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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Oil & Outrage; Interview With Jack Hanna
Aired May 25, 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: We're standing here in Port Fourchon along the water's edge, where the oil has come ashore.
We're standing at the scene of a tragedy. But what is increasingly clear is we're also talking about a travesty, an oil company with a checkered safety record, government regulators in bed, sometimes literally, with big oil, members of the Obama administration sending out mixed messages, government promising to keep a boot on BP's neck and practically in the same breath calling the company a vital partner, a single GOP senator from an oil state blocking a bill to force BP to pay more than a token amount in legal liability, BP first saying the spill would be no big deal for the environment, and only changing its tune yesterday -- a travesty and tragedy.
A few minutes ago, I went into the area where the oil is hitting the beach, just -- just over there. Take a look at what I saw.
COOPER: In order to go into what they call the hot zone, which is area where the oil has come ashore, they make you put on this hazmat suit, basically, so you don't get any oil on your skin or on your clothes.
They have already had a hazmat crew in here earlier today that came and cleaned up the beach, but already more oil has come ashore. They put several layers of barriers here. It looks like some metal -- metal tiles. And these are large pieces of stone that they placed as a barrier, and then they have a third layer, a barrier of stone here, but it's all just coated in oil right now.
Even though this whole area has been cleaned by a hazmat crew, there's -- there is oil all over the surface here. It's pretty thick on -- on the barriers. But it hasn't made it past these barriers onto -- onto the actual beach.
But, as you can tell, it's all over.
COOPER: And that's just the beginning; that's the fear here.
Some time tomorrow, BP will try to stop the leak by clogging the well, the top kill, they call it. You can see live pictures of it right now to the A.C. 360 at the bottom of the screen, live pictures of the leak right now. BP late today saying it will keep that video feed going, at President Obama's request, after drawing enormous fire much of the day for talking about shutting it off.
Congressman Ed Markey slammed them for it in the halls of Congress, no shortage of anger either here or in Washington at BP, growing frustration as well in both places directed at the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: Where is the president? Does he not understand the magnitude of what is probably the worst environmental disaster in the country?
And then we get mixed messages from his various Cabinet secretaries, who come down, and they say, looks like they're satisfied with the coordination going on.
They need to come down to New Orleans. The president needs to come down to New Orleans and actually help us and do his job. We're tired of them talking like John Wayne and acting like Pee-wee Herman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Congressman Steve Scalise from Louisiana's 1st Congressional District.
We learned today President Obama will be here on Friday for his second visit since the disaster hit. There are growing reports he's losing patience, reportedly telling aides to -- quote -- "plug the damn hole."
Well, we have been hearing that around here for a long time, along with clean the damn beach, save the damn marsh. People don't care who does it, as long as there is action and accountability, two things that people here say they badly need.
COOPER (voice-over): It is what every one feared, fresh oil washing up on Port Fourchon Beach. The beach is closed. Hazmat crews just cleaned it, but the oil keeps coming, and the crews are here again, working to do what they can.
This brown sludge just washed up this afternoon. Some fear it's only the beginning. In nearby Grand Isle, for now, the shrimp industry is dead.
(on camera): Here in Grand Isle, Louisiana, there's a lot of frustration, a lot of anger directed both at the federal government, but especially at BP. Here's a sign: "BP, we want our beach back."
Down there, there's one that says, "Shame on you, BP."
Fishing is a way of life here. It's been in families for generations. And you talk to a lot of people here, and they are worried that that way of life may be gone forever.
(voice-over): At Dean Blanchard's Shrimp Shack, the trucks are idle. Normally, they would be shipping out hundreds of thousands of pounds of shrimp each day.
JODIE BLANCHARD, SHRIMPER: This is our peak of the year. This is when we make our money. Our adrenaline is pumping, ready to buy shrimp, and we're just not able to.
COOPER: Jodie Blanchard and George Danos survived Katrina, but they worry the business and the shrimp industry won't survive the spill.
GEORGE DANOS, SHRIMPER: It's sad to see the situation that's going on right now.
BLANCHARD: It is.
DANOS: I really believe it could have been prevented. I believe they could have stopped the right areas and we could still be fishing today.
COOPER (on camera): What's it like? I mean, what's the toughest part, Jodie?
BLANCHARD: Our future. It's really scary, because we're very resilient people, but I don't think we will be able to spring back from this.
COOPER (voice-over): Well, we have been -- we should point out here that we have been trying all day, without success, to get someone from BP to come on the program. The invitation stands.
We interviewed a top official a couple days ago. We haven't heard from them since. They haven't accepted any other invitations. They're welcome any time we would like.
Joining me now is David Camardelle, mayor of Grand Isle, Louisiana, where we are now, or very close, also Billy Nungesser, the president of Plaquemines Parish.
Mayor, thank you very much for being with us.
What -- what did today -- is there any improvement today vs. yesterday?
DAVID CAMARDELLE, MAYOR OF GRAND ISLE, LOUISIANA: Yes, sir.
