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Interview With Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey; No Oil Flowing Into Gulf

Aired July 15, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news tonight, but no one down here is celebrating just yet.

Take a look. What you see is the new capping stack on top of BP's broken well. What you don't see, not anymore, is that huge cloud of oil leaking into the Gulf. It's remarkable, when you see that. Here is the before and the after. The stoppage came this afternoon at 3:25 Eastern time.

That's when engineers finished closing the final valve on top of the stack 87 days into the disaster. See the before and the after. Now it's a question of seeing if the cap, 13,000 feet of underground pipe, the wellbore itself, even the seafloor around it, can stand up to all that pressure.

Let's listen.


DOUG SUTTLES, COO, GLOBAL EXPLORATION, BP: I have to stress, we have to manage our expectations, because, depending on what the results are could depend on what happens next.


COOPER: That's Doug Suttles.

To see what is actually happening, they are watching the pressure on the pipes and doing seismic testing on the seafloor -- seafloor, literally shaking the earth and measuring the sound waves that bounce back to map out the rock underneath, checking for cracks in and around the well hole.

But, depending on what they learn, this picture could change. If they don't leave the well completely shut in, they could hook up a pair of tankers and pump oil up to them. And if they can't siphon off enough of it, they could end up venting some of it into the water again.

And, remember, there's now 87 days worth of oil still in the water and all over the Gulf Coast, which is why James Carville, who you will hear from in a moment, borrowed a line from Winston Churchill, said -- saying, this isn't the end. It isn't even the beginning of the end. It is the end of the beginning.

Here to explain how it went today, how it's going tonight and may go in the coming days, Chad Myers.

Chad, what is going on?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They have all of the valves shut. That is the big news. All of the valves, all of the oil is stopped inside the old blowout preventer and the new capping stack that they put on top. So, all of the oil that we saw for so many days coming either around the old cap or out from the bottom, wherever, that is now all done.

Will it be done forever? No. Will they probably hook those -- the vessels back up, up at the top, and suck the oil out again? Yes. But this is the first step to say, it's OK. The well is in good shape. The bore is in good shape. The casing is in good shape. The old blowout preventer is still doing OK.

We took away the old cap, because the oil just went around that old cap. It never really worked. Took away this old -- we will call it a nipple, if you want. It's the top of the old top of the -- the bottom of the riser, the top of the old blowout preventer. It was there. It want bent. It was not a good seal.

So, they came down, took the bolts out, took it away. Then they brought in a new one. They brought in a new top. The new top was clean and solid and had a nice ring on the top of it. And that ring was able to be clamped to this new capping stack that has all the valves in it. They bolted it to here. They bolted it to here. And, all of a sudden, this very nice, clean, well made up above piece of aluminum and metal and iron down to another piece of 150,000-pound stack dropped on top of this, bolted together, sealed together, all of a sudden now we have the oil coming out the top of this.

Well, yesterday, and, of course, today, they have started closing the valves, cranking them ever so slowly. And within a couple of hours, all of the oil stopped coming out. The pressures were rising. And that was what they wanted, Anderson. They wanted the pressures to stay high, so that when the oil finally stopped coming out of the top, there it is, it's still coming out, when it finally stopped coming out, we knew, if the pressure stayed 6,000, 7,000, 8,000 PSI, pounds per square inch, more pressure than you and I could ever withstand, if that pressure stayed high, there was no oil leaking anywhere.

And that's what they wanted to see and that's what we have right now. This is perfect, perfect scenario, to let this be this way if there's a hurricane is coming. I believe they are still going to take this, just for precaution, hook all the hoses back up again and suck all the oil into the ships up above, and not allow any oil to go into the water, period.

This will now be an operating oil drill pipe mechanism for a while. We will see. Then, eventually, they are going to drill down to the bottom. They will drill all way down a couple more weeks, probably, and they will kill it with the cement -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, just so I'm clear, Chad, are they siphoning any oil to the surface right now? MYERS: No, absolutely not. It is company -- this well is shut down. And the pressures, we don't think, are leaking anywhere. The pressures are not going down. They are staying where they are, staying where they -- they want them to be.

If something cracks -- heaven forbid, right? If something cracks down in the casing, if something cracks in the blowout preventer, we would see oil in the water. And we don't. It's clear.

COOPER: Again, we should caution the information we have often is a little bit old because BP doesn't put out real-time information.

MYERS: Correct.

COOPER: We had this problem last night on the program. So, that's why Chad is saying we think, because, frankly, until BP narrates this stuff in real time, which we have been suggesting they do now for more than two months, and they said they were going to do about two weeks ago, which they still haven't done, we don't know what is happening in real time.

But this is the latest information that anybody has.

Chad, thanks.

We're going to check in with Chad a little bit later to find out about the oil that is still out there in the water, where it is, what we know about where it may be going.

