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BP Officials Update Oil Spill Status

Aired May 28, 2010 - 18:00   ET


DOUG SUTTLES, COO, GLOBAL EXPLORATION, BP: So, I actually haven't been watching the video.

But I can tell you that, while we're pumping the job and at varying rates, that large amounts of mud can come out of the end of the riser, and this material is a lot like a sediment. So, it's cloudy. It obscures the view. And that can come and go as the job varies and the way it's -- it's performed.

So, I wouldn't interpret anything, anything from those actions. And I couldn't tell you right this minute whether we're pumping. We have been pumping and we have had periods of monitoring, but I actually don't know, this moment, what we're actually doing.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's a critical moment right now IN top kill, the operation, designed to end this nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. We're continuing to monitor this news conference that's under way right now. Let's go back.


REAR ADMIRAL MARY LANDRY, U.S. Coast Guard: So, we're looking at about a four-day window from when we started talking about this. And it just -- it sounds like it's not something that can be relied on, which doesn't foster very much, you know, confidence in this process.

SUTTLES: Yes, I can fully appreciate that comment, but the nature of a job like this and in fact and the whole nature of this whole operation since it began, since we started the -- since we had the fire and explosion and the rig sank and the flow was discovered, we're doing things that are very difficult to do. They're on the bottom of the seabed. And you can imagine, we will look at a particular job and think we can perform it in two hours. Sometimes, it takes four.

Some the jobs that we think that we can do in half-a-day take a day, because we're using these robotic submarines. People can't go down there and do this. And many of the things we have done have never been done before. So, the engineers make their best estimate.

But the thing we tell them consistently is, do the job right. This job is a very critical operation. If it takes longer, we will let it take longer. We're not going to rush it, because it's too important. And as long we believe it will work, we will stay with it. We don't have a set timeline to say, if we haven't achieved a certain thing in 24 hours, we're going to quit. That's not the way we look at this operation.

So, as long as we believe it can be successful, we will continue to go. The fact that it stopped and started is not that unusual. The fact that we have taken periods to monitor the well is not unusual. And the fact that we have -- we have applied these materials, these junk shot-type materials, is not unusual as well.

I realize it's frustrating, but I think the message here is, this thing is moving along. It will continue to move along. And we're going to stay at this as long as we need to.

LANDRY: I think you want to also mention the diagnostics. I think that -- understand, Secretary Chu, the Department of Energy, members of the Department of Interior, the Coast Guard are in the command center in Houston watching this full-time right alongside the industry. So, there's no attempt to be fully forthright -- no attempt to not be fully fourth right with you about what's going on.

We even gave instructions as you went to sleep last night, make sure if anything changes, wake us up. We had people on watch all night, but for those who are trying to get a few hours of sleep, wake us up if anything significant happens, so that we can tell the press, and tell everybody that something significant has happened.

So we will be fully forthright with you about what's really going on.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This -- this might sound like a really simple question, but you stated that you're able to stop the flow of oil when you're pumping this mud. If the top kill fails, could you continue to pump the mud to keep the oil from coming up? If so, for how long?

SUTTLES: Well, David, it actually isn't a silly question, I mean, but if this doesn't work, the next step we will do, because we think it's a more effective way to do it, is we will put this -- what we call lower marine riser package cap on.

And we have several versions of that sitting there, waiting to go. And then the next step after that will be looking at putting a second BOP on top of the existing BOP. We think those are probably the best next step things to do, as opposed to try to hold the flow back with mud continuously.

MATTINGLY: OK, but the LMRP, the promises with that is it's only going to stop some or most of the -- or correct some or most of the oil, but you're saying you're stopping all of the oil during the pumping, right?

SUTTLES: Well, it's hard to know precisely if it's all the oil. Clearly -- clearly, while we're pumping, it should be stopping most, if not all, of the oil. It's -- you couldn't actually continue that operation indefinitely if -- until the relief well finished. So, the best thing to do is actually put the cap on, capture the flow while we prepare for the next operation to stop the flow. So, that's the order we have -- we have laid out. That's the order actually we have worked with the Coast Guard, MMS.

Secretary Chu, as the admiral mentioned, has actually been in the command center in Houston actually since this job began and watched it very, very closely, along with other members of the government, as well as our own team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Operator, at this time, we would like to open up the lines to questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly. Our first question comes from Anthony Guegel with "Upstream."