We have managed to meet with a few of the higher-ups today. They came into my office. And it looked like we're going to make sure that we have better connection with BP and the Coast Guard.
COOPER: Has that been a big problem, communication and organization between BP and the Coast Guard? CAMARDELLE: Yes.
Anderson, you know, we had like too many chiefs, not enough Indians. And the bottom line was, the communication was horrible. You know, like, to get a green light for us to go ahead and protect our community, and to get the fisherman out there and get everybody to work, it was terrible for the first four weeks.
COOPER: Billy, we -- you and I talked last night. And I have been talking to a lot of fisherman today who are saying they're basically just sitting around waiting for BP to call them, that they want to help, but they're getting told, well, look, there's not enough work to be had.
Does that make sense to you?
BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: No, absolutely not, Anderson.
We're at a meeting here in Venice tonight. About 400 people showed up. They're angry. They want to know. They have been on this list now for 35 days. No one has called them. There's an opportunity, a boat of opportunity. Just isn't working. We need to see some action.
We're not satisfied here in Plaquemines Parish, not with the ability to keep it offshore. There is no cleanup going on in the marsh. And we're hearing things like, well, we have got to concentrate on stopping the leak.
I'm sure the guy that's writing the check to the fishermen is not the same guy -- I hope it's not -- that's stopping the leak. And it's absolutely absurd that we can't multitask, keep the oil offshore, stop the leak, clean up the marsh, and pay the fishermen, simple to do. Organize and let's get this done. It's absolutely ridiculous.
COOPER: Did you -- do you hear that, Mayor, as well?
CAMARDELLE: Exactly. What Billy is going through is exactly what we're going through, is with -- our fishermen are just standing on the wharf. Our shrimp season is closed, and we're trying to activate -- get them to activate.
What they do, Anderson, they were activating them 10 days ago and just letting them sit at the dock. And then they couldn't make up their mind if they were going shrimping or not. And then once we commandeered Saturday evening, we commandeered and we said we're going to take over.
COOPER: You basically commandeered a bunch of boats.
CAMARDELLE: Exactly. That's what we did. We commandeered a bunch of boats. We came in and said, let's go to work.
And, you know, I was flying in a helicopter watching the boats just come out on anchor. These fishermen were coming around the bend to change their booms and just BP was telling them to go ahead and anchor out while the oil was coming into my passes.
And I was just very frustrated, the fishermen frustrated. And now we are just -- just went up to them and told them we're going to take it over. And that's what we did.
COOPER: So, Billy, if -- if -- everyone is hoping and praying that this thing, this top kill works tomorrow. The head of BP gave it maybe a 60, 70 percent chance.
If it doesn't work, what do you want to see happen over the next 24 or 48 hours?
NUNGESSER: Well, Anderson, they have no plan. The Coast Guard, nor BP has a plan. There's nobody cleaning up the marsh.
They told us all along the dispersants would sink it, break it apart. I want to see a plan. If you're not going to have a plan, get the hell out of the way and let us go do it ourselves. Let us go rent the skimmers. Let us try some new products.
There's 1,000 products out there. Some of them have been proven safe for the environment, yet we're still using a dispersant that they said don't use. Something's wrong with this picture. There's a total disconnect between BP, the Coast Guard, and what should be happening.
And I'm hoping the president's visit Friday can get to the bottom of it, because this is absolutely mismanagement, miscoordination at the highest level. And it's got to change.
COOPER: Do you feel the same way? What's your message to President Obama?
CAMARDELLE: My message to President Obama is to come here and see the operation, what's going on.
And what's happening is that nobody can give us the command. In other words, we're tied. As elected officials, we can do so much. You know, we have been -- we're professionals as hurricanes. We can teach school on hurricanes. We can take care of our people.
CAMARDELLE: But if we had the OK to go ahead and get the green light, we could be doing it, you know, Anderson.
CAMARDELLE: And that's what we want, the president to get somebody to tell us to go ahead and do what you have got to do.
Like Billy said, we have got all kind of products that we could be using on our beaches and in the marshes. But our hands are tied. It has to be BP-approved. And then you have got a 1-800-number.
And all the salesmen -- every day, I have thousands of salesmen just calling my line and lined up at this office. And I tell them to give them this number. They said, it's no good. We can't get an answer back from BP. So, that's the kind of stuff we have been going through.
NUNGESSER: And if they're not -- if they're not going to do it -- if they're not going to do it, get out of the way and give us the money, and we will do it.
We're not going to lose these wetlands. We're not going to let BP sit by, and we're not going to sit on our hands, like they have been doing for 35 days. Had they started the berm project, we would have miles of that in place catching the oil, like it's being caught on Grand Isle.
We don't have the luxury of having a beach like Florida. That oil is seeping into the marsh, killing the pelicans, killing the wildlife. It's going further and further in the marsh every day, and we're doing absolutely nothing, but watching it destroy our livelihood and our marshes.
Shame on you, BP.
