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Oil Spill: Gulf Coast Catastrophe; New Drilling Rules; Drive to Shut Down BP's Atlantis Rig

Aired June 18, 2010 - 23:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. It is day 60 in the Gulf Coast catastrophe, and after a week of high profile meetings at the White House and testimony on Capitol Hill by Tony Hayward, today the focus is once again on the ever-spreading oil.

Tonight, we'll show you how residents here are trying to cut through the bureaucracy and attack that oil. And we'll talk with Kevin Costner who this week got an order from BP for his machine that sucks up oil and actually separates it from water.

Right now, let's check in with Randi Kaye for today's latest developments -- Randi.


Tonight, new fallout from the spill: the federal government is taking aim at oil and gas companies with a new mandate for offshore drilling. When filing for a drilling permit, the companies must now provide detailed steps they will follow to prevent a well blowout.

Now, here we are, day 60 and this is just happening. Just yesterday, BP's CEO Tony Hayward testified on Capitol Hill. He knew little about the well before it started spewing oil into the Gulf. Well, the leader of the company, not knowing. That's right.

He didn't know a lot of other things, either, yesterday. Or you could say he was lawyered up. Take a look.



I'm not prepared to speculate.

I had no prior knowledge.

I hadn't drawn a conclusion.

I can't recall that number.

No sir.

I don't believe --

I'm afraid I don't know.

I don't know.

I was not involved or aware --

I don't believe --

I had no prior knowledge.

I don't know that --

I can't speak to --

I haven't seen this --

Again, I haven't seen this --

I don't believe --

As I said, I don't believe --

I don't know.

I don't know.


KAYE: I don't know.

Well, oil continues to spill into the Gulf of Mexico. According to federal estimates, up to 121.6 million gallons of oil has spewed into the Gulf since this disaster began two months ago.

But efforts to contain the crude are improving. The Coast Guard says approximately 25,000 barrels were collected over a 24-hour period yesterday. That's an increase of more than 25 percent over Wednesday.

And today, a team of scientists warning of the dangers of the methane gas also leaking into the Gulf now, such vast amount of methane that there's a threat of what's called dead zones, huge areas where fish and other marine life can't survive because there's just not enough oxygen.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit seeking to lift the government's six-month moratorium on deep water drilling appears to be going forward. Joining me now to talk about that is Charlotte Randolph, President of Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, and Joe Johns. It's good to see you both.

Charlotte, let's start with you. You have said that BP created what you called an environmental disaster but President Obama is causing an economic disaster and that the President you said was looking for some -- some butt to kick but that he didn't realize he was actually kicking your butt and the others in your parish. What do you mean by that?

CHARLOTTE RANDOLPH, PRESIDENT, LAFOURCHE PARISH, LOUISIANA: Well, on day 60, I think we're all weary of this oil spill and certainly your -- your earlier comments about Tony Hayward are disturbing.

But -- but know that we're -- we're sitting here at Port Fourchon right now, which is the site of the service industry that -- that actually services the 33 rigs, that the President's moratorium suspended.

That has -- has economic impacts that we'll be feeling for years here in the Lafourche Parish, and it's very disturbing to me.

KAYE: So how has it affected your parish already? I understand companies are already losing business or moving their business and people are being laid off?

RANDOLPH: That's correct. Some of the rigs have -- have used the force majeure clause in their contracts and they are looking and they're shopping the rigs elsewhere in the world.

It's -- I passed near a helicopter facility just this afternoon and it's normally full of vehicles from all states and most of the states in the union. And it was virtually emptied today so already this moratorium has impacted us economically.

It's a very, very grave concern for us. And it's difficult for America to understand that while we're fighting the oil that's approaching our shores and disturbing our wetlands, we're asking that this industry be allowed to continue.

It is something we've attempted to educate America now for the past 20 years. And right now is the only attention we're getting because the oil is coming up to the shore.

KAYE: Right. Well, I know a lot of you --


KAYE: I was saying I know a lot of people like yourself are very concerned that thousands, tens of thousands of jobs are going to be lost here. The rig workers, the cooks, the support ships that help these rigs but you had a chance actually to speak to the President himself when he toured your parish.

What did you say to him and what was his response?

RANDOLPH: He was gracious enough to invite me into his vehicle when we were going to the beach. And I had to take the opportunity to ask him to reconsider. Just knowing what it would do to our economy, that it would devastate our economy. And that it would take a very, very long time for us to recover from this.

KAYE: And what did he tell you?

RANDOLPH: And it seemed -- he said that the mood of the nation was such that he felt that a time out, a pause was necessary. Certainly, the nation is seeing the images of the oiled wildlife and that's a big concern. But again --

KAYE: Right.