But I want to bring in three people who have been with us here all along to try to understand this from the start, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, Congressman Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Rice University presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

Billy, I want to start with you.

When did you hear about this capping? And, I mean, it's got to be an incredibly emotional moment.

BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: We were at a meeting about the claims in Port Sulphur. It had just ended.

And I grabbed the mike and told the people, and there was a loud cheer and applause. And you could see it on the face of the fishermen, the feeling of finally there's light at the end of the tunnel.

COOPER: Do you -- do you -- and you do feel that, there's light at the end of the tunnel?

NUNGESSER: Absolutely. If they keep -- every day, we bring in 50, 100 -- 55-gallon drums of oil. And I would come out here and watch it on TV, and in 10 seconds, more oil has leaked out than we picked up all day. How do I go out tomorrow and tell these guys we're making a difference? Well, tomorrow, we will be making a difference. Every day from here on out that it stays sealed off, there will be less oil in our marshlands, less oil to kill the birds, less oil to ruin our way of life.

So, hopefully -- it's going to be a long cleanup. There's a lot of oil out there. But every day now going forward, there will be a little less oil to deal with.

COOPER: Congressman Markey, what is your greatest concern right now?

REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, my greatest concern is that, you know, this is very early in the process. We're hopeful.

But we're acting with an abundance of caution, because this pipe has been under an enormous amount of stress over the 87-day period. It's almost like a bone marrow transplant right now. We're in the first few hours. We hope that the operation is a success, but there is now a tremendous amount of pressure on this pipe that it has not been subjected to thus far.

We hope that the pipe can hold. It's thousands of feet long. We hope that no leaks spring as a result of all of this new pressure inside of that pipe. If that's the case, then today is a great day. But I think that we should just give it a couple of more days.

We are doing something right now that has never been done before. We really don't know how fragile the pipe is. We're not sure completely of what the integrity of this pipe is. So, I just think that we should still operate under the assumption that we're early in the process. We hope it is successful, but, right now, we just can't be completely sure.

COOPER: Doug Brinkley, I want to put back up the picture, the live picture from underwater, because it is startling. I think that's an older picture. I want to -- here's the live picture.

I mean, it's startling, Doug, to not see oil coming out of there. What is your greatest concern right now?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think we have to keep calling it day 87, day 88, day 89, until those relief wells are -- are dug. This is not an endgame here today.

But I can tell you I think the whole country is feeling a great sense of relief. I mean, part of the problem has been a sense of powerlessness. It's been like a national bleeding. We wake up every day with that gusher on our TV screen, and we don't know what to do. Was there ever going to be a solution? What if the relief wells didn't work? Was this going to be oil spilling into the fall and the Christmas season?

There was a lot of uncertainty. And BP had misled people so many times that I think, even with this great, historic capping today, people are skeptical.

But I think we have to keep the focus on the Gulf South, that the wildlife down there is being devastated. We still don't know the damage the dispersants have done. We have just endless amounts of dispersants that were -- were dumped in the region.

And we still haven't had BP properly compensate people. They haven't yet paid the right revenues, enough and on time, for the oil that is being collected and that spilled. So, I think all of this is just -- it's a good day. It's the best of the 87 days. But tomorrow is 88 and 89 until those relief wells are built.


We are going to have more with Doug Brinkley and Congressman Markey and Billy Nungesser in just a moment. We have got to take a quick break.

The live chat is up and running at Let us know what you think about it. Tell us where you were when you heard the news.

Also ahead: He's been taking the heat for his handling of the spill. What's the White House reaction tonight? Ed Henry has been working his sources. He takes us inside.

And later: all those lifesaving supplies for Haiti sitting on docks, tangled up in customs red tape, while -- while people are still in so much need, 1.6 million homeless right now.

We went demanding answers. Now, as you will see in a moment, we're getting action on the ground in Haiti, some dramatic news from Port-au-Prince ahead tonight.


COOPER: Live pictures from what we have been informally calling the leak cam. As you can see, there is nothing leaking now.

So far, the capping stack is holding, we presume. So is everything deeper underground, or else engineers would have started venting oil to relieve the pressure. Even if BP is not releasing the information, we would think we would start to see that.

Today's closing of the valves putting enormous strain on the pipes below, but probably relieving some political pressure on the White House, which has taken a lot of fire over the last 80-so days to -- for its handling of the crisis.

Ed Henry joins us now with the White House reaction.

Ed, what are you hearing?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, earlier today, Anderson, the president was giving a statement on the South Lawn of the White House, reacting to the fact that the Wall Street reform bill passed in the Senate. But I shouted him a question at the end about these developments in the Gulf. And he told me that he sees this as a positive development. But, as you noted, these tests are still ongoing. So, the president said he doesn't want to get ahead of that. He's planning to make a statement in the morning, before he heads out on a weekend vacation to Maine his family.

