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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
BP Under Fire; Israeli Forces Raid Aid Ship; Failure of Federal Leadership in BP Spill?
Aired May 31, 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: Hey. Thanks for joining us. Hope you had a good Memorial Day weekend.
Tonight, we're bringing you a special edition of 360. Over the next hour, we will be taking a hard look at the BP oil spill that began 42 days ago, a lot of people here who are angry, angry at the response, the disaster, and disgusted at how BP and, frankly, the federal government in some cases have handled the catastrophe. They want answers. And, frankly, so do we. We all do.
All these weeks later, the impact continues to be staggering, from the communities and industries hardest-hit by the leak, to the toll it's talking on the wildlife and ecosystems across the Gulf.
We will bring you the important reports that need to be told.
But, first, the very latest on the spill. Tom Foreman is in Washington with the latest -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, you said it right. There's growing anger here in Washington and growing calls for action.
President Obama, back from Chicago, meeting tomorrow with the heads of his new oil spill commission, in an environment of growing anger. Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey answering BP chairman Tony Hayward's claim that no oil plumes have formed in the Gulf, despite evidence to the contrary, BP, he said, stands for blind to plumes.
And, as for those calls to action, well, it's all about capping that leak.
John Zarrella is down on the Gulf, and he has the latest on that.
John, what do you know?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Are they in it? I don't hear anything.
FOREMAN: I'm afraid we have had a little delay on John there. He will bring us the latest shortly on the efforts to -- to seal the leak down there. He's been talking to fishing crews as well, who are of course very concerned about their livelihoods, and local restaurants as well who rely on their harvest. We will get back to that in a moment. Meanwhile, global protests, and the U.N. Security Council is in emergency session tonight, after Israel's deadly early-morning raid on a flotilla of ships packed with aid and activists out in the Mediterranean Sea. The ships were bound for Gaza -- their intention, to break Israel's blockade. Then, while still outside the forbidden zone with a number of Americans among the passengers, Israeli commandos boarded.
A melee ensued, and at least nine people were killed.
More now from Ben Wedeman at the port where the ships were ultimately towed and the passengers taken.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're in front of the Port of Ashdod. This is where the six ships of the Free Gaza Movement were brought earlier today, after that early-morning Israeli assault on the flotilla.
The approximately 800 activists who were on board have also been brought here. Several days ago, Israel set up a detention center. Now, the precise fate of those people is not clear at this point. What we're hearing from Israeli officials is that 25 of them are on their way to being deported. Fifty have refused to divulge their identity, so they're a problem group. Another 15 have already been sent to an Israeli prison.
Now, one Israeli human rights organization has gone to the Israeli courts over this matter, worried about the fate of these people. They want to know the names. They want to know the names and the nationalities of the nine people who were killed in the assault.
And, of course, the Free Gaza Movement is saying it wasn't nine people who were killed. They're saying it was as many as twice as that. So, it's not clear what's going on. Really, there are two different narratives. The Israelis have really been focussing on putting their point across, but, until now, no one beyond the Israeli authorities has had access to any of the protesters, the activists, since they were detained by the Israeli authorities.
And until they are released, we won't have a full picture of exactly what happened in the Mediterranean, not far from here early Monday morning.
I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Ashdod, Israel.
FOREMAN: Back here at home, Memorial Day solemn, spectacular and a little jinxed, President Obama's visit to a Chicago-area national cemetery cut short by a huge thunderstorm.
And take a look at this. This is an MV-22 Osprey landing on New York's Staten Island, part of the local Fleet Week celebrations. See what the downwash is doing to those trees? Well, there are people underneath.
Luckily, they only suffered minor injuries, and the show went on.
We will try to fix our connection with John Zarrella down in the Gulf and get the very latest on the efforts to stop the leak down there.
But, in the meantime, let's go back down to New Orleans and rejoin Anderson.
COOPER: Tom, thanks. We will check in with you again in about 30 minutes for another update on the spill.
Ahead on this special 360: a disaster timeline. From the first flames on the rig to the flawed response, we will have the key moments of the catastrophe. Also, was there a failure of leadership? And, if so, where? President Obama has been under fire for not acting soon enough to deal with the spill. We will talk to historian Douglas Brinkley and James Carville.
