shut down. I mean, $20 billion is a drop in the bucket. How are you going to re-compensate somebody, say, all the guys that own condos from here to Panama City who are totally empty? I just drove down the Alabama coast last weekend. There are like three cars in every parking lot. All those condos depend on people renting them out to pay their mortgage.
You think we had a housing crisis last week -- I mean, last year? How you going to pay those guys back? How are you going to pay off the maids? There was a story in the paper today about...
YOUNG: This is going to dwarf Katrina. And Katrina was a trillion dollars.
YOUNG: The $20 billion is woefully inadequate. The $100 million is woefully inadequate. But the biggest problem right now is, we need manpower, we need equipment, we need...
COOPER: And you're not seeing it out there?
REED: No, just blight.
YOUNG: If this -- if we were being invaded by a foreign country, we would be an occupied territory right now.
COOPER: It does seem that that is rhetoric that people are using, that politicians are using, and yet the reality on the ground, there doesn't seem to be that real sense.
REED: No. You were here after...
COOPER: If we were waging a war like this, I would be terrified...
YOUNG: Send the Navy out. Send the Navy out, yes.
REED: And you should be terrified for the sake of this country right now.
I mean, this is way more serious than anybody in Washington is taking it. You were here after Katrina. There was a sense of urgency. People were furious just days into it at the bungling. I never thought I would never miss Ray Nagin, and I don't. But remember when he said, you know, get your you-know-whats down here now. That's what people...
YOUNG: Give me some damn buses, yes.
REED: Yes. Give me some buses, yes.
Give us some boats.
COOPER: Right, although the fact is, Ray Nagin could have had school buses.
REED: I'm using that as a bad...
REED: But, you know, but -- I mean, but the hollering and the screaming...
REED: But now I really want somebody to be hollering.
YOUNG: You would expect a flotilla of vessels down there. They're not out there. COOPER: Do you think Thad Allen is up to the job?
YOUNG: I don't want to -- I don't know about Thad Allen not being up to the job. But what is happening is, the president of the United States needs to exercise his executive authority, cut through the red tape, and order these agencies to get it done.
REED: There's nobody in charge. There's still different bureaucracies bumping into each other. You don't have a central command, literally or figuratively. We have talked about General Honore on this show before.
Where is somebody that's just going to kind of come in and charge up? Allen gives different -- I mean, I'm not an elected official, so I can say, no, I don't think he's up to the job, because this is a guy -- the Coast Guard shuts down the skimmers that the state itself sent down there to like count some life vests. I mean...
COOPER: Right, some vacuum cleaning.
REED: It's beyond...
YOUNG: Speaking of General Honore, what he said after Katrina applies to this situation. He said, we're stuck on stupid.
YOUNG: The federal government and BP are stuck on stupid 72 days into this thing, 2.5 months, 10 weeks, and there's still not a sense of urgency.
REED: And now we got hurricanes churning away, and they will be all summer long.
REED: You know that. There's very little break.
COOPER: Julia, appreciate you being on, John as well.
REED: Thank you.
COOPER: Thank you very much.
YOUNG: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: A lot ahead, an update on the breaking news that we have been following, Hurricane Alex making landfall a short time ago, with winds over 100 miles an hour. We are going to have a live update. We will take a look at where the storm is headed next. Also ahead, breaking story out of Portland, Oregon: police saying they have reopened their investigation into former Vice President Al Gore on allegations of sexual misconduct -- new details on that coming up.
COOPER: Want to update you on the breaking news here in the Gulf. Hurricane Alex making landfall 100 miles south of the U.S./Mexico border. Winds 105 miles an hour. It's a Category 2 storm. Reynolds Wolf joining us again from South Padre Island.
Reynolds, what does it look like?
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the wind has actually picked up quite a bit. We're getting some intermittent showers that are coming through. At times, heavier downpours. It truly is amazing.
At the center of the storm, as you mentioned, Anderson, about 100 miles from this point. But still, as these bands come through, they're bringing with it the heavy rainfall; at the same time, some very strong winds that are coming through. Some wind gusts in the area topping 60 miles an hour.