COOPER: Let me ask you, Billy, the EPA, you know, basically today said, well, now we're going to study the use of dispersants because we wanted them to use other dispersants. They told us, basically, there weren't any others that were as effective. And -- and they kind of backed off and said, OK, well, now we're just going to study.
Do you feel like they should have been studying this, you know, 20 days ago, 30 days ago?
NUNGESSER: Well, you wonder, Anderson, did they lie to us? They told us it wouldn't come ashore. They told us it wasn't coming ashore under the surface. We have proven them wrong, unfortunately. We didn't want to prove them wrong.
But did they know that? So, how do you trust anything they're saying, and the Coast Guard, too? The Coast Guard is pitching the ball back and forth. I mean, you have got to wonder, are they in bed together? Is this a cozy relationship, and we're getting the -- we getting a raw deal?
And we're going to pay for many years. And that's unacceptable. The president has to take the lead and give the ball to somebody else, because these guys ain't getting it done.
COOPER: I think what a lot of people also don't realize who haven't been here is that, I mean, we're talking about generations of families who have been shrimpers. I mean, this goes back -- you talk to somebody who is shrimping today, their grandfather, their great- grandfather...
COOPER: Is that right?
CAMARDELLE: Yes. (INAUDIBLE) fisherman. I got elected by the fishermen in 1988.
COOPER: Do you -- do you worry that, you know, it may not come back?
CAMARDELLE: Of course. You know, I get tears in my eye every day.
NUNGESSER: Well, Anderson...
CAMARDELLE: I met with the fishermen this morning.
You know, and, Anderson, Grand Isle is seven miles long and surrounded by water. Our bedding grounds are in the front, got great fishing, speckled trout, and shrimp and crabs. And you just get off the beach and catch all you want.
And on the backside, this is the estuaries. There's millions of pounds. There's two million acres of oysters right there in Louisiana, right here in Louisiana. This is the oyster fishermen. You have got the crab fishermen. You know, my dad and all moved in, in the '40s. They came here fishing crabs, bringing the crabs in bushels to the French market for 25 cents a bushel.
COOPER: All right. It's a way of life here, Billy, that is threatened.
NUNGESSER: Anderson, you know what we asked BP here tonight in this meeting? They have been waiting 30 days. Is there going to be another check?
They have no plan. We asked them to make a commitment: Are they going to pay them for their catch that they lost this year, or are they going to wait until the 30th day, sit by the phone, and pray that BP calls back and gives them another check?
So, we want a short- and a long-range plan to compensate the fishermen, the dock owners, the haulers, the seafood companies, the little lady that sells it on the corner. We want everybody to have a plan and not have to wait and wonder how they're going to pay their bills next month.
It's absolutely -- it's ridiculous that we have got to wait because they're too busy sealing the leak. That's not a good excuse. We need some answers.
COOPER: Billy Nungesser, Billy, I appreciate you being on with us again tonight.
Billy Nungesser, we will talk to you again tomorrow.
NUNGESSER: Thank you.
COOPER: And, Mayor Camardelle, thank you so much.
CAMARDELLE: Thank you so much.
COOPER: I really appreciate it. Thank you. I know it's a been a long day, a long -- long month.
Let us know what you think. The live chat is up and running at AC360.com.
Up next: sealing the leak -- how the top kill works or may not work, how long it could take, and what happens if it fails.
Later: David Gergen and Douglas Brinkley on presidential leadership and whether the White House is falling short -- tough words for President Obama from both these men when 360 continues from the Gulf Coast.
COOPER: Well, whether here in Port Fourchon, or in Venice, over in Bay Saint Louis, plugging the oil leak cannot come soon enough. The final alternative, if all else fails, is a relief well, which it takes time to drill, obviously. It could doom the Gulf Coast to many more weeks and months like today.
So, people are counting on tomorrow's so-called top kill attempt, BP says it could take two days to know if it works. They also say they need daylight to begin the operation. The sun comes up here at 6:02 local time. So, that would seem to be the earliest that it could happen.
David Mattingly is here to explain how it works and what happens if it doesn't. That, of course, no one wants to even consider.
But, basically, I mean, what is the top kill procedure?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The top kill essentially is BP's best hope to shut this well off. They have got other alternatives ready to go. But this is what they're going with, because this is what they believe is their best chance of working.
The way they're -- the way this is going to work, they're going to pump heavy drilling fluid into that blowout preventer. That is a huge five-story-tall device at the bottom of the ocean on top of that well. When they fill this up with that heavy liquid, they hope that the pressure will counteract the pressure of the oil coming up and essentially drown that well, push it back down, so that they can put cement over it and end it.
COOPER: So, they would try put cement on top of it, if it -- if the thick oil worked?
MATTINGLY: Once they have been able to stop the oil from coming out, to force that back down, to create sort of a stasis with pressure from above, that's the plan.
COOPER: The CEO of BP yesterday I think gave it a 60 percent, 70 percent chance of success.