And, later, BP telling us they're doing their best, but is BP being honest? We will let you be the judge.
COOPER: We're at New Orleans tonight, on the edge of Gulf of Mexico, and at the center of the worst oil spill in our country's history. It began on April 20 with the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig.
Dozens of people were rescued from the burning wreckage. Eleven men perished. The deadly accident triggered a disaster, oil gushing into the water at a staggering pace, hundreds of thousands of gallons a day flowing throughout the Gulf on the surface and beneath it. BP said it was doing everything it possibly could to stop the leak. So did Washington.
But, as the days and weeks went on, as they kept assuring us, the oil continued to spread, making landfall, wreaking havoc on local communities, the fishing industry, and threatening wildlife, and unleashing a wave of anger here and around the nation. And outrage has been directed point-blank at BP.
Here's Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: It's not just BP taking the heat. So is the president. Even some of his staunchest supporters have been slamming him for standing by, instead of taking charge.
Listen to what Louisiana resident James Carville said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: BP is not the equal of the United States government. And this president needs to tell BP: I'm your daddy. I'm in charge. You're going to do what we say. You're a multinational company that is greedy and you may be guilty of criminal activity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A lot of people feel that way, angry, demanding answers.
How did this happen? How could it go on for so long? Tonight, we will give you facts on the catastrophe, from the big picture to the important details that you need to know.
First, let's get a timeline of how this crisis unfolded.
Here's Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It all began with a boom.
April 20, just before 10:00 p.m., the first explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon. The oil rig about 50 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico is spitting fire, 126 people on board, 17 injured, 11 missing.
April 22, the rig finally sinks, with approximately 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board. It leaves behind a growing oil slick, one mile wide, five miles long. The Coast Guard says it's not sure if the well the rig was working on deep beneath the ocean's surface is leaking.
REAR ADMIRAL MARY LANDRY, U.S. COAST GUARD: We would like to really emphasize our deepest sympathy for the families of the 11 members who are still missing.
KAYE: On day 3, April 23, the search for the missing is called off. They are presumed dead.
April 24, the oil slick has doubled in size to 12 miles long. And that Coast Guard confirms what everyone feared: Oil is leaking from the underwater well in two places. BP estimates 1,000 barrels a day is seeping out. That's later revised to 5,000 barrels a day. And the oil is moving closer to shore, now just 30 miles out.
Just five days later, April 29, the oil slick now measures 120 miles long. It's threatening four states, wildlife caught in the bullseye. Floating booms are deployed to contain the oil, and 100,000 gallons of dispersant used to try and break it up. May 2, 12 days into the spill, President Obama's first visit to Louisiana, warning of a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster.
His administration bans all fishing from the mouth of the Mississippi to Western Florida. Wildlife begins to turn up dead on beaches in Mississippi and Louisiana. Two days later, May 4, the edge of the oil slick reaches shore, grazing Louisiana's barrier islands.
May 5, a four-story containment dome is delivered to the site of the spill. It fails to work. By May 9, engineers are toying with the idea of using trash to close the leak: golf balls and old tires. They call it a junk shot.
REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We realize that we're really not talking about MIT here. We're really talking about the PGA.
KAYE: Meanwhile, oil-soaked birds like this one are suffering horribly, some trapped on barrier islands, others lost at sea among supply vessels.
May 12, a second smaller containment dome known as top hat is delivered, but never used. May 17, in Washington, far from the spreading oil, congressional hearings begin, BP on the defensive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know who's responsible for what yet.
KAYE: By may 18, even the dragonflies are soaked in oil. May 19, thicker, heavier oil blankets Louisiana's wetlands. That same day, BP announces it's -- quote -- "very pleased" with the performance of an insertion tube put in place to contain the spill.
DOUG SUTTLES, COO, GLOBAL EXPLORATION, BP: Our efforts offshore are making a -- a big difference now.