Told by White House aides that that's because he's been briefed about this tonight. And he's been told by his senior aides that they are not certain that this is going to hold. They are not certain that 24, 48 hours from now, we are going to know for sure that the oil is still not leaking. So, they want to be very careful.

You noted the political damage. This president has taken a beating on this. I'm told that a couple of days ago, when he met behind closed doors at the White House with some Democratic senators, he said he felt -- in private, he was saying that he was getting some momentum late March, early April, after the health care reform bill was signed into law, but then he said he was hit with these two G's, the Gulf oil spill and the Greek debt crisis.

The Greek debt crisis has sort of stopped the momentum in the economic recovery. And the Gulf oil spill has sort of stopped his political momentum. And so they desperately want to turn the corner on this.

But just a few moments ago, before I came on, I talked again with a senior aide to the president. He said their latest briefings are that they still don't know if this is going to stay with -- with the oil not flowing. So, they want to be very careful not to get ahead of this -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ed, there are a lot of folks down here who had hoped that the president and his family would actually vacation somewhere in the Gulf, kind of sending a signal that the Gulf is open for business, New Orleans is open for business. A lot of these coastal communities, the beaches are open.

Was there ever any thought, instead of him going to Maine, that he would do that?

HENRY: They have considered it. But I can tell you that, you know, they have gotten that question. Robert Gibbs did a couple of days ago at the White House briefing. The first lady was down in the region, where you are. She was in Florida actually on the Gulf Coast a couple days ago and was saying, people should vacation down there.

So, one of my colleagues asked Robert Gibbs, well, then why doesn't the first family go there? The suggestion was they have already made their plans, so they are going to go ahead and go to Maine. They may have other vacation plans in August. But certainly, since they are promoting the Gulf Coast for others, they have gotten that question and a little bit of heat on why they are not going to the Gulf Coast themselves -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Ed Henry, appreciate it. Thanks. Back now with our panel, Billy Nungesser, Congressman Ed Markey, and Doug Brinkley.

Billy, how concerned are you that people now around the country, maybe even around the world, are going to see these pictures, say, oh, look, no Gulf -- no -- no oil is leaking and think this thing is over?

NUNGESSER: Well, we're concerned about that. We're concerned about assets being pulled back, saying, well, look, it's stopped. It's not going to come ashore, and then, bam, we get a storm and we're hit with it.

We need to ramp up. We need to keep on the front line, keep the people out there, keep building the berms. They're working. And we're going to see this all come ashore, I believe, for a year or two. We might get long breaks in between, but we know there's a lot of oil out there on the surface, below the surface, and depending on the currents and when that storm hits it right and pushes it into the marshlands, it's going to come. And we better be ready for it.

COOPER: Congressman Markey, on I think it was June 23, you wrote a letter to BP, one of the many letters you've -- you've written to BP, that they haven't really responded to.

This one, you were asking for detailed information about the wellbore, about the -- what they knew about the seafloor, about the status of it. That information is obviously crucially important now. Have they -- and, yesterday, you were saying, look, they haven't responded. Have they responded at all over the last 24 hours?

MARKEY: They have not responded.

And, again, I wrote back there on June 23, so that we could publicly disclose what the integrity of the wellbore is, we could publicly disclose what the integrity of the geology around the wellbore, so that we could better understand.

COOPER: And explain why that is so important.

MARKEY: Well, it's important because this is a lot like somebody out in the backyard putting their hand on top of the hose as the water is coming out. It's going to now put a lot of pressure on the rest of the hose.

And what we need to know is, how strong is the pipe? Can it withstand that extra pressure, as the oil is now backed up? Can the soil, can the rock, can the sediment around the well withstand the additional pressure?

And, so, all of this is key information, which is why I believe the federal government has been wise in ensuring that BP move much more slowly than they had intended on doing. BP really has wanted to shut down this well as quickly as possible, although their incompetence has made it impossible for them to achieve that goal.

But, recently, they have wanted to move more quickly, and the federal government, led by Admiral Allen, has forced them to slow down, so that we don't take something and make the cure actually worse than the disease by having this pipe or the rock formation around this well actually now spring leaks and make the problem even worse than it is now.

COOPER: Doug, the other good thing about this is that I suppose it allows some elements of the Coast Guard and some elements of the federal response who were focusing on -- you know, in great detail on what was happening underneath the water -- they are still obviously going to be focused on it, because that story is not over until the well is actually killed by these relief wells -- but it allows some of those elements, I guess, now to -- to kind of refocus with greater intensity on the cleanup.

BRINKLEY: Well, exactly.

And I might add, just listening to Congressman Markey, I mean, he's been an incredible voice through all of this. I mean, they give a Profiles in Courage Award up at the Kennedy Library in Massachusetts, and his leadership in explaining things, I find it has been remarkable the last few months.


COOPER: Well, we should point out -- we should point out, Doug, that the pictures that we're seeing are frankly due to Congressman Markey and others on Capitol Hill, because BP never wanted to released these images. They never put out this live video feed.