RANDOLPH: -- America must understand that stopping the oil is not the answer. Stopping the BP rig is the answer.

KAYE: Let me -- let me bring in our Joe Johns, he's in D.C. tonight.

Joe, a group of these offshore oil companies are suing in federal court. The case will go to court on Monday here in New Orleans. They say that the government really has no basis for this moratorium and they call it, quote, "abuse of discretion".

So how, Joe, are they going to make their case since the government is saying that you know what? It's not going to be so bad? There's 33 rigs, that they won't be able to drill but there are thousands, something like 3,600 other platforms, oil and gas platforms out there, that they can still employ these people.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Absolutely right. This is a very tough situation and so many peoples' hearts go out to the people in the Gulf, including those people who actually can't work right now who were supposed to be working on rigs drilling for oil.

But the bottom line is abusive discretion is what they have to show and that's a tough test for them because this administration can point to a lot of things, factors that were going on in the Gulf. You have dead people. You have a rig at the bottom of the Gulf. You have injury to the fisheries. You have all kinds of things happening there.

A catastrophe and the administration simply says, look, we needed to have a six-month time-out here to do that. So tough for these folks to go into court and force the hand, get rid of the moratorium by saying the government did something wrong.

KAYE: Yes. And this is something the President wants, so do you see this moratorium getting overturned?

JOHNS: You know, this is sort of more of a political issue right now in a lot of ways and there are people on Capitol Hill who were talking about ways to do this. Legally it's very difficult, but Mary Landrieu, the Senator from -- from Louisiana, for example, has seven or eight points she thinks the President should do instead of having a blanket ban.

Including, she says, just get all the inspectors together, send them out to each deep water rig individually. Check it out thoroughly and then you decide whether this rig should go ahead and start drilling.

KAYE: Right. A lot of folks here want to do just one rig at a time instead of this blanket moratorium.

So all right. We're going to have to leave it there. Both of you, Joe Johns and Charlotte Randolph thank you both for your time tonight.

And now let's go back to Anderson.

COOPER: Randi thanks.

Just ahead on 360, in Louisiana, a maddening example of bureaucracy getting in the way say state officials. These vacuums were working just fine, cleaning up the oil. So why did the Coast Guard shut them down?

Also ahead, saving the birds and how those found covered in oil are being cleaned and one day hopefully returned to the wild. We'll give you an "Up Close" look.

And we'll talk to actor turned activist Kevin Costner about his efforts here in the Gulf. BP has purchased dozens of the machines he designed to pick up oil.


COOPER: I want to show you something that kind of really gives an indication of what people here in the Gulf are made of. This is what Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal calls Cajun ingenuity. It's essentially using these vacuums sucking up oil from the waters along the north shore of Barataria Bay. They're attached to barges and they have been sucking up thousands of gallons of oil.

Now, the federal government didn't supply the barges. BP didn't either. This is local effort with the National Guard, state officials, local officials. It's an example, really, of a Gulf residents trying to help themselves and trying to show BP the way.

Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): On east Grand Terra Island, a simple and seemingly successful experiment in cleaning up crude, a rudimentary vacuum which sucks up oil on the surface of water and sends it to a container on a nearby barge. You would think dozens of vacuums like this have been deployed all over Louisiana for weeks but they haven't.

In fact, there are only a handful being used and they've only been running for a couple of days.

(on camera): When you see this, what do you think?

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: This is exactly how we need to be fighting this oil.

COOPER (voice-over): Governor Bobby Jindal and local officials are so fed up waiting for BP to clean up oil that they've gone ahead and are testing a few of these vacuums with the help of the National Guard.

JINDAL: We know we've got to use more aggressive, more creative solutions. This is why. I'm not telling --

COOPER (on camera): You call this Cajun ingenuity?

JINDAL: Absolutely. This is South Louisiana Cajun ingenuity. The same people that brought you the Higgins boats are now bringing you -- the same people who brought you the New Orleans Saints, LSU Tigers are now bringing you this. It's vacuum truck on the back of a barge.

This isn't a silver bullet but what we're saying is this in combination with the sand drudging, which is another Louisiana idea, in combination with booming only the -- the critical passes in combination with using dredges and rocks in the main passes; all of those together give you true multiple lines of defense.

COOPER (voice-over): State officials insist the vacuums could be a big help.

(on camera): Without something to actually suck up this oil, what you are left with essentially are these booms which prevents the oil from spreading further into the marshes. You can see the oil basically congeals here in these thick globs but in order to actually get rid of this oil, they come in with absorbent pads, that's the method they're using now but it's a pretty slow method and pretty ineffective.

(voice-over): Governor Jindal brought a group of reporters out to demonstrate how they work. A photo-op to be sure but the governor is willing to try just about anything to get BP's attention.