KAYE: Meanwhile, the water is on fire again, this time a controlled burn in the Gulf. May 20, lawmakers post Web links to a live feed of the oil spill, after pressuring BP to release the footage. More than a month into the spill, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal slams Washington for being stingy with resources.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We have been frustrated with the disjointed effort to date that has too often meant too little, too late for the oil hitting our coast.
KAYE: On May 24, the federal government orders BP to scale back its use of an oil dispersant called Corexit 9500 by up to 80 percent over fears it's too toxic. But BP asks for more tests from the EPA before reducing its use of dispersants.
May 26, operation top kill begins, a maneuver in which drilling mud will be pumped down from the surface to block the leak. BP isn't sure it will work.
May 28, the president returns to Louisiana with a promise to repair the region.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I give the people of this community and the entire Gulf my word that we're going to hold ourselves accountable to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to stop this catastrophe.
KAYE: Now 42 days into this awful mess, and still counting.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Counting the days and keeping the people in charge honest.
Frankly, for weeks now, we have been getting a lot of mixed messages, from BP, from the federal government. It often feels like we're not being told the whole story. Certainly, a lot of people down here feel that way. The only way to really know what's going on is to see it with your own eyes. Last week, that's exactly what we did, taking a boat ride along the coast with local officials and Louisiana's governor, Bobby Jindal.
What we saw speaks for itself.
COOPER (voice-over): In Pass a Loutre, the marshes are covered in crude. The sight is sickening. So is the smell. There's little sound, no sign of life.
We reached the marshes on airboats accompanied by Louisiana's governor, Bobby Jindal, and Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish.
(on camera): BP hazmat crews working on beaches, but, I mean, why aren't there hazmat crews here right now?
BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: They don't have plan. They told us they did, just like they told us it wasn't going to come in here.
Usually, you would pull in here, the fish, the minnows -- a trout would be running behind a minnow. It -- action all over. It's dead. Look, there's not a bug. There's not a squirrel. There's not a fly. There's nothing. And there is no one cleaning it up.
COOPER: Why isn't somebody cleaning this up now?
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Well, that's a great question.
Again, you know, Billy presented his plan yesterday, and he's basically said he hasn't been able to get a response. He's basically said to BP and the Coast Guard, in 24 hours, if you don't approve my plan, I'm going to implement it anyway. COOPER (voice-over): The plan is to try and suction up some of oil in these marshes, something Billy Nungesser says he asked BP to do days ago.
(on camera): There is a thick layer of crude oil over this entire part of the -- the wetlands. You can just reach down and, I mean, it just coats your glove when you put your hand in it.
But you can also see it out on the reeds, coating about a foot or two up. The tide has gone down a little bit. But all these plants here will -- they have been killed.
(voice-over): Miles of boom, oil-soaked floats are now in the water, but, for this part of the marshland, it seems, it's already too late.
(on camera): The federal government says that they have got a boot to the neck of BP. Do you see that here?
NUNGESSER: No. No. You know, they keep talking about the thousands of people. They have -- and they do have a thousand people eating in the tent there in Venice. Why aren't they out here cleaning up? Do you see any boats out here?
COOPER (voice-over): Billy Nungesser wants to dredge a berm, a sand barrier offshore to prevent any more oil from entering the marshes. But his plan hasn't received approval and an emergency a permit from the federal government. He and the governor are fed up.
(on camera): Do you agree that the federal government hasn't lived up to its responsibilities here so far?
JINDAL: Oh, look, we have absolutely there needs to be a greater sense of urgency, whether it's getting more hard booms, skimmers, jack-up barges and resources down here, whether it's shortening the turnaround time on making decisions, whether it's putting more people on the ground with local leaders that can make those decisions, tell BP what to do.
We have absolutely said we need to see better situational awareness, which is why we're doing that with Wildlife and Fisheries. And, right now, almost on the top of our list, approve this emergency permit. Let us help ourselves.
COOPER (voice-over): A helicopter circles overhead. Billy Nungesser believes it's BP monitoring what he's doing.
When we return to shore, we find two birds rescued from the oil.
JINDAL: For every bird we're able to rescue, there's many more out there.