QUESTION: Yes. I understand the Development Driller II has suspended drilling of the second relief well. I was curious to know why that is, what it may be doing?

And if it is involved with the parallel option of perhaps readying its BOP for deployment over the existing BOP, should we take that as an indication that perhaps the expectations for success of the top kill is diminishing as time goes on?

SUTTLES: Well, the first -- the first part of your question is, yes, the Development Driller II has suspended work on the second relief well while it prepares its BOP as the option for stopping the flow.

We actually started that well before this job started, so you shouldn't read that as any indication of anything about the top kill job. What we wanted to do was be fully prepared if top kill didn't work to be able to move straight to the LMRP cap, and then follow that with the BOP-on-BOP option.

And that's -- so the Development Driller II is preparing to be able to that if that's direction we choose to go, because we don't want any unnecessary delays. I should have said the Development Driller III continues with -- with its drilling. It's at about 11,000 feet now and continues to make good progress, at or slightly better than its plan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our next question comes from Osha Davidson with "Phoenix Sun."


I noticed that I think it was on "Good Morning America" earlier today that you had apologized to the American people for not relaying information fast enough on whether -- on the fact that the pumping had actually stopped the day -- the night before, and nobody was informed of that.

We have been told several times that there were 20,000 BP workers there. It seems odd that nobody is able to convey that information. And your update on your site continues to say everything's going fine, when we have seen several times that things haven't been going fine. You say it's a dynamic situation.

But my basic question is, why should -- why should anyone believe you at this point, when the things that you have been saying have been misleading us all along?

SUTTLES: Well, if you just look at the course of today, I think that our CEO, Tony Hayward, was on the morning news programs and gave an update first thing this morning. Bob Dudley, one of our board members, was on television just earlier this afternoon giving an update.

We're giving you an update now. So, I do believe we have improved the frequency since yesterday. This is the third update we have provided today. We have tried to be...

QUESTION: But information itself is not anymore forthcoming. You said you weren't able to comment on the plume because you didn't personally see it. So, I mean, really? You have got 20,000 people. They couldn't -- they didn't tell you what happened? I mean, none of this makes very much sense to a lot of viewers.

SUTTLES: Yes, I think the point on the -- the point on the plume is, is that it was actually watching the plume is not an indication of how the job is going.

In fact, you yourself can watch the plume, as well as everyone else can. The fact that -- so I think the point about the plume is actually just to recognize that watching that plume and what's coming out isn't an indication of either success or failure of the job.

So, we have tried to caution people all along about that. And we continue to make those cautions. We're trying to provide as much data as we can. We're in the middle of this operation. It actually -- the various elements are driven by the results of the step before. That's the way it works.

As we have stressed, the government is in watching with the job. They're a part of the decision-making on every stop of the job. So, there's a tremendous amount of transparency here. I realize people would like to know every single moment of everything happening. I don't...

QUESTION: Just the important facts, sir. We would like to know those.

SUTTLES: Yes. Well, we're doing our best to provide those. As I said, the job continues. It will continue as long as we think it will be successful. At times, we will pump. At other times, we will monitor the well. At other times, we will use these materials to try to block up the flow.

And we will -- as the admiral's already stated, we will give you updates regularly. And if something significant occurs, we will make sure that's available as soon as it happens.

LANDRY: Can I...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... move to the next question.

LANDRY: I just want to -- can I just add one more thing? Because when you said plume, I thought of the other plume. And I did see something on the morning news showing this -- it links back to the research vessel that had come back in and discovered -- had gotten some data that shows there's this subsurface plume moving towards the Gulf Coast.

I want to reassure all of you -- and I promised the governors of the Gulf Coast states I would do this -- that all the beaches are open, with the exception of three in Louisiana, and that we are absolutely working with the research -- the University of Florida and the research vessel to reassure folks we are actually getting half of the samples off that vessel to show you how clear the water is.

You can have hydrocarbon readings that are very low that will produce a plume on their vessel, but actually it's not -- it's not this huge amount of submerged oil, this wave of oil that's going to come onshore on the Gulf Coast. We're really trying to work to fight this as far offshore as possible.