And it was only after his insistence and others on Capitol Hill that -- and raising a stink about it, basically, that they released that 30-second video clip and, then after they continued to raise a stink, finally released live feeds to members of Congress.

BRINKLEY: That's exactly right.

And I think what -- also, Anderson, what you said, with -- we have the Mississippi River Gulf national wildlife refuge. And we have got to really start looking now quickly at how to save the wetlands of Louisiana.

It's been an ongoing issue before this spill. But the federal government has got to step up and protect America's wetlands, because you just can't take that $20 billion and pay people for seasonal losses right now in the hospitality or fishing business. We have got to permanently save our great Mississippi River Delta.

And -- but we couldn't really have that conversation, the government couldn't act enough while that oil was still gushing out. It was nonsensical. Now that we have got a tourniquet at least on this -- and let's hope it stays, relief wells get dug -- we have got to have a larger national dialogue about saving America's wetlands.

COOPER: Billy, we're going to have on shortly a scientist who doesn't believe that the berms are working.

Just so we get your perspective, you believe that -- that they are effective and -- and that they're -- they are doing a great job?

NUNGESSER: Absolutely. You know, the ones that say they are going to wash away, they're not going to last, we're going to ask the federal government to allow us to armor them, plant trees and vegetation, so they won't wash away.

COOPER: And when you say arm them, arm them in what -- with -- with actual rocks or...


NUNGESSER: Well, rocks and where the currents come through.


NUNGESSER: And there's sandbags that allow the water through, biodegradable. You seed the sandbags, put them there, until the growth can take, until the roots can get in, so it doesn't wash away.

These island that were out there, they were right below the surface of the water when we started. We are putting back what was there. And, as you just heard, we need to restore the wetlands. This is the start.

You know, everybody talks about freshwater diversion. If we have the barrier islands, the diversions we have now will allow that freshwater to do 10 times greater, make it further south, restoring wetlands quickly. This is the start of rebuilding coastal Louisiana.

COOPER: Billy Nungesser, appreciate it, as always.

Congressman Markey, thank you very much for being on our panel tonight, and Doug Brinkley as well.

Just ahead tonight, we will have more on the berm issue. You just heard from Billy Nungesser. You're going to hear from Governor Jindal, who is putting a lot of faith in those berms. And you will talk -- we will talk to a marine scientist who has got serious doubts about them. We're trying to show all sides, trying to help you make up your mind about what the truth is.

Also tonight, some good news to tell you about. All of the pets waiting for new homes down here, Randi Kaye is having an update on that.

If you have got questions for her, especially about how you can help, you can text it to AC360, or 22360. Remember to include your name, where you're from. And, a reminder, standard rates apply.

Also, good news out of Haiti, a remarkable development, actually, we will tell you about ahead.


COOPER: Updating the breaking news: The valves are shut. The cap is in holding, the pipes below apparently standing up to the pressure. Testing should be under way into the weekend, the oil for now not going into the Gulf. That's the latest information that we have from BP and from what we can tell just by looking at these pictures.

I spoke about it earlier with Democratic strategist and passionate New Orleans resident James Carville.


COOPER: When you first saw the image of the well without oil coming out, what went through your mind?


I mean, that's -- it's really good. But exactly 68 years ago, in July of 1942 was the Battle of El Alamein. And after that, Churchill famously said, this is the end of the beginning. And if you want to make a context, learn World War II, and this is the Battle of El Alamein. We haven't had the Italian campaign yet. We haven't had the Battle of the Bulge. We haven't had the D-Day invasion. We haven't had the any -- Stalingrad or anything else.

This is good. It was good that we won, the Allies won El Alamein, and Montgomery, did. But this -- in a historical context, this is just the end of the beginning. That's it.

COOPER: Does it -- we talked about this a little bit yesterday, but it worries you that now people are going to say, OK, look, this thing is over. That image of the oil coming out has stopped.


COOPER: And, therefore, the problem has ended.

CARVILLE: And this is -- again, it worries me because this would be the equivalent of saying, well, we beat Rommel in North Africa. We can all go home now. It's kind of, we're done. We're done with Hitler. No, we have got a long, long way to go.

But it's good that we accomplished this. And there is a great fear that -- and this is the long haul. This is the cleanup. This is -- people have lost their jobs. This isn't sort of comeback and everybody.

And as long as that thing was coughing up oil in the middle of the Gulf, it gave everybody to sort of rally around. It gave everybody a visual. It gave a storyline.

I'm very fearful that the attention is going to drift away, and people will move on to other things, and the people of my state and my region will be forgotten. And I think that's something that I -- I plan to be very vigilant about.


COOPER: For you, where is the battle now? What are the future battles, I mean, beyond just whether or not this thing is going to hold, whether or not -- what happens underneath the water?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, and I think the thing with Ken Feinberg and that is very good, that people have to be made right.