What's especially distressing to us is, many of the young -- if we can -- if we can clean up these birds and release them back into the wild, that's great. Many of their young will still die. Many of those nests, if the moms can't come back, we can't save those young birds. So, tragically, we have already seen dozens of birds that are oiled by this catastrophe.
This is just the -- just the first leading edge of some of the life that's being impacted by this oil spill right here in Louisiana. You have got wildlife refugees all over this area. And this oil spill is coming into important fisheries, also important habitats for residential birds and migratory birds as well.
COOPER (on camera): So, can there -- these birds be saved?
JINDAL: There's -- there's a place -- they call it Fort Jackson -- we have got specialists from all over the country there. They're going to do their best to clean them up.
Hopefully, these two are healthy enough they will be able to release them. A lot of times, they can't.
COOPER: So many animals in danger. We will dig deeper on the threat with wildlife expert Jack Hanna.
Plus, more on the anger directed at BP and at the federal government. There's so much oil in the water. People want to know, where's the help? Why the delays? Coming up: the impact this could have on President Obama. We will talk it over with presidential historian Douglas Brinkley and James Carville.
And an up-close look at the day this disaster started -- what we know now, what happened 42 days ago, when an explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
COOPER: On Friday, President Obama came here to the Gulf. It was his first trip to the area since May 2.
While some applauded the visit, others said it was just too brief. The president defended his administration's handling of the spill. He also made it clear that any blame for the response ultimately rests with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I ultimately take responsibility for solving this crisis. I'm the president. And the buck stops with me.
So, I give the people of this community and the entire Gulf my word that we're going to hold ourselves accountable to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to stop this catastrophe, to defend our natural resources, to repair the damage, and to keep this region on its feet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that was the president on Friday. Taking responsibility is one thing, but what about taking charge? Many have questioned his leadership, or what they believe was a lack of it. Some say the president's visit was too little too late and believe this has now become his Katrina. That's what a lot of his critics have said.
Earlier, I spoke with Democratic strategist James Carville, who has been critical of the president, and Rice University presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.
COOPER: Doug, let me ask you. If this had been President Bush who came down here for three-plus hours and then gone back on vacation to his home, would -- would the media be tougher on him than they are being on President Obama?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think they would have been.
But, you know, remember, the anger -- most of the anger has been directed at BP, and the president, actually, for 30 days -- he had a couple of weeks he got away from a lot of the pressure.
I'm surprised he didn't spend a night there, have a -- maybe a meal with families down in Grand Isle, because what's happening here, if this gets capped, this -- James is right -- I mean, it's going to be the -- legal suits. We're going to be ripping into MMS and BP, on and on.
But what if it's not? What if this doesn't work right now, and we're starting into a hurricane season with continual environmental damage hitting the whole coast?
And remember, these dispersants that have been dumped, we don't even yet know the chemical, you know, reaction that people are going to take to that, what it's going to actually mean to the marine system.
CARVILLE: Doug is right. If this thing goes on here for another, you know, week, things are going to get dicey down here.
People -- it's -- it's not going to be -- it's not going to be good at all. And I'm -- I'm very -- I spoke to LSU law graduates today, you know? I said, you know, the people don't feel like there's a system for recompense, that there's a system where justice can be meted out.
That -- that's what -- that's what -- that's what this country is about. That's what advanced nations are about. And people here are -- we've had it, man. I mean, I'm telling you, I don't know how to explain this to the rest of the country, but it -- it is -- it -- and -- and we've had the president -- you know, I'm trying not to criticize the president. I really am trying.
And -- and Doug makes some points that are -- that are valid. But he did -- he did say it right there. One of the things I was very distressed about is, he criticized the secretary of the interior, who I'm not a big fan of, because I don't think he moved very fast on this MMS, but he -- when he said he would keep the heel of the boot on their neck, and the president said he didn't like that language.
I -- I -- I was -- I was not happy to hear that. I think the secretary of interior was precisely right.
COOPER: You've -- you've been criticized by the White House lately for -- for being so vocal.
CARVILLE: Yes, I understand that. And I really do like a lot of people in there. I think David Axelrod is an -- is an understanding man. And I wish David would come down here and let -- let me take him around. I think his -- he would be -- feel a lot different.