What we have been getting here, also some widespread power outages back in Brownsville. But strangely enough, here on South Padre Island, the power has still been on. They had some temporary outages over at the police station. But things are going pretty well, all things considered.
Back in Brownsville, another issue they've had: tornadoes. Quite often, when you have tropical systems that make their way on shore, one of the things that often happens is tornadoes can and will form. There have been reports of several of them around the Brownsville area. Damage also reported. Semi truck knocked over by some very strong winds.
And as this storm continues to make its way onshore away from its primary power source, that warm water in the Gulf of Mexico, it's going to be basically a dying animal. But as it is continuing to decompose, if you will, as it moves deeper into Mexico, we're still going to have the heavy rain, the strong winds, more power outages possible.
And there's also the potential, Anderson, of widespread flooding, especially back in parts of Texas and in Mexico. Brownsville is ready for it. They have 60,000 sand bags ready to go for that possibility of flooding. The Texas National Guard has been activated by Governor Rick Perry. They're moving into the area. They've got generators with them for the inevitable power outages that will come.
Also, utility crews on the standby. And as this storm passes through, the cleanup of the damage will get under way tomorrow.
Anderson, back to you. COOPER: All right. Chad -- let's check in with Chad Myers at the CNN weather center, who's tracking the hurricane.
Chad, as you were saying, this might be days, though, that we are still seeing effects from this storm in the Gulf in terms of the high winds from the south, in terms of the waves that stopped the cleanup effort.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, even if you have 105-mile- per-hour wind anywhere in the Gulf of Mexico, it's going to have residual effects all the way down the line with waves and winds somewhere else.
Here we go, though. And Reynolds was just right on the ball with this. And this just popped up, so let's read it together. A new tornado warning for Kennedy County here in deep south Texas until 9:45 Central Time. Weather service indicated a Doppler radar; possible tornado there.
As we look at it, there's another one north of Corpus Christi, and another couple as we look at the rest of the night. These things could keep on going, Anderson. Every time a significant storm comes onshore, typically they're rotating. Well, the whole thing is rotating, really. Obviously, you have a hurricane down here.
As the storms roll onshore, they already have a twist to them. And as that twist continues to move onshore, you can see the tornado twisting on the ground. We've already had a couple of reports here.
Well, you know, this is just so odd that this storm is more than 600 miles away from the oil. Yet it has shut down almost all the cleanup operations, shut down the skimming, shut down the burning.
Now, those two boats, those two ships that are still above the well head, still above the blow-out preventer, that are sucking the oil out of it, those two ships are still working. For them to stop, the waves would have to be 12 feet. The waves are not that big, and they're not expected to get that big.
So at least this well is not just spewing oil like it was a couple of days ago, unabated, when they were trying to put that cap back on. That cap, at least tonight, is still there -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Yes, we'll continue checking in with you, Chad. Appreciate it.
Still ahead, what a CNN investigation has uncovered about a program that Congress pressured BP to create so its workers could report safety issues.
Plus, breaking news. The allegations against Al Gore, allegations he's facing. A closed criminal investigation has now been reopened by authorities in Oregon. Details ahead with our own Jeff Toobin.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Our other breaking news story tonight is developing out of Portland, Oregon. Now, this is where police have now reopened an investigation involving former vice president, Al Gore.
A massage therapist accused Gore of unwanted sexual contact at a hotel in 2006. The police took statements from the woman claiming the allegation and initially closed the investigation for lack of evidence. Tonight, they have reopened the matter.
Senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins me now.
Jeff, so why did they reopen it? Was it just based on this "National Enquirer" report?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly seems like the "National Enquirer" has stirred the pot by breaking this story. And there is some reason why they've decided to reopen it. They haven't said why they've reopened it, and I don't know why. But it is certainly not a good thing for Al Gore that a closed investigation becomes open.
COOPER: You've read the entire, I think, 70-plus pages that they have released. What are her allegations?
TOOBIN: It's a very peculiar thing that the Portland police have done by releasing this document. It's not how most police departments work.