People have lost an unbelievable amount of money.


COOPER: Ken Feinberg said this is going to ramp by -- in next month.

CARVILLE: By next month. And I think people trust him. And I think there's reason to.

There have been some good things happen. It's been capped, Ken Feinberg, the $20 billion, even as -- James Lee Witt being brought in by BP. I mean, there have been some good things happening.

But -- so we just have to continue that. But people have to be reimbursed. The cleanup has to go. They have got to address the question of the moratorium here. And I don't think this thing can wait until November. The economy here is literally in shambles.

We just got an announcement that Avondale Shipyard is moving 5,000 really good jobs out of here. So, there's a lot of things. But the short-term reimbursement, the long-term cleanup, these are things that are going to take a long time, if our culture is to survive here. And it's not a given that it will.

COOPER: Do you worry that people are going to put the pressure -- or take the pressure off BP in terms of holding them accountable, in terms of watching them, in terms of...



And, Anderson, to be honest with you, if it wouldn't be for you and a couple other people, I would be more scared. But I am very concerned. And it's not just me. Everybody -- people stop me on the street here. And they are just afraid that they are going to be abandoned. They're afraid that people are going to say, well, we did this, and now we can move on to the next thing.

And the country has any number of problems. But this is -- this is going to be here for a long, long time. This culture down here is very much in peril. People's ways of life is very much at risk here. And it's a long, long, hard fight to have this come back

And the history in Alaska, the history in Ecuador, the history here is not very favorable to us. And, so, I mean, vigilance has got to be the -- sort of the word. We can certainly acknowledge, again, that this is a good thing that it's capped. Hopefully, it will stay that way.

COOPER: James Carville, thanks. CARVILLE: Thank you. Thank you, Anderson. You bet. Appreciate it.


COOPER: All right.

Coming up next on 360: Are they a salvation or sand traps? Manmade islands, the berms that are supposed to stop the oil, are they creating even more danger, more problems? You heard Billy Nungesser earlier supporting them. You will hear from a scientist who says they are doing maybe more harm than good.

Also, "Keeping Them Honest": supplies in Haiti blocked at the ports, at the airport, at the custom ports from getting in. We have been demanding answers. Tonight, an important and encouraging update to tell you about from the ground in Port-au-Prince. We'll be right back.


COOPER: If you're just joining us, I want to update you on the breaking news tonight. For the first time in 87 days, no oil from the BP well is flowing into the Gulf. It stopped gushing exactly 3:25 p.m. Eastern Time today. That after a seal was closed. BP is cautioning that this is part of a test to measure the pressure within the well. They say the test will be reviewed every six hours over the next 48 hours.

We're going to continue to monitor the breaking development and bring you the latest information as soon as we get it. Though as you know from watching this program, BP has not exactly been forthcoming with real-time information. But this is the latest information we have. And from just watching the live feed, no oil seems to be coming out of the well.

The oil is not pouring into the water. We wanted to find out exactly where is it? All of the oil that's still out there, where is it now? Chad Myers still joins us now -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, you know, the thickest stuff is still well off shore, and that's great news. Obviously, here's the shore. That will be Florida. Here's Louisiana and then back out toward Texas.

And there is still a sheen in this entire area bounded by this big red line that I just made there. But most of the oil is still well off shore. And I guess that's the best thing we can talk about, is that how far away it is and where it's going to be going.

We also always talk about this loop current thing coming out of the Caribbean and sometimes getting all the way up where the oil should be and then back down up here and then up into the northeast. Well, that's not happening. Actually, that's not happening at all that way. It's kind of cut off and coming only up to around Cuba and then back to the Florida Keys. So all this is just kind of circulating around. That's not getting the oil into the Gulf stream. That's another fantastic development from Mother Nature.

Here we go here. Here's the rain shower activity? Why do we care about this? Because if we get storms right over the area, the skimming efforts have to stop. The waves get too big. The -- basically, the oil goes over the skimmers, and there's no skimming happening anyway. That does not look likely for the next couple of days. We look pretty good here.

And then for the Gulf of Mexico and tropical development, there's nothing to be had. Now, there is a small area of development down here. This would be -- this would be Honduras and Guatemala. This would be Yucatan Peninsula. That would be Cancun, hard to see. But there's Cuba.

And this is going to move off to the west. So not into the Gulf of Mexico at all.

So a lot of good things happening, all at one time. And I guess all I would say is it's about time -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, so the oil hasn't -- hasn't penetrated as deep into the wetlands as some had feared early on, and that's really because of Mother Nature not pushing it in. If a big storm does come, though, that's one of the concerns, that that big oil slick that's still out there would be pushed inland.

MYERS: There is no question that, if we had a hurricane over here, that the wind would come in and blow the oil right into either the Mississippi Sound, the Chandelier Islands, or back all the way here into the wetlands. And that's because it's still here. The winds would be coming in this direction, blowing the hurricane at 85, 105, 120 miles per hour. Nothing like that out there.