(on camera): So Governor, what is your message to BP?

JINDAL: My bottom-line message is we're showing that it works. Let's scale this up quickly. Let's not wait. Don't wait for this oil to hit the coastline. The plans they've got are not enough. This idea that they're just going to come out with absorbent pads or they're going to eventually send to shallow-water skimmers is not enough, or that they're just going to leave the oil here is not enough.

They've got to fight this oil before it comes on our coastline. My message is this is a war. And the way we win this war is to throw everything we've got to keep this oil out of the wetlands.

COOPER: How frustrating is it that, you know, 50-plus days into this, it's coming down to you coming out here with the National Guard and kind of jerry-rigging a system?

JINDAL: You know, at the end of the day, we have said all along, we're not waiting for others to come rescue us. We've got to protect our coast. The people that live down here, that work down here know what is at stake.

This is our way of life. And, look, it is frustrating, because we get told day after day there will be more skimmers tomorrow, more boom tomorrow. We said enough is enough.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: After we shot that story, instead of giving its approval to scale up the effort, the Coast Guard actually shut down all the barges. That's right. It actually shut them down until they could be inspected.

According to the governor's office, for 24 hours those barges sat idle. Then, yesterday, the Coast Guard basically reversed itself after this got some publicity, and said, never mind. They scrapped the inspections. They didn't even bother with inspections, saying, the barges are safe after all. They could go back to work.

According to the governor, this is one -- just one reason why people here are so frustrated. They want to help themselves. But, in this case, it seems, at least, bureaucracy stopped them, and they lost a day tied up in red tape.

They're not alone in that feeling.

Kevin Costner, the actor/director, has long said he can help clean up oil spills with machines that he's helped developed. He spent millions of dollars developing the -- these machines that separate oil from water. For years, he says no one listened in government or in the industry.

BP has finally given his plan a try. Or they've ordered 32 of these machines. When Costner testified before Congress this week, his passion was visible. Take a look.


KEVIN COSTNER, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: What I would recommend if I could, right, what I would demand if I could -- and I can do neither -- so, what I would beg -- what I would beg the leaders in this country and the oil industry together would be, before you lift the moratorium, before you do that, to please have cleanup technology in place or at least on a way in a specific time that's designed to meet and match with full force the worst-case scenario that can be presented to us.


COOPER: Well, this is one of the devices that Costner designed. He says he came up with the idea after the Exxon Valdez disaster. I talked to him about it.


COOPER: Kevin, how -- how long have you been working on this machine, exactly?

COSTNER: Well, I -- I took a technology out of the Department of Energy probably in '92 or '93, and it was a very small machine that extrapolated that idea into -- took it into R&D for about three years, an enormous amount of money thinking that we didn't have to fight oil spills the way we had been seeing those recurring images. And, so basically, I thought that we could do this. And we scaled that up into something incredibly efficient and robust to the point where we could separate, you know, 200 gallons a minute and the -- you now, the purity of 99.9 percent oil and 99.9 percent water.

So --

COOPER: You can do 200 gallons a minute --

COSTNER: A minute.

COOPER: -- with this machine?


COSTNER: Well, it's a centrifuge system. And centrifuges have been around forever.

But -- but this was a highly technical piece of machinery developed by David Meikrantz. And we formed a company and my brother helped me develop this. And we wanted -- we brought it to market. And it was simply a thing that somehow just didn't -- I guess people thought spills were over.

COOPER: Yes, I was amazed to read in your testimony that you took this project for years, I mean, to government agencies, to oil companies, private industry. And you were told, well, it's too expensive, or that it wasn't really needed, that oil spills were kind of, you know, passe, a thing of the past?

COSTNER: Yes, it was -- there was all manner of excuses, and none of them added up. And so, you know -- and, you know, spills occur on a daily basis. I think someone said enough -- enough oil spills on a daily basis that every seven months we're having an Exxon Valdez out there. It's just out of mind, out of sight.

And it would take something like this to happen where -- you know, now, we're all pointed at it and, you know, like -- the gut probably just got sucked back into this thing.

COOPER: How mobile are these devices? I mean, is this machine? Can you put it on an air boat? Does it need a barge?


COSTNER: Yes. The footprint's about five-by-five. So, it's -- for our largest machine, it weighs about 4,000 pounds. We should technically probably be on every skimmer out there, because -- as you know, skimmers are picking up 90 percent water, 10 percent oil, right? And they throw it into a barge.

So, you got a big barge that's got 90 percent water, 10 percent oil.

What this machine simply does in that particular case will give a pure payload. Suddenly, a barge will be coming back into shore with, you know, 99 percent oil as opposed to the other way around. And so -- COOPER: It's amazing.