But it's a very long transcript of an interview with this woman, who's an accuser. And in short, she's a licensed massage therapist. She went to Al Gore's room in the evening after he gave a speech in Portland, and that much seems undisputed.
What's obviously very much disputed is what happened in the hotel room. She says that he made a series of sexual advances short of rape, but physically painful. She says she was in -- she had to get physical therapy for months afterwards because of injuries that she received. But she then managed to extricate herself from the room and eventually reported the crime. That's what she says.
What's disturbing about reporting on it is that the police have only released her statement, not all the things you would do if you were a police department investigating something like that: corroborating evidence, other witnesses, DNA evidence. We don't know if any of that existed or which side it helps.
COOPER: Is it possible that they would just have reopened the investigation solely based on her interview?
TOOBIN: Well, the interview was quite some time ago. The interview was in 2009. It just -- it just was made public now because of the "National Enquirer." So, I don't think that alone is what caused to bring -- they've had this interview for more than a year, it seems.
What seems -- the thing that you would assume -- and it's always dangerous to assume -- is that now that this has become public, there is more -- there are more people who know about it who came forward.
And another point that's very much worth mentioning is that the "National Enquirer" says when they approached this woman initially about coming forward to tell this story, she asked for $1 million. That certainly damages her credibility. Doesn't mean she's lying, but it would certainly be a problem if this case ever went to court. They said that they ultimately got the 70-page document without her cooperation. So, they didn't pay her any money.
COOPER: The Gore camp has released a statement tonight. And I wanted to put it up there and read it to the viewers. "Further investigation into this matter will only benefit Mr. Gore," the statement says. "The Gores cannot comment on every defamatory, misleading and inaccurate story generated by tabloids. Mr. Gore unequivocally and emphatically denied this accusation when he first learned of its existence three years ago. He stands by that denial."
So my -- what I'm a little confused about is the time line of all this. This incident took place -- allegedly take place when? And when did she actually go to police, if the statement is from 2009?
TOOBIN: The reason you're confused is because it's confusing. The incident took place in 2006. She initially appears to have gone to a lawyer, who approached the police, and there were extensive negotiations about her cooperation. She sort of cooperated partially. Then ultimately gave a -- the full statement some time later.
There also appears to have been some discussion of civil litigation, that he was considering suing Al Gore, again something that could compromise her credibility, because it would suggest she was more interested in money than justice. But again, those sorts of issues of motive, they don't mean someone is lying, but they certainly raise questions.
COOPER: Obviously, the fact that it's now been reopened, we'll be hearing a lot more about it. Jeff Toobin, we'll be continuing to follow it. Thanks, Jeff.
Let's get the latest now on some other important stories. Joe Johns joins us with the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, in Afghanistan, the death toll for June for NATO-led troops has reached 101, making this the single deadliest month in the nearly nine-year war.
That is the reality facing General David Petraeus, confirmed today as the new commander of forces in Afghanistan. That Senate vote was unanimous.
Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan spent day three of her Senate confirmation hearings fielding questions about politically thorny social and economic issues. Like other high court nominees, she repeatedly declined to say how she might rule if confirmed.
A federal grand jury in Alabama has indicted Joran Van Der Sloot and charges he tried to extort a quarter million dollars from the mother of Natalee Holloway, an American teenager who disappeared in 2005 on a trip to Aruba. Van Der Sloot, a Dutch citizen, is in prison in Peru, charged with murder in the death of a 21-year-old woman.
Stocks ended the second quarter with heavy losses. The Dow lost 96 points. All three major indexes closed at their lowest levels of the year.
And a flying car is one step closer to production after clearing a regulatory hurdle. It's called the transition rotable aircraft, and the company that developed it says it can travel about 100 miles per hour in the air and 65 to 70 miles on the highway. It's expected to cost nearly $200,000. You, Anderson, as a frequent flyer, might want to take a look at that.
I would think, though, the wings would interfere with other folks on the road. I guess it's probably not really road worthy.
JOHNS: Well, maybe we'll have a helicopter car. That might be a little more advantageous.