He's -- he and his wife are wonderful people. And I understand why they are mad at me. I knew they would when I did this, but, you know, I'm just not going to quit. I -- I'm -- I'm just not.
I can't. I can't. And it's uncomfortable. I don't like doing it. I'm trying not to, but I just know what these people are going through down here, and I know what I'm going through personally and -- and Charlie Melancon. They -- they just don't understand us. They don't understand our culture.
And the president -- sorry he didn't spend longer, but, if he spent some time understanding who we are, what we're about, the things that we love -- and we're different people. And that doesn't mean that we're bad. I think we're the best people in the country. We're different than they are. We don't like -- we don't like their beltways and Applebee's and -- and their -- the food they eat or anything like that.
You know, we're different people here in South Louisiana. And we want our culture. It's being destroyed, and it's been destroyed over a period of time, and we're sick of it.
COOPER: It did seem, Doug, like -- I mean, I -- there was something I found really sad about so many people here in -- in New Orleans and all around Louisiana kind of hanging on every word that the president said, looking for some sign of connection, some sign of understanding. And I just thought, this is just so sad that -- that a people are kind of hanging on every word looking for -- reading tea leaves.
It seems like the president had a prime opportunity this Memorial Day weekend to spend the weekend down somewhere on the Gulf shore, I mean, to spend the holiday down -- if his part of his message is that the beaches are open and throughout most of the Gulf, why not spend the weekend, if not here for security reasons, somewhere else on the Gulf?
It just seemed like that was an opportunity missed.
BRINKLEY: Well, I think so. And what -- what James is saying is, you know, this is such a special culture. It's small towns and villages up against a company like BP that's been cold and callous, when Tony Hayward said, this oil is like a drop in the bucket.
How could you expect people like James Carville not to be angry by that kind of talk and not to be upset at the federal government for not feeling -- making the Louisianians feel that they mattered more?
When Katrina happened, I used to criticize George Bush for saying -- he didn't do what Lyndon Johnson did. After Hurricane Betsy, LBJ went into the Lower Ninth, went into the floodwaters, put a flashlight in his face at night and said: "I feel your pain. I'm here with you."
And it becomes a mythology of Johnson and Betsy. Bush didn't do that, and I think President Obama's kind of -- I think a little more time interacting with the working people, the blue-collar people that work these boats and live along the shore would have gone a long way.
COOPER: All right.
Doug Brinkley, appreciate you being on, James Carville as well.
COOPER: Thank you.
BRINKLEY: Thank you.
COOPER: Well, President Obama has been under fire, but BP has certainly been. Everyone involved is trying to figure out how this all started. What exactly happened the day the oil rig exploded and 11 men were killed? Our investigation next.
Also, what the people of the Gulf could face in the days, months and years ahead. We will take you to the Alaska town that felt the brunt of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Two decades have passed, but the financial and emotional scars still run deep there.
FOREMAN: I'm Tom Foreman here in Washington. We'll get back to Anderson in the Gulf shortly. But first, the headlines.
Sharp reaction to Israel's deadly assault on a flotilla of aid ships trying to break the Israeli blockade in Gaza. Protests on the streets of Manhattan, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, where many of the nine fatalities were from.
Israel says commandos used deadly force only after people onboard attacked them. Prime Minister Netanyahu canceled tomorrow's White House visit with President Obama. U.N.'s Security Council is weighing an emergency response, and the Palestinian ambassador is asking for an independent investigation of the whole affair. Also tonight, word from al Qaeda that its No. 3 man and commander in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, has been killed. No word on how, only that his wife and three daughters are also dead.
And BP's latest shot at stopping the Gulf oil leak, take a look. Robot subs, some with cutting tools at work, preparing to attach an oil collecting cap. That could happen as soon as Wednesday.
Meantime, the federal government has ordered another 1,200 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico closed to fishing.
And back in Washington, President Obama is expected to meet tomorrow with the heads of his new oil spill commission.
More news, of course, throughout the night and tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING." Now back to Anderson and 360 in the Gulf right after this.