So, thanks for reminding me about the plume, even though it's a different plume you were talking about.


BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue to monitor this news conference on this update on top kill. You heard Doug Suttles -- he's the chief operating officer of BP -- say, we might not know until tomorrow, we might not know until Sunday whether or not this operation top kill is working or not working.

They are moving along, he says, methodically, as planned. But there's no guarantee of success. You also heard our reporter on the scene, David Mattingly, ask a question, a potential embarrassment. Did BP bring in a few hundred workers to clean up the beach where President Obama visited today, and then get them out of there, after days when there were virtually no workers cleaning up that beach?

We're going to talk to a councilman from Jefferson Parish who's making a very serious allegation. That's coming up as well.

The staggering cost of this disaster, I will talk about that and much more. I have an exclusive interview with the BP managing director. That's coming up this hour.

We will also check in with CNN's Anderson Cooper. He's on the ground. He has another up-close look at the devastation.


BLITZER: A lot is happening right now. We're trying to determine whether or not operation top kill will succeed or fail. We just heard from Doug Suttles, the chief operating officer of BP, we might not know until tomorrow or Sunday maybe even whether this is going to be a success.

Also, there was also another issue that came up. And I want to discuss it with Councilman Chris Roberts of the Jefferson Parish in Louisiana. He's joining us on the phone right now.

Councilman, I take it you were there at that beach where President Obama visited today, and there were a lot of BP workers who were brought in to clean up. Walk us through what you saw and what happened.

CHRIS ROBERTS, JEFFERSON PARISH, LOUISIANA, COUNCILMAN: Basically, about 7:30 this morning, a number of buses brought in approximately 300 to 400 workers that had been recruited all week.

We were told that they were offered $12 an hour to come out and work. They were given gear, T-shirts, hazmat gear, shovels, and rakes, and sent out on the beach. They were there for a couple of hours working. And then, about the time that the president departed, these workers were picked up, which, you know, is a real shame, because I can tell you, Wolf, we have been in Grand Isle daily.

We have not seen that amount of cooperation from BP. We have not seen the amount of relief workers that were there today. And there's no doubt that this was an orchestrated attempt by BP to make it appear as though that they had placed considerable resources in Grand Isle, which has not been the case.

BLITZER: Only moments ago, David Mattingly, our reporter at that briefing, asked Doug Suttles, the chief operating officer of BP, about this. Listen to the question and answer.


MATTINGLY: Hi, David Mattingly of CNN.

We got this from the Jefferson County Parish, an elected official there, who says that, as soon as the president left, all but a dozen workers that were there that BP brought in this morning had left the beach. He says that BP shipped in about 300 to 400 workers this morning about 7:30 a.m., and that, as soon as the president left, all those workers left, except for about a dozen.

Could you comment on that? What was BP trying to accomplish, and what was going on there?

SUTTLES: Well, I think that you should first recognize that I think, as the president and Admiral Allen and many have said, we have moved in considerably more people to fight this battle on the locations where the oil is.

You should also recognize that these individuals are working out in the heat of the sun. These are long days. They start early in the morning, and they stop in the evening. So, the fact that they were leaving the location late in the afternoon is not unusual. It's not associated with the president arriving.


BLITZER: All right, you heard what he said, Chris Roberts, Councilman; it's not associated with the president's arriving there. Go ahead and respond to Mr. Suttles.

ROBERTS: Well, the question I would have for him is that we have had oil washing ashore now in Grand Isle now for approximately two weeks. We have never had 400 workers there.

What I think is unusual is the amount of workers that they had in place and the fact that they have spent most of the week recruiting people to ensure that they were there today. And then on the -- about the same hour the president leaves, they pick these workers up.

You know, Wolf, this wouldn't be a problem if we had seen for the last several weeks this level of contingency of people out there working, but it's just very ironic that on the day that our Gulf Coast governors, along with our U.S. senators and the president is visiting, that they would pull off this type of shenanigan and think that people are going to buy into the reasons that they are giving behind their actions.

And it's almost a slap in the face. I think that it's insulting to our Gulf Coast residents and it's insulting to the president of the United States. And their explanation really doesn't say much, because it could be legitimized if these people were leaving every day at 2:00 or 3:00. But we have not seen this the entire time in the response. And to happen on the same day the president's here is not just a coincidence.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue investigating, digging deeply into this, see what happens tomorrow as well.