COOPER: That's right. All right. Very "Jetsons."
All right. Up next, the latest on Hurricane Alex. We have a live report from South Padre Island. It's already getting battered by the Cat 2 -- Cat 2 storm.
Plus, some disturbing information about BP. We learned that even after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the company is trying to eliminate its internal watchdog unit. Shouldn't the company be trying to improve safety? That's part of our investigation, next.
COOPER: Safety questions have plagued BP long before this spill. And as we've reported, employees have accused the company of putting profits over people.
BP has been obviously aware of safety concerns from its workers, and for the past four years they've paid for an internal watchdog unit to investigate the allegations and, if true, do something about them. That was the promise, at least. Tonight, we've learned something pretty startling, that BP is trying to eliminate that program.
Special investigations unit correspondent Drew Griffin investigates.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 26 years, Jean Pascal was a lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency, investigating and helping to prosecute some of the worst environmental polluters in the northwest, including oil companies in Alaska. The worst of the worst, she says, is British Petroleum.
(on camera) You describe BP as a serial environmental criminal. JEAN PASCAL, FORMER EPA LAWYER: I have.
GRIFFIN: You believe that?
PASCAL: I do.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): BP has pled guilty to illegally discharging oil in Alaska and also faces a criminal complaint, alleging it violated clean air and water laws. Pascal retired earlier this year, so she is now free to speak out about a company she says repeatedly violates environmental laws.
PASCAL: From my perspective, BP has, for a long time, been a company that is interested in profits first and foremost. Safety and health and environment are subjugated to profit making. And I do not think that has changed.
GRIFFIN: In congressional hearings after the fatal explosion at BP's Texas refinery in 2005, lawmakers asked BP's then CEO, did workers warn about safety issues at the plant? He said they had not.
Then there were questions about whether they feared retaliation for speaking up.
(on camera) Bottom line, after pressure from lawmakers, BP opened an independent ombudsman's office to manage and to hear the safety concerns of its workers. It's run by a former federal judge, just not here in Alaska.
It's a very small office, tucked away inside this office building here in Washington, D.C. But British Petroleum has been running this employee complaints program for several years.
(voice-over) The independent former judge who runs the unit refused to comment to CNN.
Michigan congressman Bart Stupak was one of those who pressured BP.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire reason that office came to fruition was because of safety.
REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: Was because of safety, yes, and safety concerns continue yet today.
GRIFFIN: Since the ombudsman's office opened, 112 BP workers have come forward to file reports, 35 of them deal with, quote, system integrity or safety issues and the ombudsman's office says they are extremely serious.
But "Keeping Them Honest," sources close to the ombudsman's office tells CNN BP doesn't like it, and its independent investigators and that it doesn't like employees reporting safety problems outside the company.
A union representative says some BP workers who complained have faced retaliation. Jean Pascal agrees.
PASCAL: Many of the employees who have actually reported safety, health, environmental and safety issues, particularly in Alaska, have been retaliated against. They've been demoted. They've been terminated, and they've also been blackballed.
GRIFFIN: A BP spokesman tells CNN the company has, quote, "a zero tolerance policy regarding retaliation." The company, he says, "is unaware of any unresolved cases that violate the policy."
And there's this. Not long after he took over as chairman of BP America, Lamar McKay met with Congressman Stupak.
REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: One of the first things Mr. McKay said was, "I'm going to replace the ombudsman. I'm going to shut her down."
And we said, "What do you mean?" He wasn't even on the job but a few weeks and maybe a month or two. And he started wanting to shut down the ombudsman, and we encouraged him not to do so.
GRIFFIN (on camera): Doesn't it stun you that he would make that remark?
STUPAK: Yes, it did. We were shocked that they would even bring it up in like the first meeting and then in the second meeting we had with them.
The logic was, well, we'll make things better. Well, we don't see...
GRIFFIN: Their logic was "trust us"?
STUPAK: Trust us.
GRIFFIN: You don't?
GRIFFIN (voice-over): BP has said it can do a good job investigating complaints through an established internal system without the ombudsman's office.