So that -- the good news is, this doesn't exist yet, and so far Mother Nature is cooperating. I know it's supposed to be a busy season. But right now, so far, so good.

COOPER: Yes, let's keep -- let's keep our fingers crossed for the next two months watching -- watching the hurricanes.

Chad, appreciate it.

Of course, if all goes well in the next few days, there might not be any more oil spewing into the Gulf. The fact is, there are millions of gallons of oil already in the water, as Chad just showed you.

To fight it, officials in Louisiana are starting to build miles of sand berms. Now today, Louisiana's governor, Bobby Jindal, who's been a big proponent of these berms, toured one manmade island, barrier -- barrier island now under construction. Jindal said that the berms are critical in protecting the state's coastline. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Sand berms work 24/7. The sand berms not only capture the oil you can see on the surface. They capture the oil you can't see below the surface, as well.


COOPER: Well, not everyone agrees. In fact, a lot of scientists say that they could be doing more harm than good.

This is a photograph of a berm that was taken on July 8. As you can see in there, the berm appears to be kind of disappearing under the motion of the sea, along with the equipment that was used to build it.

Now, critics say the berms are actually -- could be doing more harm than good, and they're posing a risk to protected areas. Robert Young shares that opinion. He's a professor of coastal geology at Western Carolina University. He joined me earlier via Skype. Watch.


COOPER: Professor Young, the oil has stopped flowing into the Gulf, at least for now, but the oil that's already out there may be washing up in sensitive wetlands for a long time to come. Are these berms a good idea? In your opinion, do they work at all?

ROBERT YOUNG, PROFESSOR OF COASTAL GEOLOGY, WESTERN CAROLINA UNIVERSITY: Well, I don't think they will, and I don't think they will for a number of reasons. I don't think they're going to last long enough to block very much oil. And I don't think they're going to be a significant block for the oil that's existing and making its way through the passes and the inlets into the wetlands behind them.

COOPER: The governor says, well, look, you know, they've recovered 500 pounds of oily debris in just one day on one of these berms and that they're at key strategic points.

YOUNG: Well, the question, really, is not whether a pile of sand out in the Gulf will collect a little bit of oil. Certainly, it will. The real question is would we have been able to collect that oil through traditional methods, like skimming?

COOPER: In your opinion, will these berms have some sort of negative environmental impact? I mean, could it actually make it worse?

YOUNG: First of all, we don't think that this project is going to work. We don't think the berms are going to last. And certainly, there's been very good photographic evidence recently showing that even a small storm can, you know, tear these things apart pretty well.

What really frightens me is that I've heard recently that the governor's office is preparing to apply for permits to rip rap or put hard structure around these berms to armor these structures as they build them, and that would be an environmental disaster for Louisiana.

COOPER: Why is that?

YOUNG: Well, if you create, essentially, a rock wall out there, and it's still not quite clear the extent of the armoring that they would like to do, but you know, they have a permit to build 40-plus miles of berm.

And if they were to try and armor all of it to keep them from washing away, then you would completely change the dynamics of that coast. You're going to change the way that the tides move in and out. You're going to change the wave climate. You're going to change the way the sediment moves, and all of this could be very detrimental to habitat. It could -- it could do more harm than good for the wetlands that you're trying to protect.

COOPER: You're hearing that perhaps the ecological impact of the spill may not be as bad as some had feared early on. Tell me about that.

YOUNG: Well, I've spoken with a lot of agency officials and a lot of scientists in Louisiana. So far the oil has not penetrated incredibly deeply into the wetlands, and there's a growing faith that the system could recover from this spill.

And I think what the scientists are becoming increasingly worried about is that the plans for the long-term ecological restoration of coastal Louisiana that have been under way for the last 20 years -- this is wetland restoration, letting the river reoccupy some parts of the flood plain and, you know, sensible plans of barrier island restoration -- that those plans may be all cast asunder by these projects to do massive, basically unplanned coastal engineering that will completely reconfigure the Louisiana coast.

COOPER: Do you think this is a case of, you know, politicians basically wanting to be seen doing something, the governor, local officials, and therefore pushing this berm project, even though you're saying the science isn't really there?

YOUNG: You know, look, I'm very hesitant to question the motives of Louisiana politicians. You know, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they're proposing these projects because they believe that they will work.

And it's unfortunate that they haven't done the kind of consultation with the excellent coastal scientists that they have in Louisiana, I think, to include their feedback. And the scientists and the agency officials who are criticizing these projects are doing so because we also believe that what we have is in the best interests for coastal Louisiana.

COOPER: Professor Robert Young, I appreciate your expertise tonight. Thank you.

YOUNG: Thanks very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, it's a controversial issue we'll continue to follow. We continue to follow, also, the breaking news, bring you updates throughout the hour.