MATTINGLY: They have really been walking this back, trying to downplay expectations, because, first of all, they have never tried this before. They have never had a disaster like this before. Every single step is...
COOPER: Never been -- tried this before at this depth underwater.
MATTINGLY: Well, it hasn't been 100 percent successful even on land and in shallow water.
MATTINGLY: So, now, when you look at them doing this at a mile down, this is -- every step they take is into uncharted waters.
COOPER: And, if this doesn't work, I mean, do they have a plan B? Do they have...
MATTINGLY: They have multiple plans. They have talked about putting another blowout preventer on top of the one they have got. They have talked about shearing the pipe off the top and putting a new valve up there that will allow them to catch -- like another containment dome -- to catch the oil that is coming out of it.
But all of these carry their own risks, and they didn't want to try those first, because they think the top kill is their best way to go. And, remember, they're only saying six-out-of-10 chance that this is going to work.
COOPER: And they're still drilling other wells that, weeks from now, could alleviate this leak if everything else fails?
MATTINGLY: Not just weeks, but months.
MATTINGLY: They -- they started that right away. That's the only sure way to end all of this. Everything else they're doing is just temporary until they get those wells drilled and they get this well filled up with cement.
COOPER: All right, so, tomorrow morning, we believe it may start?
MATTINGLY: That's right.
COOPER: All right, David Mattingly, appreciate it.
Talking about how we got here, you can't ignore the government agency that was supposed to be regulating offshore drilling. We have already seen one nearly unbelievable report from the agency's inspector general. Think lines of coke and government bureaucracy sleeping with oil executives.
Now there's a new report, and it's no less damning.
Tom Foreman tonight is "Keeping Them Honest."
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, in the 2005 Peach Bowl, Louisiana State crushed Miami. But it was action in the stands that caught the eye of the Interior Department's inspector general.
In this scathing new report, the I.G. says two members of the Mineral Management Service, the agency charged with overseeing oil exploration, were flown from South Louisiana to that game in Atlanta, each with a family member. They were given tickets and some expenses as well, all as guests of the very companies they were regulating.
The report says not one inspector seems to have covered all the expense or declared the possible conflict of interests in such a lavish gift. Instead, when confronted about the tickets, one inspector said he was a big LSU fan, and he could not refuse.
The report goes on, citing MMS employees storing porn on their government computers, using illegal drugs, and a long trail of gifts and invitations from the oil and gas industry to events such as skeet shooting contests, hunting and fishing trips, golf tournaments, crawfish boils, Christmas parties. Some e-mails confirmed that MMS inspectors attended those events as well.
The report says many of these interactions revolved around the Louisiana-based Island Operating Company, including a determination that, between June and July of 2008, one MMS inspector conducted four inspections on IOC platforms while in the process of negotiating and later accepting employment with that company.
As you might guess, he found no problems with his future employer's rigs, according to this report, which says some MMS inspectors defended their actions by saying they have been lifelong friends with those oil company officials and thought the gifts were personal.
But when we called Island Operating Company and MMS for further explanation today, neither responded -- Anderson.
COOPER: Unbelievable. Tom, thanks for the reporting, "Keeping Them Honest."
Just ahead: the animal impact. Jack Hanna joins us.
360 live from the Gulf. We will be right back.
COOPER: We're back in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, five weeks since the rig blew.
President Obama is coming back on Friday. Reports say he is frustrated with aides, with BP, with the slow response. Everybody here is. I can tell you that. New polling today shows the public losing confidence in the government's handling of the crisis, though they trust him much more than they trust BP.
Let's turn now to CNN's David Gergen and Rice University presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.
David, I mean, a month ago, it seemed like the federal government was on top of this. They were beating back claims by conservatives that this was Obama's Katrina. And now it seems that may have been premature.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it was, Anderson.
But, in the beginning, this was a small isolated problem. At least it seemed so. And so it was understandable that the government would leave the leadership on it to BP. But, since then, in the last two or three weeks, this has become a growing national emergency. And it has come -- it now demands a national response.
It is -- it should be unacceptable -- and I think it is to most Americans -- to let the fate of our precious coastline and the waters off our shores rest in the hands of a foreign-owned company like BP. This is a problem for which government, it's -- it's fundamental that government be there, protect us in times of war and in national emergencies.
The president must take charge of this, especially if BP fails tomorrow in this critical effort to get that top kill in place.
COOPER: And, Doug, you know, you have the secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar, saying, you know, well, we're putting the boot on BP's neck. But it doesn't seem like there's much pressure being applied to that boot, if it's there at all.
I mean, the EPA sent out a letter about stop using dispersants, but that's basically been ignored. And now the EPA today is kind of saying, well, OK, well, now we're going to do our own research and try to find out.
Why haven't they been doing research for the last, you know, month?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, that's a good question.
And I agree with everything David Gergen just said. I think the Obama administration finds themselves in a very difficult position right now. They can't really go after BP until they cap that well in the way that perhaps they would like to, meaning unleashing the Justice Department against BP. There are other possibilities of having a different company drill relief wells. But what can you do now, when we have a clock that is ticking 24 to 48 hours, where this last Hail Mary attempt to plug that mile-deep disaster is going to happen?