COSTNER: -- there's a way to, you know, to -- yes, it's kind of amazing to you, not so amazing to me. What's been amazing to me is that it's taken this long. But, again, I guess -- I guess the movies I make are long, too.

COOPER: Well, Kevin, I appreciate you being with us tonight and talking about this. I can't wait to see these things deployed. And there are a lot of people here, who, you know, feel forgotten and feel like people aren't paying attention around the world.

And to know that you have been working on this for so long and to see it actually coming through, it's got to be a great day for you. And I know a lot of people here are going to be excited.

So, Kevin, thank you very much for being with us.

COSTNER: Thanks, Anderson.


COOPER: Ahead on 360: the campaign to shut down another BP oil rig, this one bigger and more complex than the DeepWater Horizon that exploded, causing the current disaster.

A whistle-blower warns another rig they have is unsafe, and he says he has proof. We'll also have BP's response. You'll hear from him coming up.

And we take you inside the effort to save the oil-soaked birds before it's too late.


COOPER: Well, as the efforts to stop the oil leak continue Members of Congress are trying to find out how all this happened.

Of course, there are a number of investigations under way. One of the people grilling BP CEO Tony Hayward yesterday on Capitol Hill was Representative Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana.

The spill is in his backyard, and he arrived armed with a powerful picture: a brown pelican. It's an image many of us have seen. It's, of course, Louisiana's state bird, just taken off the endangered species list last year.

This was the first time Hayward had testified since the spill -- not a friendly audience, not by a long shot.


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: I want to ask you: who is in charge on the ground?

HAYWARD: The National Incident Commander is the person in charge of this operation.

SCALISE: So is the federal government telling you what to do? Are you telling the incident commander what to do? When our local officials say we need something approved, do they need to get the incident commander and your approval? Because they're getting run around in circles right now.

HAYWARD: Well, we're trying to -- we're not being perfect, so I acknowledge that. And we're trying very hard to do better.


COOPER: Not perfect. It's quite an understatement.

I spoke with Congressman Scalise shortly after the hearing.


COOPER: So what did you think of Tony Hayward?

SCALISE: Well, you could tell that that he came really just -- just, I think, prepared to obfuscate. He didn't answer most of the questions.

And, I mean, frankly, I wanted to see a sense of urgency from Tony Hayward. I still, to this day -- for over a month now, I have not seen a sense of urgency from BP or the federal government in the fact that you need a change -- chain of command where decisions can get made quickly.

And, Anderson, what I mean with that is, in -- within a day, within 24 hours from when our local officials say, this is what we need to solve this problem, they -- they right now are taking over five days.

COOPER: And you are not seeing that? That -- that chain of command -- is that right, five days, that's your estimate? Because, I mean, early on --

SCALISE: It's taking five days, is what most leaders are telling me.

COOPER: Weeks ago, when the President came here on the second trip, that was supposed to be cleared up. The local officials were getting Coast Guard representatives, who allegedly could make decision-making -- had decision-making authority. You're saying that's not happening?

SCALISE: No. And, in fact, just a few days ago, one of the leaders on the ground said that he is spending more of his time fighting with the federal government and BP than he is fighting the oil. There's no excuse for that.

I mean, we're -- we're now two months into this disaster, and you still have this problem on the ground where our local leaders -- and I mean, look, Anderson, one of the big frustrations is, our local leaders seem to be the only ones who are coming up with ideas to protect our marsh from the oil. All they're being told from both BP and the federal government is no. And they just find too many ways to say no, instead of having real alternatives. They don't have any alternatives. All they do is tell our folks, well, there's reasons why we don't want to do this or that, instead of saying, we want to work with you to stop this problem from getting into the marshes and the ecosystems here in the Coast of Louisiana.

COOPER: Congressman, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

SCALISE: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: Up next, there's another rig sitting 122 miles off the Louisiana Coast. It's a rig which one whistle-blower says is an even bigger accident waiting to happen. We're "Keeping Them Honest".

Plus, our "Up Close" look at the Fort Jackson Oil Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. It's in Louisiana. It's near -- near Venice. It's where sick birds arrive every single day. We're going to show you what it actually takes to clean a pelican.

We'll be right back.


KAYE: Hi, I'm Randi Kaye. More from Anderson on the Gulf oil spill in just a moment.

First, a "360 News and Business Bulletin". The cleanup is under way in Minnesota after 39 tornadoes hit the state on Thursday. At least three people were killed, 17 others injured.

Nevada earned a title it doesn't want; it now has the highest rate of unemployment in the nation at 14 percent, topping Michigan who came in second but held the top spot for the past four years.