COOPER: Welcome back to "360" on the Gulf Coast catastrophe. Never before in America's history have we witnessed an oil spill of this magnitude, never. We have no way of knowing what the long-term effects are going to be. And we can't predict the future, of course, but we do know how it began, with fire and terror on a rig off the Louisiana coast. Once again, here's Tom Foreman.
FOREMAN: Anderson, congressional witnesses and investigators are telling a tale that is growing by the day of warning signs and problems before the explosion.
So let's start about a half hour past midnight on the day of the blast. That's when a crew from Halliburton completed a cement job on the well head a mile below the Gulf surface. It passes three pressure tests for its ability to handle the pressure associated with this well.
By 11 a.m., however, several witnesses report that there's some sort of argument about a change in plans between BP, which owns the well, and Transocean, which operates the rig above, under contract to BP.
By 5:05 p.m., the crews start seeing strange pressure readings from the pipe above the blowout preventer, suggesting a possible leak. Whether this is related to that earlier argument or to the cement job, we just don't know.
But we do know that between 5 and 7 p.m., the crews continue pumping and measuring fluid down around the well head. and they continue to get these strange readings on the liquid and the pressure and some sense that the drill pipe has failed. They're not sure what's going on, but something is not right. Maybe, investigators say, this could indicate a build-up of explosive natural gas. Nonetheless, by 8 p.m., BP ends that testing and begins replacing the heavy drilling fluids, which help keep that high-pressure oil and gas from bursting towards the surface with lighter seawater. A BP investigator later calls this a fundamental mistake.
Nine p.m., more fluid is coming out of the well than is being bumped in, suggesting that the situation might be getting out of control. Ten minutes later, the well pump is shut down for another test, but the pressure just keeps on growing.
Twenty minutes later, the pump is shut down for good, but the pressure is still climbing. Mud is coming out of the well, spraying onto the drilling crew, onto the rig deck, even to a surface boat tied alongside. It's ordered to move back. And moments later, the first explosion rips through the ship. A little bit later, the second one comes, and at 9:52, the Deepwater Horizon issues a distress call. The order is given to abandon the rig, and a great deal of chaos. And two days later, it sinks -- Anderson.
COOPER: Eleven men died in that inferno, among them, Gordon Jones, a 24-year-old engineer on the Deepwater Horizon. The father of two, a husband, a brother, a son.
Last week, his father, Keith Jones, testified before the House Judiciary Committee, accusing BP and Transocean of caring more about profits than his people. He also described the unimaginable grief of losing his son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH JONES, FATHER OF GORDON JONES: We know that Gordon's body was cremated. Then the fireboats washed his ashes out to sea. I admit that having nothing to say good-bye to is much, much harder than I thought it would be. Call it closure or whatever. Something is missing for us.
If you want these companies, one of which is headquartered in Great Britain and another in Switzerland, to make every effort to make sure their employees don't act as these did, putting American lives at risk, you must make certain they are exposed to pain in the only place they can feel it, their bank accounts. As a friend recently said, make them hurt where their heart would be if they had a heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I spoke to Gordon's father, Keith, and his brother, Chris Jones.
COOPER: Keith and Chris, I'm so sorry for your loss. And I know this is difficult. I know being on television is not something you are looking to do, but I know you feel it's important not only to let people know about Gordon and the others who lost their lives, but also to bring justice to their families.
I want to talk about the justice part in a moment. But Keith, just tell me a little bit about Gordon.
K. JONES: Gordon was someone who everybody remembered once they'd met him. He was a great family man, loyal to his friends and sort of a one-in-a-million kind of guy, because as I said it many times when he was alive, everybody liked Gordon. Everybody liked Gordon. He didn't have a mean bone in his body.
He had a wonderful marriage to Michelle. He had a wonderful family, and he was looking so forward to having it grow.
COOPER: And Chris, how -- how are Michelle and the kids and, I mean, how are you doing?
CHRIS JONES, GORDON'S BROTHER: Well, Michelle had a baby, I think, 13 days ago. So the family's really focused on that. Michelle's doing OK. The baby's healthy, fortunately. And we're really trying to stay together as a family and look towards the future in that regard.