Chris Roberts is a councilman from the Jefferson Parish in Louisiana.

Councilman, thanks very much for coming in.

ROBERTS: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're going to get more of my exclusive interview with BP's managing director, Robert Dudley. That's coming up this hour. I ask him about how far the company is willing to go when it comes to paying liability claims to the thousands, tens of thousands of people, maybe hundreds of thousands, along the Gulf Coast whose livelihoods have been affected.

Stay with us. Lots going on right now right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: My exclusive interview with BP's managing director, Bob Dudley, that's coming up. Stand by for that. It's an exclusive.

This will be a Memorial Day weekend unlike any other along the Louisiana Gulf Coast, as the slow and very tense work of trying to plug that leaking oil well continues. BP officials now say it could be another two days before we know for sure if this top kill operation is a success.

Among the latest developments in the disaster zone right now, President Obama made his second trip to the region today, seeing the crisis firsthand. He also announced that manpower for the cleanup effort will be tripled. And, for the first time, BP itself is now calling the spill an environmental disaster.

Let's get the very latest on the situation.

CNN's Rob Marciano's on a trip to the spill site with researchers. He sent us this exclusive report.


ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm on board the Gordon Gunter. It's a research vessel that NOAA's using to measure what's going on beneath the surface of the water. Of course, reports have come out about oil plumes at depth.

And this particular vessel is in charge of detecting some of that stuff. Some the instruments behind me, that right there is -- we just pulled it up from the water. It went down to about 350 meters and took water samples and now they're taking those samples for examination.

This guy right here, it's called the sipper. They will drag him behind the boat and take water samples that way. Kind of -- for the most part, he detects organisms. You're looking at a instrument, a remote-controlled instrument. It looks like a torpedo, but they have been using this out here in the Gulf about 20 miles from the spill site to measure things that are going on underneath the water.

And we're about to take some water samples off that and then send it back down below. Right now, we're at about 350 meters' depth. We're about 20 miles from the actual spill site. We're not allowed to go closer than that because we are using sonar. And while they're doing that top kill procedure, we can't interfere with that.

So this particular vessel, it's called Gordon Gunter, and it is charged with an eight-day mission, Wolf, to measure what's going on below the surface of the water, to see if they can actually quantify any of these underwater plumes that have been reported -- Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for that.

Under intense criticism, BP's managing director's now facing head-on some of the biggest controversies stem from the oil disaster. We sit down for an exclusive interview with him. That's coming up.

Also, the Louisiana lawmaker moved to tears by what's happening in his state, is he satisfied now with what's being done? We will have a conversation with Congressman Charlie Melancon. That's coming up here live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're waiting to see if operation top kill is a success or a failure. We should know a lot more within the next several hours, might not know for sure until Sunday, we're now told. BP, itself, though, is calling all of this, this Gulf oil spill, an environmental catastrophe.

But the company is facing new criticism over an apparent information disconnect with the federal government.

I talked about that and a lot more in an exclusive interview with the BP managing director, Robert Dudley.


BLITZER: A lot of us were disappointed that we only learned about that 16-hour pause after the fact. We didn't know it was happening when there was a pause and it looked like there were some high-ranking officials, including Admiral Thad Allen, who may not have known about that pause.

Can you assure the viewers out there, here in the United States and around the world, that you're going to be up-front and transparent and share this kind of information with us?


It's been filmed from the very beginning. Secretary Chu has been sort of a marathon runner in this with the incident room, long hours, right involved with that. Thad Allen has been informed on what we're doing. I think -- I think he was traveling in a helicopter during that period and hadn't heard for part of the day -- and hadn't heard the latest on that precisely, but certainly the information is out there.

And the word suspension's a little unfortunate, because as we planned the top kill operations, we knew there was a high probability at points that we would have to stop pumping, assess, measure the pressures. We want to make sure we don't make anything worse.

So it isn't like we were having a problem. We just wanted to check very carefully. This is quite -- and that analogy of two equally-forced armed wrestlers is what we're doing in there, and there may be times when one's a little bit ahead of the other, but that's the stage we're at.

BLITZER: And we don't know who's going to win this arm wrestling match right now?