A so-called female Viagra pill is rejected by a Food and Drug Administration panel and an advisory committee says the makers of Flibanserin have failed to prove it can boost a woman's sex drive. They also say the side effects outweigh the benefits.

And a piece of paper sells for $1.2 million at Sotheby's in New York. Obviously, not just any piece of paper, John Lennon's autographed lyrics for "A Day in the Life" are written on it along with the edit. It's the last song on the Beatle's legendary 1967 album "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart Club". A private American collector made that big purchase.

Those are the headlines. More AC360 from the Gulf, right after this.


COOPER: Tonight, the story of another rig in the Gulf. It's called the Atlantis; it's run by BP. It's the second largest rig in the Gulf; much bigger and actually deeper than the DeepWater Horizon. It's a monster platform that some say is an accident waiting to happen.

At least two dozen lawmakers are calling for it to be shut down because of safety concerns. "Keeping Them Honest" here's Joe Johns.


JOHNS: One hundred twenty-two miles off the Louisiana Coast in deeper water and able to pump more oil than DeepWater Horizon ever did sits BP's monster of an oil rig. They call it Atlantis. It runs on technology some say rivals the space shuttle.

But when you ask for the engineering documents, the blueprints, the schematics, the drawings that show you how to put this thing together, you'll get a surprise. Ninety percent, that's right, 90 percent of the safety documentation for Atlantis was missing as of the end of 2008. That's according to the advocacy group Food and Water Watch which got the information from a BP supervisor turned whistle-blower.

The group says Atlantis is an accident waiting to happen and their in court seeking an injunction claiming Atlantis needs to be shut down now because in an emergency no one would know how to.

WENONAH HAUTER, FOOD AND WATER WATCH: In a production facility as sophisticated as BP Atlantis, there are millions of components, moving parts, that the operator needs to know where they are to turn it on, to shut it off in case of an accident. And it's outrageous that 90 percent of this safety documentation is missing.

JOHNS: Last month, two dozen members of Congress sent a letter to the administration, asking for the rig to be shut down.

(on camera): But why can't you just go out to the rig, look around and see if everything is in order or not?

HAUTER: Well, for one thing, the BP Atlantis goes 7,000 feet into the sea and then even deeper into where the oil is. So, a lot of these components aren't visible from the platform.

JOHNS: BP says reports claiming it's operating with incomplete or inaccurate engineering documents aren't true and that operators in the platform had access to up-to-date drawings needed to run the platform safely. BP says it's done two investigations into those assertions and says it's nothing more than a minor internal process issue that has no bearing on the safe operation of the platform.

(voice-over): Internal emails suggest that as far back as 2008, BP knew it had a problem. One employee said BP had incomplete drawings of the rig's internal structure, but BP worried that turning such documents over to people who have requested them could lead to what one official called "catastrophic operator errors" because they would assume they were correct.

And why doesn't the Interior Department step in and shut down Atlantis while BP gets its paperwork in order? The press secretary for the department said they could not comment because the matter is under litigation.

But in a court filing, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the investigation of claims about Atlantis should be done by mid- September.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Kenneth Abbott is the whistle-blower you just heard from in Joe's report. He testified before Congress yesterday. Here's what he told me.


COOPER: Ken, you're basically saying that the Atlantis rig, which is a BP oil rig in the Gulf, a rig producing far more oil than the DeepWater Horizon did is unsafe. Correct?

KENNETH ABBOTT, FORMER BP ATLANTIS CONTRACTOR: The drawings were not completed properly which is going to cause problems with the operators being able to operate the rig safely on an ongoing basis. And because of the size of the Atlantis -- four to five times the output of the DeepWater -- any failure there could be four to five times the problem that we have with the DeepWater.

COOPER: When did you first bring the problems to BP and what did they say, how did they respond?

ABBOTT: You know, Anderson, what really bothers me is that I have seen, you know, I tried for a year and a half to get this problem fixed. I knew from my experience as a project controls engineer that this was a deadly recipe for problems and for catastrophic errors, and it just didn't happen.

The management tone there was, you know, let's take the shortcut. Let's do the engineering as fast as we can and forget about the normal things you should do.

COOPER: I mean this rig is still operating the whole time. MMS was out inspecting the rigs and they didn't manage to find any of this. In fact, BP says that MMS gave them a safety award.

What is your feeling about MMS' performance in all of this? Do you think they were rubber stamping whatever BP wanted them to?

ABBOTT: Exactly, Anderson. I think they were very negligent in their enforcement and regulation of BP on the Atlantis project. You know, we tried for a year and a half, my attorney and I both to get the MMS to take notice. They're just not checking these drawings at all. Ok? And they should be. That's their, you know, requirement.

COOPER: BP addressed your concerns in January in a letter to Congressional investigators and they say that your allegations are unfounded and that the Atlantis platform had final documentation in place before it started operating.