COOPER: Keith, you were on Capitol Hill today about a law that I had never heard of and I think a lot of people haven't heard of. There's a federal law that, basically, if you die at sea, your dependents are not eligible for anything. What is the law?
K. JONES: It's the Death on the High Seas Act. It was enacted originally in 1920 in response to the sinking of the Titanic. And it doesn't mean -- actually, it means some relatives get nothing, but if you are dependent upon the person who dies at sea, you can recover pecuniary losses only.
And by that in Gordon's case, for example, it means only the loss of his future income, minus what he'd have to pay in income taxes, minus what he would consume himself, and then reduced to present value by an economist.
Michelle would recover nothing for the loss of the love of her life, nothing for the loss of the father of her children, nothing for the loss of the man she wanted to grow old with. The boys recover nothing for the loss of their dad, nothing for the loss of his guidance, his love, nothing. It is an antiquated, backward law.
COOPER: And it's been amended once for -- because a commercial airliner, I understand, crashed into the seas, and they amended it if people die in an airliner at sea. So you want it amended now, for oil rigs?
K. JONES: Exactly. Well, it ought to apply to anybody who dies at sea. I don't know why -- I don't know why airline passengers are more special than oil-rig workers. But I don't know why oil-rig workers are more special, for example, than cruise-ship passengers or anybody else who dies at sea as a result of the fault of another.
COOPER: Chris, what -- have you -- your brother worked for Transocean. I know there was a service by Transocean. Have you -- what has BP said to you? Have you gotten sympathy from them or a call from them?
C. JONES: Before I answer that, I'll make one correction. Gordon worked for a subcontractor of BP called Immis Swasher (ph).
COOPER: OK. I apologize.
C. JONES: I did -- that's OK. I did attend a memorial event in Jackson, Mississippi, on Tuesday that was put on by Transocean. It was very well done. I can see footage from here. It was tough. We saw a lot of the families there. What I didn't see is the BP executives or anybody come up to us. And they haven't. In the month...
COOPER: You haven't heard from BP?
C. JONES: In the month or so since this accident, we haven't heard a single word from BP. In fact, after the memorial event, I saw them rushing out the back door jumping into tinted-window SUVs with private security to avoid the media.
Today at the hearing there was a BP representative ten feet away who didn't look at us, didn't say a word to us. And honestly, it's an insult. You know, they're going to take responsibility for the economic damages. And that's what they talked about today. They haven't said a word about the families of the victims of this explosion on April 20.
COOPER: Keith and Chris Jones, I appreciate you being on tonight. Again, I know you're not seeking publicity. This is not something you want to be talking about, especially at a time like this when you're grieving. Please give our best to the rest of your family and Michelle, and our thoughts and our prayers are with you.
K. JONES: Thank you very much.
C. JONES: Thank you.
COOPER: So many families just changed forever.
Up next, 21 years later, people in Alaska are still coping with the Exxon Valdez spill. Is it a sign of things to come for the Gulf? We'll take you up there.
Also tonight, helpless and in harm's way. The wildlife devastated by the oil, in danger and dire need. We'll have an up- close look with animal expert Jack Hanna.
COOPER: Since the first days of this disaster, BP has waged a massive PR campaign, insisting that it's doing everything possible to stop the leak. The company has also publicized its payments, insisting it's handed out over $30 million for claims received in connection with the spill. That may be true, but many fishermen and others who make a living from the Gulf say BP has left them so far high and dry.
Chris Battle is one of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS BATTLE, CRAB FISHERMAN: At this time of year, like, I mean, I'm catching $2,500 to $3,000 worth of crabs a 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A lot of fishermen can relate to what you just heard and not just here in the Gulf. Twenty-one years ago, the Exxon Valdez leaked 11 million gallons of oil into the pristine waters off the coast of Alaska. Even though over two decades have gone by, the effects from the disaster remain there.
Dan Simon reports.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Platt is a commercial fisherman here in Cordova, Alaska, ground zero for the Exxon Valdez catastrophe two decades ago. It's been hard times ever since.