Also ahead tonight, the overwhelming response to the story we brought you last night about pets here in New Orleans, throughout the Gulf region, given up by families who can no longer take care of them. Find out which ones were adopted and how you can help.

Plus, the breaking news out of Haiti. New details. All of that aid that we discovered being held up at the port, the airport, the border. Critical supplies that could be helping people, people in need there in Haiti. Some new developments tonight about what is happening to that aid. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Breaking news in Haiti tonight. Some good news, it seems. For days, we've been talking you about the problems that NGOs, charities are facing at Haiti's ports. Red tape tying up emergency equipment and supplies, aid blocked for weeks sometimes, even months from those who need it most.

Customs officials say, well, these groups have faulty paperwork. But tonight we're "Keeping Them Honest." After days of tough questioning from our team in Haiti, word tonight that customs logjam may be lifting.

Gary Tuchman joins us now from Port-au-Prince.

Gary, what happened?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's been very embarrassing for the nation of Haiti and the prime minister of this country agrees to it so tonight we sat down with Prime Minister Jean- Max Bellerive, and he told us he will make an announcement next week that 154 of the most well-known international charities, known as NGOs, will be allowed to bring their important items into this country, into the streets, into the neighborhoods, and deal with the Byzantine paperwork later.


TUCHMAN: So these 154 NGOs will be able to bring stuff in immediately?


TUCHMAN: And do their paperwork afterwards?

BELLERIVE: And it's not a limited number. It's 154 because they are the ones that gave us reports. If you are an NGO registered through Haiti, if you're not registered, you can register at Haiti. You want to say, "I want to have an operation in Haiti." There is a process to be registered, an NGO. And we encourage people to follow the process. And if they comply with the condition, I would be happy to have 220 NGOs in that process.


TUCHMAN: So that's all good news. Now, every country, including Haiti, has a right to keep illicit and illegal cargo out of this country. There are many people who pose as charities and that would bring items in and sell them.

But the good news here is that reputable organizations, like Save the Children, CARE, Doctors Without Borders, Sean Penn's NGO, which runs very successfully and very well the largest homeless camp here in Haiti, they will be allowed to get their items out of storage and the ports and the airports on the border where many cases, for example, Doctors Without Borders, had 20 cars that were trapped three months at the port.

COOPER: Right.

TUCHMAN: They will be able to get their stuff out immediately, according to the prime minister. So that's very good news for the people of Haiti, Anderson.

COOPER: Right. And we -- we learned about this, really, because we had been asked to bring in about $5,000 worth of equipment for a charity, for an NGO that was registered, that had a good reputation there. We did that. And when we did, at the airport, they said, "Well, wait a minute. You've got to pay a 20 percent tax on those items," on these saws and stuff, building materials to help Haitian people. Amounted to a thousand dollars. And we said, "This is ridiculous."

And that's when we started to hear from other NGO, well, you know what? Actually, this happens all the time.

So -- so they're saying these 154 and possibly more NGOs, if their names are on the list and they're properly credentialed, they'll be able to just avoid the paperwork. Does that mean they won't be charged a 20 percent tax on items they bring in?

TUCHMAN: Right. Charity groups that are on this list -- they don't avoid the paperwork. They still do the paperwork, but they can do it after the stuff gets into the country. That's the key. Reputable charity organizations do not have to pay those steep tariffs.

COOPER: Well, that's huge, because also there are storage fees. When your -- if your vehicle is sitting for months at a time, as some of these vehicles have, which you showed us last night. I think last night you showed us some Red Cross vehicles that had been there for two or three weeks, just sitting there, when they could be out, you know, delivering aid and serving the people that they're there for. They get charged storage fees, which can amount to tens and thousands of dollars, as well. So I assume if the aid is coming in faster, there are not going to be those storage fees.

Gary, that's great development. Great "Keeping Them Honest" report. And it's really a testament to those NGOs who spoke up to us, and former president Clinton has been trying to get this passed for a long time, he told me. So this is certainly good news for everyone involved.

Let's get caught up now on some other important stories we're following tonight. Joe Johns joins us with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, at least 20 people were killed today as twin bombs rocked a mosque in southern Iran. According to Iran's state news agency, two apparent suicide bombers are responsible for the blast, which exploded just minutes apart. Iranian officials have denounced the attack as terrorism.

Goldman Sachs hit with a record half-billion-dollar fine. The Wall Street giant agreed to pay $550 million to settle charges it defrauded investors in subprime mortgage deals. Three hundred million goes to Uncle Sam, the rest to the company's victims.

And the Senate today passed the Wall Street Reform Bill, the most sweeping financial overhaul since the Great Depression. President Obama cheered the victory, saying, quote, "The American consumer will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street's mistakes."

And Medal of Honor recipient Vernon Baker has died. He was one of only seven African-Americans from World War II to receive the nation's highest military honor. Despite his heroism, Baker waited 50 years to be recognized, a delay the government now admits was due to racism.