DUDLEY: Not yet, but we have the best scientists and engineers not to overdo it in order to -- but we do know that now -- we know enough now, Wolf, to know that this is going to be a slow overcoming of this well, rather than a big bang.

BLITZER: Some have suggested you didn't want a lot of this information to come out because you were afraid -- afraid it could affect the stock price of BP. Now, you have heard that -- that -- that suggestion. And I want to give you a chance to respond. Since the explosion, the prices of stock of BP has gone down about 25 percent.

DUDLEY: Well, that -- of course, we -- since the accident, I mean people are very disturbed at what's happened. And, of course, we have as well. We have stated from the very beginning that we're going to take responsibility for the damages. We're going to pay the claims.

The market is not sure the size of those claims. We are not slowing down at all in terms of meeting those obligations. We have said we're not going to stand behind any of the $75 million liability caps from the very beginning.

In terms of the top kill, though, it's -- it's an offshore operation. People are glued to the -- to the screen looking at a plume. I think what we have done to the engineers and scientists who are working on this, it's a little bit like asking them to do open- heart surgery on television.

And it's hard to judge the results. And I think it would be probably not wise for anybody to think they could trade off of what they see on television.

BLITZER: You've heard President Obama say the government is in charge. Nothing is happening unless the government approves what -- what's going on. Is that accurate? You're only doing what the federal government let's you do, is that right?

DUDLEY: That's right, Wolf. Secretary Salazar was down last weekend. He spent two days with us. Secretary Chu has been here for a number of days during the top kill operation. Secretary Salazar will come back. Each time we do that, and we make a major step like the top kill, there has to be complete agreement with -- in this case, the interior department and the secretary of the energy. It's been that way with the spill response. We've worked on the auspices of the coast guard. They have worked tirelessly with us to help us where we deploy resources. We've got 20,000 people down there. They responded very, very fast after this incident. And it's been deafly, we are working for the government.

BLITZER: We spoke to some local businessmen who've really been affected negatively by what's going on. I'm going to play some clips of what if what they had to say and I want you to respond. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this time of year I mean I'm catching 25,000 to $30,000 worth of crabs every day and they wrote me a check for $5,000 it's just not enough. It's not -- it's not what I lost. I mean if you go by what I lost, I lost way more than that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What have they told you that you can get?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They putting us in a large claim and said we can get $5,000.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what the law's claim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One check for $5,000?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what they tell us. They don't even pay the light bill.


BLITZER: All right, what do you say to these folks who say you're just reimbursing them for relatively modest percent of the losses that they're enduring right now?

DUDLEY: Well, I don't know about these specific cases. But I can -- we've paid $36 million in claims so far. We've been -- tried to be fast, quick and efficient about it. We asked them to understand that it's not a single payment for claim. These are open-ended claims for as long as their businesses are affected. There is a large claim category for things over $5,000. So I'm not sure what -- what the size of the claim that the gentleman mentioned but it should be tied to his loss of business. We're trying to -- and I think we have -- put across the gulf 14 claim centers and I've been down there. I've seen them. They're meeting with people. We've got interpreters, because some people don't speak English. We're writing checks and handed them to them. We want to make sure that people don't miss their boat payments and their house payment and so I would urge the gentleman that saw there is to follow-up again. It's not a one-time claim these are open-ended claims, Wolf.

BLITZER: This is going to go for a while irrespective of whether or not top kill works or not. The cleanup and the fallout, the economic fallout, the environmental fallout's going to go on for a long time. I take it, so far, BP has spent close to a billion dollars dealing with all of this. How many were billions are you ready to spend?

DUDLEY: Well, we've said from the beginning, we'll meet our obligations and we'll spent it's last figure I saw was around $800 million. You are quite right, there is a lot of cleanup to be done. We need to shut this well off. We need to continue collecting the oil at the surface. It's on those three beaches in Louisiana, there's about 15 acres of oil-soaked marshes there. That's going to take time. It's going to be costly. But I think from the very beginning, we've said we're going to make good on our promises.

BLITZER: And so whatever it costs, it costs, you'll just have to absorb, it no matter how many more billions is that what I'm hearing.