JOHN PLATT, COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN: I love to fish. I'm a third- generation fisherman, but this other crap is beyond my control. I wasted 20 years of my life.
SIMON: The Exxon Valdez leaked 11 million gallons of crude oil and left 1,500 miles of Alaska coastline blackened. Birds, sea mammals, fisheries and people were devastated.
PLATT: We got hosed here in Cordova. And nobody cares.
SIMON: Platt says his story is typical. The spill caused such stress, it practically ruined his marriage.
(on camera) You're just one fisherman in this community, but you speak for many.
PLATT: People's lives were ruined. I mean, there were damned good fisherman, damned good fishermen here in the sound that just said, "Screw it."
SIMON (voice-over): They left because the fish disappeared. The herring industry alone lost $400 million. Three years after the spill, they vanished and never returned. Exxon says it had nothing to do with the spill, but no one here is buying it.
MIKE WEBBER, FISHERMAN: People went bankrupt; people lost things.
SIMON: Mike Webber lost his marriage. With the fishing industry in ruins, he says he began drinking heavily.
WEBBER: I blame my divorce on Exxon. And the oil spill.
SIMON: Sociologists spent years here since the disaster. They concluded a fifth of all commercial fishermen had severe anxiety and as many as 40 percent had severe depression. Divorces, alcoholism, and even suicides went up.
(on camera) The spill occurred about 60 miles away from where we are on Prince William Sound, and even after all these years, oil residue can still be found on the shore. As a matter of fact, the local science center here keeps bottles of it on hand.
R.J. KOPCHACK, PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND SCIENCE CENTER: So you can take a look at it, and it's still heavy oiled, and if you smell it, highly aromatic. Still hydrocarbons flowing right out of that poison yuck.
SIMON: That really smells like oil.
KOPCHACK: It actually does.
PLATT: It's been, expect the worst and hope for the best.
SIMON (voice-over): Money has not made the problems go away. John Platt got his final payment from Exxon last year, nearly a half million dollars. But fishing's not what it was, so he used it to pay off debts on his fishing permits and boats.
PLATT: I think the general perception is that we were compensated a long time ago, everything's rosy, and that's not the case.
SIMON (on camera): It's a much deeper story.
PLATT: Big-time. Much deeper.
SIMON (voice-over): So what do things look like 21 years later? The oil stains may no longer be as evident, but they're still here, just below the surface.
Dan Simon, CNN, Cordova, Alaska.
COOPER: 21 years later, emotions are still very raw in Alaska. Exxon is now the ExxonMobil company. We got this statement from them that reads: "The 1989 Valdez accident is one of the lowest points in ExxonMobil's 125-year history. As a result of the accident, Exxon undertook significant operational reforms and implemented an exceptionally thorough operational management system to prevent future incidents." Ahead on the program, Jack Hanna on the plight of the wildlife in the Gulf, fears for their future, and why this is the worst time of year for this to happen.
COOPER: Earlier, we showed you a bird pulled from the waters off Louisiana. This is a picture of what it looked like when it was still coated with oil. It was -- had just been taken out of the water. We were with the governor when we first saw it.
This is what it looked like when it was being treated at a bird rescue center, one of many animals that's been rescued from the spill.
They've been saved. But as we know, the threat continues for fish, for birds and other wildlife and the risk will remain long after the clean-up. Jack Hanna gave us a pretty chilling account of the danger posed to the wildlife. He's the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and host of "Jack Hanna's Into the Wild." I talked to him earlier.
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 are 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, when 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 that 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: 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. And 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 don't know. 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 Aquarium, and 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 there and touches these animals, not just because of the oil, Anderson; 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.
So 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 world took part up there, as well as, 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 that are ready to send their folks there, to help out. We can be thankful for, if everything, that we have help waiting to be there.
COOPER: Jack Hanna, appreciate you joining us tonight. Jack, thanks.
HANNA: Thank you.
COOPER: Thanks very much for watching this special edition of 360. We'll continue to cover this story, to keep demanding answers from BP and from others about what is now the worst oil disaster in U.S. history.
I'm Anderson Cooper. Good night.