I think, on Friday, when President Obama comes to the Gulf South, goes to Louisiana, if that's not capped, he is going to have to take on a whole different tone of leadership, and, as David said, talk about what a glorious place the Gulf of Mexico is and what these coastlines mean and the fisheries and why this is like our Great Lakes or Mississippi River.
We haven't had a bullhorn moment from President Obama. We haven't heard the passion. And you know he's sickened by all this. It's a time we don't need the cool, collected Obama. We need the orator and the leader who's emotive.
COOPER: You know, David, those two defend the Obama administration -- and that's certainly not my job -- but those who do say, well, look, what could they have done? You know, the U.S. government doesn't have the expertise of a company like BP in terms of, you know, dealing with disaster at this depth in the water.
GERGEN: That's true, Anderson. The government cannot solve this. It does not have the capacity.
But what government can do is to mobilize the forces that have answers. And -- and the -- and the way the presidents, forceful presidents, do it is, they put somebody in charge. There's -- it's not clear who's in charge now in the administration. Is it the Interior Department? Is it Thad Allen, who is wonderful at the Coast Guard? Is it somebody in the White House?
We don't know. But there has to be someone in charge. And then you bring in the -- all of the representatives, the CEOs of all of these drilling companies, and say, ladies and gentlemen, you have got a collective responsibility to come up with your best technology, your best scientists, your best engineers, and get this problem solved.
Call in the best minds of the country. Call -- you -- put the National Guard in a far more aggressive position trying to defend our coast, build these berms, do whatever is necessary, and call in for citizen volunteers, and put the Cabinet on notice, if we don't get this problem solved in the next 30 to 60 days, your jobs are in jeopardy.
That's what it means to take charge. And I'll tell you this. This -- Doug Brinkley may think this is stretching a little too far, but I do believe that, if our government had fought World War II the way we're fighting the oil spill, there's a good chance many of us would be speaking German today.
BRINKLEY: Well, and to -- you know, I have been saying, Anderson, that -- I have used the world high commissioner. That's what John Jay McCloy used to be.
But we need a George Marshall-like figure, somebody like a Colin Powell now, to do what David saying, be a coordinator of this. Ken Salazar is a wonderful man at Interior, but he has got to deal with the MMS scandals, which are profound. He has got to deal with the wildlife refuges that are being devastated in the Gulf South.
And then look at Thad Allen, who didn't lose a single asset, not a boat or helicopter, in Katrina, a great man at the Coast Guard, but he has got his hands full dealing with Coast Guard issues.
It's too fragmented. President Obama has to streamline this, have a regular leadership. And if we had that from the get-go, that -- the footage of all that oil pouring out would have been there from day two or day four or day five instead of waiting a month for it.
It's people -- we live in a very fast 24/7 time cycle. People want answers. They want to see action, and they want to feel that the White House understands a whole region is in peril right now.
COOPER: It is sort of fascinating, David, for a president who watched Katrina and saw the -- you know, the failures of the Bush administration -- and there were failures, also, on the state and local level, we all know in Katrina. But for a president who saw that and, you know, was very critical of it to now find himself in a situation in which he's being criticized for the lack of response or lack of coordination is kind of stunning.
GERGEN: It is kind of stunning, Anderson. And you've been so close to both of these. And you -- and you must scratch your head and watch, as we all do, but I think the critics are saying this is sort of a coming Katrina in slow motion have a point.
I am very sympathetic with what the administration has done. This is tough. It's very tough. And President Obama clearly cares. And we have to appreciate that. But it's not enough simply to care. You've got to take charge. And we've reached that moment in this crisis when I think he has to take charge.
BRINKLEY: Every time I see BP CEO Tony Hayward in Louisiana seeming to be in charge of our Gulf of Mexico, the failed -- the failed CEO of BP, it's -- it comes off as pathetic.
COOPER: Well, seeing him walk the beaches, I think it was yesterday, you know, with camera crews following him, this photo op, you know, finally, I guess, they decided not have him be interviewed in offices, because that made him look bad. So he was out on the beach. But you know, to see him walk the beach followed by cameras was kind of a, you know, manufactured situation.
But it is the kind of thing you want to see government leaders, you want to see the president of the United States and get the feeling that they're the ones in charge.
David Gergen, Douglas Brinkley, appreciate you being on tonight. Thanks.
GERGEN: Thank you.
COOPER: A lot more ahead. If you look at that -- the oil spill cam that we're showing you the live pictures of, I'm told you can actually see a robotic arm, probably operated by one of the submersibles actually doing some work on it right now.
Still ahead, the oil spill's impact on animals, fish, dolphins, birds, turtles and more. Is it too late to save them? Will they recover? That's next with Jack Hanna in this special edition of 360, live from the Gulf Coast.