DUDLEY: Well, we're -- that's -- that is our intention, Wolf, exactly that. We're going to make good on legitimate claims, the damages that are done, the restoration to the environment. We've also pledged $500 million for science work in the Gulf of Mexico to understand the long-term effect of the dispersants, the movement of any oil across the gulf, and I think you'll see us stepping up on a number of other initiatives as well.

BLITZER: One final question. Your other offshore oil rigs right now, similar situations. Can you assure us that these are safe and another disaster is not going to happen?

DUDLEY: Wolf, there's been 5,000 wells deployed wells drilled in the Gulf of Mexico over the last 20 years. About 600 of those have been greater than 5,000 feet. This is an unprecedented, a very unusual disaster. It had the failure of some critically important equipment that has led to the spill of the oil. We know and the rest of the industry knows that we need to take a top-to-bottom look, particularly at these blowout preventers to make sure those don't happen. That should never happen, not only in the Gulf of Mexico but anywhere in the world.

BLITZER: Well, should you put a pause? Should you suspend operations as you conduct this review?

DUDLEY: The president has stopped -- has taken a pause in drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on certain categories of wells. We ourselves, as BP, have worldwide begun a series of testing B.O.P.s on all of our wells to make sure that they don't have some these issues. And I'm sure other operators around the world are doing the same thing.

BLITZER: Mr. Dudley, we're hoping this thing works. But I can tell you, I'm sure no one hopes it works as much as you guys hopes it works.

DUDLEY: That's exactly right, Wolf. And we want to keep that oil off of the beaches for the people of Louisiana as well. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Well, thank you very much and good luck.

DUDLEY: Thanks.

BLITZER: All right, we're following this developing story. Where a bunch of workers, a few hundred workers, sent to the beach where President Obama was visiting today simply for show brought in by BP and then quickly brought out as soon as the president left. Carol Costello's on the scene, speaking with some of them earlier in the day. We're digging deeper. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are questions right bow about what appears to be a serious information disconnect. Yesterday at that time the federal incident commander Admiral Thad Allen wasn't even aware that a critical component of the top kill operation had been suspended. CNN's Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us and a lot of folks are asking, Brian, what is going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, officials with BP and the administration say, we're all making too much of this disconnect. They say everyone's on the same page. But there are still more questions than answers about why the public and it appears Admiral Thad Allen himself went a long time on Thursday without knowing that the mud pumping operation had stopped.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This wide plume that you see there --

TODD: BP's top officials say his company's tried to be transparent on the beginning on its effort to stop this gusher and he says there's close coordination between BP and coast guard's incident commander.

TONY HAYWARD, GLOBAL CEO, BP: I talk every day with Admiral Thad Allen about how the spill response is going on.

TODD: Tony Hayward's comments Friday morning followed a day in which it didn't seem like BP was talking with Admiral Allen or the public. For 16 hours on Thursday the mud-pumping component of top kill operation was halted but Admiral Allen didn't seem to than when he spoke at an afternoon news conference.

ADM. THAD ALLEN, INCIDENT COMMANDER: I want to be perfectly clear here, they're pumping mud into the well boor.

TODD: Minutes later when asked by Wolf Blitzer about reports that the mud-pumping had been suspended.

ALLEN: I haven't been watching the plume all day long because I've been a helicopter going up and down the Louisiana coast nor had I gotten an update from Tony Hayward because I've been unavailable.

TODD: But the operation had been suspended since midnight the night before. Who was responsible for telling Allen? A BP official says Energy Secretary Steven Chu has been with BP officials in their command center every step of the way and would have authorized the decision. That's consistent with what the president said Thursday.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: BP is operating at our direction. Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance.

TODD: But did Secretary Chu tell Admiral Allen right away that the mud pumping stopped? We haven't gotten a clear answer on that. But white house and BP officials tell us, everyone in the government including Chu and the admiral is getting real-time information on each development. BP officials say CEO Tony Hayward speaks several times a day with Admiral Allen by cell phone. Still, there are no fewer than three command centers in this operation. I asked crisis management expert Eric Dezenhall about that. Should they be a little bit more streamlined in the communication that the point?

ERIC DEZENHALL, CRISIS MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT: They should be but in a perfect world it doesn't work that way. Look, what BP is facing is not a public relation's problem, it is an environmental catastrophe, so what is your goal? Number one, plug the leak. Number two, clean the mess. Number three, compensate the victims and the habitat. Number four communications.