I think at some point a reasonable person has to come to the conclusion that this is a company that has no intention of changing its mode of operation, that the dollar is going to be paramount and that the health, safety and safety of American workers and the American environment are a secondary or tertiary concern.
GRIFFIN: Before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP promised Stupak in writing, that its watchdog unit would be in place for at least another year. But a source inside the ombudsman's office tells CNN, "Frankly, I'm surprised we're still here."
Drew Griffin, CNN, Seattle.
COOPER: Pretty amazing stuff. Eleven men, it's important to remember, died in the Deepwater Horizon explosion. It's an important fact to remember as this story unfolds.
At a Senate hearing today, lawmakers heard from Shelly Anderson, whose husband was among those killed. The hearing focused on a 1920 law that limits compensation for the lives of people who die at sea.
Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller asked her to explain how her husband's loss has changed her life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHELLEY ANDERSON, WIDOW: It's everything. It's his touch. It's being able to talk to him. It's being able to confide in him and him confide in me. It's being able to ask for his advice in something, not just how to mow the grass or how -- when to take out the garbage.
It's not just that. It's having him sit beside me in church, and when he understands the message, he holds my hand. It's -- it's the one person -- Jason is the one person that I knew would always be there for me, no matter what. Even if he disagreed with me, he would still be on my side, and somehow we would come up with a compromise together.
It's not just a job. Jason loves his job. But his job as a husband and his job as a father, too. All of those things are gone. I would give it all back to have him come home, even if he was jobless, if I could just have him come home. I know that that can't happen.
He's -- he's everything. He's the breath in my lungs. He's the beat of my heart. He's the skip in my step and the dances that we shared together. All -- it's all gone. I am trying to convey that to you as best that I can. The love that I have for Jason is more oil that's spilled out on the Gulf, than anything. It's more water that's on the earth, more air that's here in this room. It's more than anything.
Thank you for letting me say that. Thank you for letting us be here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Shelley Anderson, widow of the BP rig explosion.
Back to Hurricane Alex. Parts of Texas now being pounded by heavy rains, high winds, the massive Category 2 storm coming to shore in the last hour farther south in Mexico. It's having a big impact all the way here in the Gulf. Reynolds Wolf is in the middle of it, joins us now from South Padre Island, Texas -- Reynolds.
WOLF: Well, Anderson, I've got to tell you that amid the heavy rain and the strong winds here on South Padre Island, there's also a sigh of relief, because the situation here, although bad, could have been far worse.
In fact, two years ago, 2008, we had a hurricane that came through -- we're talking about Dolly, of course -- that caused much more damage. The eye wall of that storm actually came onshore.
The eye wall for this one actually came on shore about 100 miles to the south, along parts of the Mexican coast into an area that's relatively unpopulated. But still, although we missed the full brunt of it, there's still many issues to deal with.
Widespread power outages are expected in many places. Power miraculously has remained intact here, in parts of South Padre Island. Over in Brownsville, it's going to be a big issue. Flooding will also be a tremendous issue. They've already put out about 60,000 -- 60,000 sand bags around parts of Brownsville to help off any incident of flooding.
Also, you've got power crews out there to deal with the potential of power outages. There's also been shelter that has been set up to accommodate about 2,000 families. So everyone was ready for the absolute worse this storm could dish out. But thankfully, you could argue that they did, indeed, dodge a bullet.
Big threat, though, tomorrow is going to be the possibility of tornadoes overnight and into the early morning hours. Chad Myers will have more on that throughout the evening.
Let's send it back to you, Anderson.
COOPER: Reynolds, thank you very much. We'll have more from the Gulf at the top of the hour. Be right back.
COOPER: Good evening again from the Gulf. Two big breaking stories tonight, one involving former vice president Al Gore. Lurid and embarrassing sexual allegations from a masseuse. A closed criminal investigation now reopened, the potential damage to the Oscar-winning Nobel laureate almost incalculable. It's just a lot -- a lot more than just an inconvenient story, especially if it's the inconvenient truth.