COOPER: It was interesting talking to a lot of the shrimpers today over in Grand Isle. They were saying, you know, they're certainly concerned about the oil that they can see on the surface of the water. But what really worries them are the dispersants that have been used and the oil that's below the surface that they can't see and what impact that is having, certainly, on shrimping and oysters and on crabs, which is their livelihood, forms the bedrock for businesses here on Grand Island and the Port Fourchon.
Tonight, we want to take a closer look at the impact this catastrophe is having on wildlife in and around the Gulf Coast, from the bottom of the sea to habitats on the shore. The impact is devastating. It's still trying to be figured out exactly. Fish rendered toxic, pelicans and other birds coated in oil, unable to fly, and turtle nest eggs damaged or destroyed.
Jack Hanna, I spoke to him a short time ago. But first, let's go to Rob Marciano.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hot day with hopefully some smooth sailing. We're going to talking to you throughout the day, Laurel Wood. She runs the Coastal Louisiana Rehabilitation Project.
What do you expect to see? Well, first of all, where are we going exactly?
LAUREL WOOD, COASTAL LOUISIANA REHABILITATION PROJECT: Today, we're going west of the Mississippi River to Veriteria Bay (ph) to try to get a firsthand look what's going on over there.
MARCIANO: When you look at -- you look at these reeds, you look at these marshlands, do you kind of see Mother Nature's womb for marine life?
WOOD: Absolutely. Marshes like this, where the tide goes up and down inside the reeds, are a protective haven for juveniles of all different species: fish, crabs, all different kinds of things. And when it's coated with oil, it becomes a poisonous soup instead of a protective haven.
MARCIANO: You see the blotchiness of the oil. It obviously has some dispersants in it. Definitely been weathered. Where are we on this map here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're up here at Ken Isle right here. We've come through Full Bayou (ph) Pass through the Gulf and come up to Cat island where all the pelicans are sitting that we're looking at.
MARCIANO: I can't believe how many birds are up there.
WOOD: These are incredible nesting grounds, aren't they?
MARCIANO: Hundreds of pelicans just plopped down in one spot surrounded by a boom, some of that boom covered in oil.
I can totally see where the oil made landfall and those pelicans are just hanging out right in it.
WOOD: I see one there, right there by the water's edge. It looks like he's completely coated.
MARCIANO: Putting the waders on. Jump in there in and try to see if the oil actually made it onshore.
This stake is where this absorbent boon was laid out, but obviously, it just snapped and that's -- that's where the oil made it onto shore.
You can see the delineation line between the green grass and the soils -- oil on the grass for sure.
WOOD: Here you can see there's a little bit of sheen on the water. You can see how thick and sticky it is, too.
MARCIANO: I'm just trying to get this off my gloves. You can't do it. That's when you know it's definitely oil. If that was mud, it would wash -- wash right off.
That's the state bird of Louisiana right there. That one looks pretty healthy. But we've seen a number today that definitely had oil. No telling how many more out there that have been hit with it. It's gorgeous.
COOPER: A symbol of Louisiana, the state bird, the pelican. That was Rob Marciano reporting.
Even if the leak is stopped tomorrow, and it's not going to be another probably two days, they say, before we actually know, there's a lot of concern it may be too late to save these oil-soaked birds, fish and other wildlife in the Gulf, as we saw there in Rob's report.
Remember, that's just the oil we can see. There's millions of gallons under water, all those dispersants doing who knows what to the ecosystem. A short time ago, I spoke to Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and host of "Jack Hanna's Into the Wild."
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Jack, in terms of wildlife, what is your greatest concern about this spill?
JACK HANNA, HOST, "JACK HANNA'S INTO THE WILD": Well, the greatest concern is obviously the animals that are there right now. But you have animals migrating this time of year. As I said, it couldn't be a worse time of year to happen. Birds are coming through there, eating fish, sea turtles laying eggs, eating what they eat, the manatee are getting ready to come up that way in the summertime, obviously, eating all sorts of grasses, sea grasses.
And of course, hen a bird eats a fish or something and then flies further north, some would ask me, what will be the effect of the animals we don't see? Well, that's something we'll probably never find out. Maybe two or three years from now we'll find out during the nesting season how many birds go back and forth.
So that's one thing I don't think many people thought about, is what's going to happen when these animals come and go, us not knowing anything, and then what happens with those animals.
COOPER: Does it surprise you that we haven't seen large numbers of animals, you know, washing on shore dead?
HANNA: Well, yes, it does surprise me. I thought there would be more. But you know, I thank God every day that there aren't more. And I just pray to God again, that it will end in about a week.
And you know, what's happening to them? Who knows? There's animals that eat animals and that type of thing. We all think of the dolphins and sea turtles, the birds. And that's all great.
But remember, plankton is the source of all food sources. When that's affected, how does that affect everything else in the chain? And this is a perfect example. People sometimes don't believe in the chain of life, but this is a perfect example what can happen when it goes to oysters, the little animals that siphon water. And that's what really concerns me.