TODD: Now as for why the was not informed during that long period on Thursday when the mud-pumping operation had stopped, a BP official told me they completely understand the public's desire for information but they need to give timely information, he says, when there's real news. And that the point they didn't feel the decision to temporarily stop pumping mud was real news. Wolf?

BLITZER: Because it depends on your definition of real news that sounds like real news to me but I'm just a journalist and I want more information, not less information. Is there -- are you getting any sense of regret that it took them so long to inform all us, what, 16 hours that a keep part of this had been paused or suspended?

TODD: Well, as you heard last night, Wolf, Doug Suttles from BP had apologized for that but one white house official also told me, the one thing they should have done is to make more clear from the outset of the top kill operation. That the mud pumping was going to stop and start a lot. They've been saying that all day today. That they you know that they knew that, that the mud pumping was not going to be consistent throughout this operation.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian, for that. We're going to be joining Carol Costello. He was on the scene in Louisiana right now. She's been speaking with some of those workers that were bussed in to clean up the beach that president Obama and some governors visited today that whisked out. What was going on when councilman from Jefferson Parish says this was just a show for the TV cameras. We'll assess when we come get back.


BLITZER: Let's go to Carol Costello right now. She's got some more information on what is emerging as a controversy right now whether or not workers -- a few hundred workers who were brought to the beach where president Obama and some gulf governors were visiting today, simply for show, an allegation made by Jefferson county -- Jefferson Parish councilman. Carol, tell us what you been this.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were really excited when I saw those yellow school buses pull up, Wolf. One of the photographers on the scene ran up to me and he says "there's a whole bunch of people down there cleaning up the beach." They had rakes -- because a lot of those little tarballs had been washing up on the beach there in Grand Isle, Louisiana, which is in the southeast -- southeastern portion of the state. So I ran down there to ask, you know, who these volunteers were. There were about 150 at that time. It was around 9:00 a.m. eastern time. And I went up to a man who seemed to be in charge. He was writing on a little cart. And I said, hi, I'm Carol Costello from CNN. I had my CNN hat on and I said, it's great that you guys are out here cleaning up. Can I ask you where you're from? And he said, I'm not allowed to tell you. And I thought that was kind of odd. So I'm thinking, well, gee, is it like the secret service or something? So I said, well, are you here to clean up for the president's visit? And he said, I really am not allowed to say anything. We're just here cleaning up. We're just not allowed to say where we're from. I said well does it have at all with anything to do with the president's visit? Why aren't you allowed to tell me who you are? He said I'm not allowed to talk to you, ma'am. And they continued to clean up and at that point I had things to did and became frustrate and walked back to my camera crew and they continued to clean up. I left before the president left. So I don't know if they cleared out right after he left or not. But we went over to a nearby tent that was setup by Jefferson Parish, which is the parish where Grand Isle is, and some of those people were eating boxed lunches, they were all dressed in t-shirts, some of them were blue and red, so they were clearly taking a break. They were taking off little hazmat suits that they were given and then I assume they went back to the beach and cleaned up. And they were working in shifts.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see if they show up tomorrow, if these workers were just there for a sham, just for a photo opportunity, because the president showed up, or if these workers are going to continue to clean. Carol, thanks, very much. Anderson Cooper is also on the scene for us. We'll check in with him when we come back.


BLITZER: CNN's Anderson Cooper is on the ground for us in Louisiana. He's joining us on the phone. You've been there now for past few days. Where are you now Anderson? Tell us what you're learning on this day.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I just got back into New Orleans. I was down in the region in Plaquemines Parish with a group of fishermen, oystermen actually who were really concerned the water's soon going to become unfishable for them and trying get the oysters out as they can before they're told to shut down.

BLITZER: Is the situation seem to be getting easing up as more workers come in, or is it still awful?

COOPER: You know, I think for a lot of the people it still feels the same. I mean, you know, obviously, there's a lot of activity because of President Obama's visit and a lot of attention paid to that. But you know, for the folks who are watching it, you know, it's pretty much business as usual. It comes as relief to hear there's more people, more assets deployed by the federal government to this location, which we learned today from President Obama because that's one of the complaints. When you go out to Pass a l'Outre as we did two days ago with the governor and the parish president, and there was no one out there trying clean up the oil which is already destroyed and killed off and is in the process of killing off marsh land. There's a lot of frustration you see people on beaches where reporters can get to cleaning up but in places that are more removed out in the marshland you don't see people cleaning up and even the booms that are out there that are soaked with oil haven't been picked up.