ABBOTT: And my answer to that would be that when that Attorney Westal (ph) wrote that letter in January she deceived Congress. I think at BP you have this two face problem. You have a public face with the Tony Haywards going out and saying everything is ok and the PR groups and the attorneys.

You know, three weeks ago Tony wrote a letter to his people saying everything was fine there from the get-go, from the date we started and it's still fine. And three weeks ago Judge Sparkin (ph) did an AP interview which was done with Noaki Schwartz and he said, he said it's done. It was never done and it's still not done.

COOPER: And as you said, I mean, you raised red flags about the Atlantis last year. The government's known about the allegations you've been making for months now. The platform's still operating while their investigating. Based on what you know, what you believe, should the Atlantis be in operation right now?

ABBOTT: I think they need to shut that rig down, Anderson. They need to go out there. It's very simple to check to see if the drawings are done. You know, all the stuff is electronic on a database. They're not doing that and they should.

COOPER: Kenneth Abbott, appreciate your time, Ken. Thanks.

ABBOTT: You're welcome, Anderson.

Up next, where rescue birds that look like this are cleaned up and cared for until they look like this, nearly ready to be reintroduced to the wild. We'll take you there.

And later, the music and will power of this city. One of the New Orleans' most famous jazz musicians, Terence Blanchard; how the people of this city and the Gulf will survive.


COOPER: We want to tell you about the latest on the efforts to save birds affected by the spill.

The lucky ones go to a place called Ft. Jackson which is an Oil Wildlife Rehabilitation Center where they're given a chance at least at survival. That's the good news. The bad news is the number of wildlife collected in the wake of this disaster just keeps on climbing.

According to the U.S. government, to date, 634 oil-soaked birds have been collected alive. I got an up-close look at what it takes to actually clean one bird.

Take a look'


COOPER (on camera): When birds are first brought in, though, they're not immediately cleaned?

DUANE TITUS, INTL. BIRD RESCUE RESEARCH CENTER: No, no, no. They couldn't withstand the stress.

COOPER: The stress of being cleaned might kill them?

TITUS: Correct. Yes. We stabilize them for about three days. You know, prior to wash.

COOPER: What's so difficult about the wash?

TITUS: You know, it's just a really difficult process for the birds. They're being held still. They're being bathed with warm water and they view us as predators. They don't really realize that the humans that are working with them are necessarily trying to help them. So as far as they're concerned, they're being attacked.

COOPER: So for them it's incredibly stressful?

TITUS: Incredibly stressful, yes. Very, very.

COOPER: And that can actually kill them?

TITUS: Sure. Yes. Stress is definitely known to kill just about, you know, any kind of wildlife and human beings. So it's a very stressful process.

COOPER: And then is there any -- what are they cleaning right there?

TITUS: It's the pouch, basically the pouch of the pelican. We try and clean inside and outside. That pouch is very elastic. So we try to stretch it out to get both inside and outside very clean.


TITUS: So --

COOPER: What are they doing right here? At first they -- I mean what's the process for cleaning?

TITUS: So right now he's just beginning to process the bird. They'll get a good look at it. Basically get the wings held together to keep it safe and then this is actually a pre-treating process.

COOPER: And what does that do?

TITUS: It loosens the oil. It makes it much softer. The oil has been weathered and fairly dry. And that basically breaks down the oil, makes it much easier to wash this bird.

COOPER: So you put that all over the bird?

TITUS: Correct. They'll put that all over the bird. And then typically what they'll do is they'll put that in a special enclosure with birds that have been pretreated. And in about half hour to an hour's time they'll pull that same bird out and begin the wash process.

COOPER: And they literally have to wash inside the bird's mouth?

TITUS: Inside the bird's mouth, yes. We try and wash -- these birds have been preening. If you're watching the fence, they really excessively preening trying to clean their feathers.

COOPER: Preening is cleaning themselves --

TITUS: Correct.

COOPER: With their beaks.

TITUS: Correct. They're trying to kind of comb their feathers and straighten and realign their feathers to get themselves water-proof and get the oil off of them. So they've ingested some so we want to try and clean as much oil from inside the bill and the mouth and that pouch. And so -- it's as much inside as it is outside.

COOPER: Do you ever get used to seeing this?

TITUS: Not really. No. It's -- this is pretty moving, you know. It's a heartbreaking thing to think that these beautiful animals are soiled basically to make our lives, you know, convenient, simple. So it's -- we all have a hand in this. So I think we all have a hand in cleaning it up.


COOPER: A lot of people working very hard. The man in charge, Jay Holcomb, is the executive director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center. Did I get that right?


COOPER: Always get it wrong.