And of course, you know, we can sit here all day long and knock the federal government and knock BP and everybody else. But the point is we all need to pull together now, like you've always done and try and almost get together to figure out how to solve the problem. Then we can take off from there, putting the blame on somebody.
COOPER: A lot of the shrimpers on Grand Isle, a lot of the shrimpers around here today and in Port Fourchon, you know, they're concerned their industry may never come back, because the shrimp are bottom feeders. And when you use dispersants, the oil is sinking down. And no one really knows how much oil there is, you know, underneath the surface of the water and what effect it's going to have long term on the shrimp.
HANNA: Right. You will never know that. Of course, it's not just the shrimp for human consumption the affects human lives, as well. But also, many, many animals eat the shrimp. I can sit here and list bunches of them.
But you're exactly right. No one really knows what's going to happen. I can tell you one thing, Anderson. The only good thing that can come out of this, I say, good. The good thing that -- where you are now, you have the Audubon Institute, the Audubon Zoo, The Audubon (ph), the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, which you can go right down the coast there with SeaWorld and all these folks who have been familiar with all these -- some of these oil spills.
So if it had to happen anywhere, thank God these folks are there on standby.
And the other thing is make sure that nobody is listening tonight goes out there like you right now -- I don't know what you're dressed in, I can't see you -- but no one goes out and touches these animals, not just because of the oil but because the animals that are affected, sea turtles, the birds, if you go up to them and expose them to yourself, they're going to be afraid of you. And that puts ten times more stress.
All you've got to do is leave them alone, make a phone call and let these folks and professionals in the zoo world take care of it.
COOPER: And when we see these pelicans, you know, coated in oil, can they be saved?
HANNA: Yes, they can be saved. They can be washed with Dove -- I think it's the Dove -- I'm not sure what soap they're using. But yes, we've proven that before in the Valdez oil spill, where the zoo worked hard up there, as well as, of course, SeaWorld.
All these folks -- right now we have 222 zoos and aquariums, Anderson, on stand-by right now, but you've got the three finest right there in New Orleans. And so if that is an overflow area, and we've got all these other folks. They're ready to send their folks there, help out. We can be thankful we have help waiting to be there.
COOPER: Jack Hanna, appreciate you joining us tonight. Jack, thanks.
HANNA: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up next, BP's big plan. We may be just hours away from the latest effort to choke off the oil from the bottom of the Gulf, a procedure has never been tried before this far down underwater. More for this special edition of 360. You're after the break.
COOPER: It's amazing when you think how long this has been going on. Thirty-six days into the oil spill here, BP is going to try tomorrow again to stop the leak with that "top kill" maneuver we've been talking about.
Basically, says there's a 60-70 percent chance that it's going to work. We're told the latest attempt could start as early as tomorrow morning.
Let's bring in Ed Lavandera and David Mattingly. You've following this for a long time. David, was there -- was there a moment in covering this when you sort of realized the impact this was having?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Clearly, it's when I went out with Governor Bobby Jindal into the marshes where he wanted to show everybody that heavy crude that had hit this precious, precious resource that they have here. It was a huge moment for him and the people of Louisiana. It was a huge political, "I told you so," when they said you weren't giving enough booms. You weren't doing enough to keep this oil from hitting our shores. It's time for us to take over.
COOPER: Ed, you've really been following the story of the dispersants for a long time. You've been really out in front on this. What -- what surprised you the most about -- about this whole dispersant story?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, quite frankly, how much we don't know about it and what we're still learning about it. And I think that's what's got -- what has many people along the Gulf coast here extremely frightened, unsure about what's going to happen.
We've seen a lot of video of what these dispersants do to the oil, and you see it break up, and it turns into droplets and that sort of thing. But what environmentalists are afraid of is what we're not seeing, what it's doing to the marine life.
COOPER: I don't get why the EPA hasn't been studying this for the last 30 something days. I mean, they just said today, essentially, well -- or yesterday, we're going to start, you know, doing studies on this since BP pushed back on using a different dispersant. You would think they would be right on top of this stuff.
LAVANDERA: Well, they say that it's been complicated by the fact that they know a lot about what it does on the surface of the water. But once they've introduce those dispersants down on the sea floor, that those temperatures and that pressure, and all of the science behind that, they say that's what's really...
COOPER: They haven't really been studying -- it would seem from their comments that they haven't been studying that over the last 30- something days.
LAVANDERA: No, clearly not -- clearly not as much, and that's intensified as we speak. We know that they are going back and that all of these possible dispersants that they would like to see BP switch to, they're doing a lot of work now and testing all of those and seeing if the one they're using now is actually, indeed, the right one to use.
COOPER: We've got a Text 360 question. This is from Mary in Philadelphia. The question is, "Why is the government not using better dispersants along the shore themselves? They don't need BP expertise for that."
MATTINGLY: Right. I mean, the EPA has sort of got itself in a corner. They've got a list of approved dispersants, and what BP is using is on their approved list. So they go back to BP and say, "We want you to use one of the other on the list."