BLITZER: Bottom line, an enormous amount of work that has to be done. I interviewed Bob Dudley, managing director of BP, he noted that BP's already spent $800 million or $900 million, almost $1 billion, and I said are you ready to spend billions more to get the job done, make sure folks who are losing money will have the money? And he basically said, yes, which I'm sure will be reassuring if it does happen, to all of the folks whose livelihoods have been crushed.

COOPER: Well I mean billions sounds like a lot to us. To a major corporation like BP, they make an awful lot of money in a short amount of time. You know, I can tell you fishermen that I was with today, you know, they're waiting to hear back from BP regarding checks. A lot have received maybe $5,000 check but they would have made in some cases, you know, $30,000 worth of money with the fishing they would have been able to do over the last couple of weeks. This prime, for instance with shrimp, prime shrimping time and $5,000 check for a shrimper out of work for four weeks, that's nothing. And a lot of them have volunteered to try to help in the relief effort. They're waiting, taking classes in how to lay boom and stuff. But there's a lot of frustration they aren't getting called up because they're told there's not enough work to do. That angers them because they're saying, how can you say there's not enough work to do went clearly there's marshland that has oil that hasn't been cleaned up.

BLITZER: My heart and I'm sure all of our viewers' heart goes out to the folks suffering now. Anderson will have more coming up on "AC 360" 10:00 p.m. eastern. He's got exclusive material you're going to want to see.

A look at what BP officials are admitting is, quote, an environmental catastrophe. The latest news on the top kill effort to stop the leak coming up on "JOHN KING USA" at the top of the hour.


BLITZER: The disaster in the gulf is an emotional ordeal for so many residents including Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon from Louisiana. He's joining us now.

Congressman, thanks very much. You got understandably emotional yesterday. You have friends whose lives have changed forever and we saw that video from the hearing yesterday. Walk us through your state right now. I know you were near tears as you told members of Congress what was going on. What did you see today?

REP. CHARLIE MELANCON (D), LOUISIANA: We were down in Grand Isle and the president came so we saw a cleaned beach and it looked pretty good, actually. My friend, the sheriff from home, has a camp on the beach. The water was pretty. The pelicans were out. People were walking the beach what few people were there. I saw a desolate community that's usually jam-packed this weekend that's struggling with the economic adversity that's being caused by this thing.

BLITZER: Some of these people's lives will now change forever. Isn't that right, Congressman?

MELANCON: All of these people.

BLITZER: All of these people?

MELANCON: All of these people's lives right now. As long as that hole is open and this thing continues, it will get worse and worse. I don't know whether that's by the day or the week or whatever. Closing the hole is the beginning, then trying to capture or protect the marshes and wetlands that provide all of the bounty, the seafood, shrimp, everything that comes from there, is going to be the main focus. Cleaning the beaches are going to be the easy part. Cleaning the marshes is a whole different story. But these people, I hear earlier, the shrimpers, the people with boats, they want to go out and fish. These are hard-working people. They've committed their lives. They live there. They work there. This is what they do. This is their season. And they can't get out there.

BLITZER: When you saw their faces, what did you say to them?

MELANCON: There's not a whole lot you can say to them, actually. Many of them thanked me for my understanding and I do, I grew up hunting and fishing in these marshes, raises my son the same way, and I'm hoping that my grandson will have that same opportunity. It's scary for them. It's scary because, unlike Katrina, any other storm, this may be an environmental catastrophe that may take us for decades to recover. And that's what is so unpredictable. It doesn't allow them to be able to figure out, what do you do tomorrow or next week will I be in business a year from now. I've got the note on the boat, I've got to put food on the table, go through the scenario. They are really -- I've not seen the people of south Louisiana, the coastal communities that I know this upset, this worried. We're very laid back type of people and it's difficult.

BLITZER: Our heart goes out to you and to all of your friends there, Congressman. Thanks very much. Good luck.

MELANCON: Thank you. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.