Thanks very much. You've been doing this for 40 years. How does this spill compare to what you've seen?

HOLCOMB: Well, you know, the one thing different about this spill than any of the others is that the oil keeps pumping. And therefore we can't really plan for an end to it.

And I always say spills start with three pieces. There's the beginning, the middle when everything is working or we're getting it cleaned up, and then the end, where the last drop is cleaned. And so we're kind of still in the beginning. So that makes it really tiring and really frustration as everybody else.

COOPER: So we've just seen the process where the birds are cleaned. Once they're actually cleaned they're brought here.


COOPER: Can you show us what this is?

HOLCOMB: Sure. This is one of the cages outside. These guys are in the rehabilitation stage. Here we go. And -- so these pelicans -- they'll calm down in just a second. Some of those first pelicans you saw that were really oiled, some of them are these. So they've been cleaned up.

COOPER: It's amazing the difference.

HOLCOMB: Yes. This is what they look like when they're clean. And the ones with the white heads are considered the adults, when they're three years of age and over they're sexually mature. So those are the nesting birds. So those are the ones that have chicks and so on.

COOPER: And then -- and then will you -- will they be re-released into the wild?

HOLCOMB: Yes. These birds are all getting ready to be r-released.

COOPER: Where do you -- where will you re-release them?

HOLCOMB: Well, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to release them in Florida and move them as far away right now as they can from the oil. And so they're going to -- we're going to start getting some of these out on Sunday.

COOPER: What's so devastating, and a lot of people don't realize, is that these birds were just taken off the endangered species list last year.

HOLCOMB: Yes. Yes.

COOPER: This has got to be just a punch in the gut for someone like you.

HOLCOMB: Well, yes, I think it is for everybody because, you know, it was this incredible conservation project where they brought chicks from Florida years ago and then built these whole colonies and now they're being impacted. And every adult here that you see represents its young that probably is not going to survive because they need to have these to feed their babies.

COOPER: I read, I think a statistic, and I might get this wrong, in "The New York Times," that only about one percent of oiled birds survived. Is that true?

HOLCOMB: No, that's not true. That's based on old information. And we'll put that to rest right now.


HOLCOMB: That's old information from years ago when we didn't have the technology we have now.

COOPER: So how -- what kind of percentage? Do you have survival rates? HOLCOMB: Well, yes, absolutely. Well, it always -- of course it depends on the variables. You know, the species and the time of year.

COOPER: A bigger bird -- you're finding bigger birds, they're easier to get, they're more noticeable.

HOLCOMB: Right. Yes, these guys are one of the -- ranked on the higher and easier to rehabilitate. Doesn't mean they're not vulnerable and they don't die. But we typically release about 80 percent, sometimes higher, sometimes lower, of this species.

COOPER: This bird just spread its wings. It's not going to take off?

HOLCOMB: Yes, no, he's just exercising.

COOPER: OK. So -- I'm sorry -- 80 percent, you said?

HOLCOMB: Around 80 percent, you know, and these are really healthy birds. So they were captured really quick. I mean they got oil but they were captured. So they were brought in, they were cleaned fairly quickly. And they're eating -- they're internally healthy birds. So we think they have a good chance of surviving.

COOPER: There's a lot of folks who, you know, have heard that there's not enough people out there. There's a lot of people around the country who want to volunteer. What do you tell people?

HOLCOMB: Well, you know, the rehab program here that we're doing right here at Fort Jackson, we have enough people and I know thousands have signed up. And we're calling in more people as needed. You just can't bring everybody in because they have to be managed and so on.

As far as helping out, catching the birds, you know, the program out there is managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for Louisiana. They decide that. And -- so they're put on a list and they'll call if needed.

COOPER: Do you feel like you have a handle on the birds in crisis, or is it hard to tell?

HOLCOMB: Yes, it's hard to tell. And I feel -- I never feel like I have a handle on it because, you know, we know the oil is out there. We know it can come to shore. These guys are nesting in their nesting spots. And if it comes to their nest areas like these ones, then they could get impacted. So, we're kind of like in this waiting game like everybody else to see what happens.

COOPER: Well, it's amazing work you're doing. I know you got to be up early to start again.


COOPER: I appreciate you staying up.

HOLCOMB: Thanks, Anderson. Sure.

COOPER: Thanks so much. Jay Holcomb.


COOPER: In all the coverage we've been giving to the spill, it is important to recognize that the city of New Orleans is alive and well; that the beaches in Mississippi and throughout Alabama and many of the beaches in Florida are fine to visit.

People want you to come and visit there. The restaurants are open; here in New Orleans, the life of the city beats on, coping with another catastrophe. This city has seen so much and yet still standing. And in fact, is rising.