And BP says, "Well, you know what? We think this is the best one. We're the responsible party, according to the law. This is what we've picked." There's not a whole lot the EPA can do about it.
COOPER: So Mary's question, though. Could the government say, "Well, we're going to start putting in different dispersants that we think are better"?
LAVANDERA: I think this is what's going to happen. We haven't heard the last of this by any means. What the EPA is now is they're doing their own test. BP came back with its answer and said, "We like this brand, Corexit."
And what they're doing now is the EPA is going back and testing all the options, and they're going to come back to BP here shortly. And if they don't think Corexit is right one, they're going to come back and say, "We think you need to switch to this one," and they're probably going to give them that 72-hour deadline that we've been talking about. And that's when I think this will get even more interesting.
COOPER: But you don't see the government actually starting to put dispersants in themselves? You see it as something that they'll try to get BP to do?
LAVANDERA: Right. And obviously, BP is going to be paying the bill for that.
COOPER: Right. In terms of covering the story, I mean, you know, once you come here, you really realize how this just -- I mean, this can wipe out a way of life. This is not just about a tourist industry. This is about generations of families who have lived here on these, you know, on Grand Isle and Port Fourchon, and you know, shrimping is a way of life.
MATTINGLY: Well, look at where we are. You're dealing with people whose entire livelihood and way of life depends on clean water. And this oil has fouled the most precious fisheries there are in the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, we're talking about this fishing season being in jeopardy. We're talking about generations of fishing seasons being in jeopardy. We're looking at people here who are used to dealing with crisis like this. They have hurricanes come through all the time. They stand up; they start all over again. This is one crisis that they don't see an end to. And that's what really has...
COOPER: A lot of the business here, a lot of the fishermen got wiped out during Katrina. But they've come back only now to face this, which is -- I mean, it's just unthinkable. LAVANDERA: Anderson, I think -- I think we've done so much within the year since Katrina. We were all here for what was this region's worst moment. I was fortunate enough to be here when the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl a few months ago, and that felt like I'd ridden this arc with this city and this region, to go through the worst...
LAVANDERA: ... and I felt like I've been here at the best moment the city had ever seen, this region had ever seen. And all of a sudden, I think these folks around here feel like we're back right where we were five years ago.
COOPER: Right. I think I -- we would be remiss, I know, and Mary Matalin is going to yell at me if I don't mention that New Orleans itself, you know, they just started to get some people canceling hotel reservations. And a lot of folks in New Orleans want to get the message out that the city of New Orleans is doing fine, that there's not impact there, that there's no reason to cancel hotel reservations in the city of New Orleans, that you know, the restaurants are open, the food is great. I was just there. I spent the weekend there two weeks ago when I was doing the Tulane commencement. And the city is back and alive, and they need people to come. There's no reason people should cancel vacations in New Orleans.
LAVANDERA: That sentiment stretches all the way to Apalachicola, Florida.
LAVANDERA: We're hearing a lot of these folks up and down the Gulf Coast, saying, "Don't give up on us. Don't give up on us yet."
COOPER: Guys, appreciate the reporting. Dave Mattingly, Ed Lavandera, thanks so much.
A lot more ahead on this edition of "360." We're live from the Gulf. We'll be here tomorrow, as well. Stick around. A lot more coming up.
COOPER: Following a number of other stories tonight. Joe Johns is back with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOHNS: Anderson, a Pakistani intelligence source tells CNN officials have detained a tenth person in connection with the investigation into the failed bombing in New York's Times Square. The source says the man, who reportedly owns a computer parts store in Islamabad, is suspected of acting as intermediary between the bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad and the Pakistani Taliban.
President Obama will deploy up to 1,200 additional National Guard troops to help secure the U.S.-Mexico border. That's according an administration official, who also says the president will ask Congress for half a million dollar for additional law enforcement on the border.
Wild day on Wall Street, Dow plunging but the market regained. The blue chips ended the day with a 22 point loss.
The 2014 Super Bowl is going to be a chilly one. For the first time, the NFL has chosen a known cold weather site for the February game, a new stadium in New Jersey built for the New York giants and for the Jets. So that will be interesting, Anderson.
COOPER: Good news for New Yorkers and folks in New Jersey.
All right, Joe. This is normally where we do the shot, and you know, it's something fun making you kind of smile before you go to bed. But tonight doesn't really feel right to do that from here.
In just a few hours, BP is going to begin the "Top Kill" that we've been telling you about. No one knows if it's actually going to work.
With that in mind, WE WANTED TO SHOW YOU A PICTURE.
With that in mind, we want to show you some live pictures of the oil that's now gushing into the Gulf for five weeks. Worst fears so many people whose livelihoods of so many people who depend on these Gulf waters coming true, what can be done to stop that oil. We won't know until the next few hours and have continuing coverage on CNN when the "top kill" process begin, keep you updated all throughout the night. And we'll be back here tomorrow night on "360." I hope you join us for that.
More at the top of the hour.