And Anderson, I personally knew Vernon Baker. He was an American original, not a bitter bone in his body, as far as I could see.

COOPER: A long way. What a hero. Joe, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Up next, we're going to update the breaking news here in the Gulf. We're 87 days into this disaster. Right now, there's no oil flowing from the Deepwater Horizon well.

Plus, an update on those pets up for adoption, given up by families who can no longer afford to keep them. A lot of you responded to our report last night. A lot of them still need your help, though. Randi Kaye is following the story. If you have questions for Randi, text them to AC360, 22360. Standard rates apply.


COOPER: The breaking news tonight. The spill has been stopped, at least for now. Since about 3:25 p.m. Eastern Time today BP has managed to keep oil out of the Gulf. It's part of a test to measure the pressure in the well. We all hope it holds, of course.

An update now, though, about those pets abandoned by families here in the Gulf because they simply can't afford to take care of them anymore. Randi Kaye told us about it last night. She joins us now from the Louisiana SPCA shelter. She actually has good news for us.

Randi, what's the good news?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the good news is that after our story ran last night, the folks here tell me that they got hundreds -- hundreds -- of calls and e-mails from all over the country, in fact, from as far away as Guam and Hawaii, looking to adopt some of the animals that we featured in our story last night, which is really great news, including this guy right here, actually, this little girl. This is a Panda, that little terrier that I was holding during my story last night. She's a little shy, but she got the most calls, from New York, Colorado, Wisconsin, Texas, all over the place. But I do have to tell you that she has not been officially adopted yet.

So Panda, say hello. There you go. Say hello. She is still officially available for adoption.

But some dogs here did get to go home. They got new families today. You may recall the poodle who we showed you in our story last night. The poodle is Silk. And if you take a look there, you can see that's Silk with her new owners. Silk is 2 years old, and Silk got to go home with her today.

And I just want you to listen to how they sounded, how happy they sounded as they left the building today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Baby boy, baby boy, that's my baby boy. Baby boy, baby boy. Right, Pepper? We're going to see Daddy in the truck. Daddy in the truck.


KAYE: That's right. Daddy was waiting for Silk, who is now renamed Pepper, in the truck.

But that poodle wasn't the only lucky one. There was also a retriever mix named Mocha who was featured in our story last night who also got to go home today with family. And also a beagle that we want to show you named Diamond. Diamond has been here. And it turns out that Diamond's new owner, who just came to adopt her today, the family -- the mom, the wife in this family had seen Diamond, she had seen our story while she was on the treadmill, Anderson, at the gym. And she said, "We have to have that dog."

She called her husband and said, "We need to go get Diamond." And so they met today. They met the other beagle that the family already owns. And the whole thing was a hit. And I spoke with her about that adoption right after.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Miss Diamond caught my eye, sitting in the kennel all by herself. And we already have a beagle, so we've thought he could use a companion. He's about ten. We had been thinking about it, and she looked like the perfect fit.

KAYE: What do you think about all of these owners having to turn in their pets?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It breaks my heart. It breaks my heart. You know, and that as a big motivation. It just seemed like -- I didn't think we planned on doing it this soon but, you know, it's -- there's one little thing we can do to help someone out, we have a good reason to come.


COOPER: Randi, there are obviously still an awful lot of dogs and cats, pets all across the Gulf, frankly, that have been put up for adoption. Can you show us some of the other dogs that people called about who are still available?

KAYE: Sure. We have this one right here, Anderson. This is Maxine. She's a terrier mix. A little bit of Lab in there, too. She got calls today from folks in Georgia looking for her.

This is Amanda. Amanda is a border collie mix. She is just absolutely beautiful. She's 8 years old. She got calls from Pennsylvania today, I'm told.

And this is Christy. Christy is a pit bull. She's five months old, and she got calls from New York today.

But there really are, Anderson, hundreds of dogs here who are still available. In fact, including this little one right here. But also, I just have to show you, this is Panda. But this is Panda's sister, Anderson. And they're both available. They both were turned in.

COOPER: So if someone outside of Louisiana wants one of these dogs, the shelters don't -- I mean, doesn't ship them across the country. How does that work?

KAYE: No, absolutely not. They are really careful about who they send these dogs to. They're working with transportation companies to try and get them to ship the dogs to shelters around the country that might have more room, might have more bed space, if you want to call it that. They won't just ship them to somebody in California or Florida or Texas, as much as they'd love to, to get these dogs homes. They just can't take that risk.

So they're encouraging people to go to their local shelter and also check their Web site, L-A dash S-P-C-A dot org, and they can find out where some of these dogs have gone to.

COOPER: All right. The -- it's L-A dog -- L-A dash S-P-C-A dot org for more information.

We're going to have more from the Gulf at the top of the hour. Randi, thanks very much.

KAYE: Thank you.