We're going to talk to Grammy Award Winner Terence Blanchard after the break.


COOPER: You walk around the streets of New Orleans and you sense not just that the city is alive and well but you sense the resolve of the people here, the resilience. People living along the Gulf survived Katrina and they're going to overcome this.

If you look at how far this city has come, New Orleans, it's remarkable in the last five years. The city is alive again. There's a great nightlife here. Best food around. Seafood is good to eat; it's as great as it's ever been. So, come down for a visit or a vacation.

There are lots of stories that people canceling vacations. A woman in my hotel this week told me that somebody called up to cancel their honeymoon. There's no reason to do that here. The city is great. The beaches in Mississippi, in Alabama and many of the beaches in Florida are all fine and good to go to.

When you do come to New Orleans, though, you have to check out the live music. You hear it not just here in the quarter on Bourbon Street but down the (INAUDIBLE) along Frenchman's -- places like at the Snug Harbor on Frenchman Street.

This is a city of music and it's a city of musicians. I spoke to one of the most famous artists here, Terence Blanchard, a Grammy Award winning composer and trumpeter. His song "A Requiem for Katrina" captured the mood in the wake of the hurricane.

Here's some of my conversation with Terence Blanchard.


COOPER: Can New Orleans survive?

TERENCE BLANCHARD, MUSICIAN: Oh, yes. I think New Orleans can survive but it's going to be tough, though. I think because of this oil spill, what we've been seeing is that, it's not necessarily the devastation that's going to or the damage that's going to occur in the Gulf but it's a lot of it is the perception about what's happening here in this area.

COOPER: Because we have been trying to point out that, you know, New Orleans itself, I mean, you can still come here, the food is great, restaurants are open. It's the same great city it's always been.

BLANCHARD: Right. But you know, when you talk to some people in the hotel industry, you know, some of the bookings are down because people are concerned about whether the food is going to be safe.

COOPER: It's also just incredible that this has happened now. We are coming up on the fifth anniversary of Katrina and the city really is back. I mean, this was a great year in New Orleans. There are good things happening in the school districts. There's exciting stuff going on here. And the city is rising.

BLANCHARD: Well, that's the unfortunate thing. I mean, you look at it. We have more restaurants now than we have ever had, like you said. The school systems, our testing has gone through the roof. I mean, there are a lot of people who are coming here who want to be a part of the rebuilding process.

COOPER: For people who haven't been here, what is it about New Orleans? You know, it's a hard thing. It's like trying to, I don't know, to talk about dancing or something. I mean, it is a hard thing to --

BLANCHARD: I know. You know, it is funny. We had some friends who work on the show "Treme" (ph); they came by and hung out at the house one day and one of the persons that works on the show put it best. He said New Orleans is a city of moments. And I think that's what people experience when they come here. They come here and they have moments that they can never forget.

COOPER: You're saying New Orleans is a city of moments. My dad once said to me that New Orleans is a city of memory.


COOPER: And what I find amazing about New Orleans is that New Orleans doesn't wipe away the past. It doesn't wipe away even the bad past and even on the buildings, they don't take names off buildings. They just add a new name. And so if you go to the Ritz hotel, you can still see crest above the thing.


COOPER: You go to where my dad went to high school which is the Francis T. Nicholls --


COOPER: Francis T. Nicholls was a racist segregationist Governor of Louisiana in the late 1800s.


COOPER: It's now, I think, predominantly African-American schools and it's called the Frederick Douglas Academy --

BLANCHARD: Frederick Douglas, yes.

COOPER: But they still have the name of this segregationist, racist guy and he's likeness above the door; but that's sort of -- that's New Orleans. It doesn't -- even the bad from the past, it's all just kind of layered upon.

BLANCHARD: I love that about the city. Do you know in the world of jazz, we have families here that date back to the origins of the music? You know what I mean? Generation after generation -- I love that.

COOPER: So, this spill will become part of the history of it? I mean, it will be incorporated into it, it won't be forgotten but the city will move on?

BLANCHARD: Yes. I think the fortunate part is how we rebound from it. That's the opportunities that we've had. I said after Katrina, we've been given a clean slate.

Well, everything you hate and have problems with about the city, you can correct. Well, I think the same thing occurs now. Everything that we have hated about deregulation, everything that we have hated about the big oil companies, they have an opportunity to make it right.

And I think we're going to find out where their hearts are, you know, through this process because in the end, this is an opportunity for us to make some serious change.


COOPER: That was "When the Saints Come Marching In." It's often played as a funeral march but as you can see in New Orleans, it's very much alive, and will persevere as it always has.

Thanks for watching. We'll have a lot more from the Gulf on Monday. We'll be live here again on Monday night. Join us on 360.