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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Top Kill Fails
Aired May 30, 2010 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CROWLEY: Another failure in the Gulf, the oil continues to flow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This scares everybody, the fact that we can't make this well stop flowing. Or haven't succeeded in that so far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley, this is a special extended edition of "State of the Union."
In the effort to stop oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, it is on to plan "B" or is it plan "F." BP's so-called "top kill" procedure that everyone had hoped to plug the underwater leak has failed. The company says the next step is lower a cap over the damaged well. That attempt is expected in the next few days. But as BP and federal officials have said, the only permanent solution to stopping what has become the largest oil spill in U.S. history is to build underwater relief wells. That process is under way but it won't be completed until August of the earliest. The latest offer of international help to deal with this catastrophe comes from the United Arab Emirates, where a team of oil spill experts are on stand by ready to travel to Louisiana. That's where we find CNN's Reynolds Wolf, he is specifically in New Orleans. Reynolds, what can you tell us in what BP has said about this failure?
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The latest failure, I can tell you straight up is they're very frustrated. I mean everyone is frustrated here at this time. People waking up this morning, Candy, one of the first things they saw not only the sun coming up, but this paper coming out. It's the "Times-Picayune," you can read the headline there, "Top Kill Fails."
I mean, just absolutely frustrating for everyone involved. I'm sure it's frustrating for the administration, for BP, certainly all the people involved. The question is, what's the next step? That's where we come into the new piece of technology, this new vernacular that we've picked up, referring to the lower marine riser package cap.
Now the lower marine riser itself sits on top of the blowout preventer. And then this cap that we're referring to is going to be lowered some 5,000 feet from the discover enterprise at the surface, the big ship that is going to lower at that 5,000 feet. Then the plan is to pull most of that oil to the surface, to the main ship, where it will be offloaded on to other tankers. Those tankers will then carry the oil on to shore.
But the thing is, Candy. It's not like this cap is going to fit on perfectly like say a cap on your head that will fit on tightly. It is going to become loose-fitting, so to speak, so it's not going to get every single bit of the oil if it works at all. There will be quite a bit of seepage.
At the same time, they are going to be planning on doing that measure and if they have to, they may have to use some undersea dispersants once again, the chemical dispersants that have a lot of people concerned certainly about its potential effects on the environment.
But they're doing everything they possibly can. The other thing you mentioned would be of course the two relief wells. And again, think about that for a moment. The earliest time they think that they will have those operationals could be in say in August, perhaps it may take even longer. But there are certainly desperate times, no question, everyone is looking for solutions.
CROWLEY: So I know you've been out and about and looking at some of New Orleans' protected lands, now sort of swamped with oil, it looks like. If this does go to August, it seems to me there has to be a word beyond catastrophe.
WOLF: Oh, no question about it. Some things are already beyond repair especially when you talk about the pristine wildlifes that are way down on the delta. We are talking about grasslands. And you know, when you think about this, you have to think about comparisons with what happened to the Exxon Valdez when the clean-up efforts took place you had people there. You had people cleaning oil off rocks.
Well, you have to think, when you talk about these marshlands, these grasslands, Candy, these are porous substances. They're like sponges, so they absorb a lot of this oil. So when the oil is absorbed into some of these wetlands, these marshlands, it kills the root systems. The root systems of course die out, then you have the soil that's held together by those roots.
Well it just simply falls beneath the water and these marshlands cease to exist. It will change the ecosystem forever. Not only is it a home for all kinds of protected wildlife, but you have to also consider that many of these marshlands act as a giant barrier, if you will to parts of Louisiana and other places around the Gulf Coast.
CROWLEY: So Reynolds, you brought up something, admittedly even I don't watch CNN 24 hours a day, but it seems to me that there have not been as many pictures as I might have expected of oil-covered birds, of fish and other things in the ocean, sort of coming up on the shore. Can you tell us anything about the effect that you've seen on wildlife?
WOLF: Well, we've seen a lot of things obviously on wildlife. One of the tricky things when it comes to a situation like this is that animals do die. Dolphins do die. Birds do die. We will find dead animals that will wash ashore even in pristine conditions. Now the thing is, when we see these animals that are coated in oil, you have to wonder was the cause of death directly related to this oil spill? It's kind of hard to determine.
One thing that's interesting too is you have to remember, this oil slick is not occurring right on shore within sight of where we're standing. It's way out in the ocean. For a lot of people we're 50 miles off the southern shore of Louisiana. So a lot of this is taking place out there. Not everyone can see some of the animals being affected but the animals that have been seen, that have been able to make it, to the rehabilitation centers that have made it there live, the level of success is unprecedented.
Many of these animals have been restored to health, they have been cleaned up. They have been fed. They have been rehabilitated. Many of those are going to be released. In fact, there are several that are going to be released not only here in Louisiana, but also in parts of Florida today. That is at least one silver lining to this is that many of the animals brought in have been helped and hopefully will survive long term.
CROWLEY: Reynolds Wolf in New Orleans, we'll be seeing lots of him today, thanks.
President Obama called the failure of top kill enraging and heartbreaking. CNN's Dan Lothian is in Chicago where the president is spending the Memorial Day weekend. Dan, we saw a statement from the president. It just sort of brings to mind that there really are some limitations to saying I'm in control, and I'm in charge, because you have something like this, what really more could the president do about a failure of a procedure on, you know, in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You're right. You hit the nail on the head. I mean, there really is no easy fix here, no magic bullet, as some administration officials have been saying.
BP, the industry itself has all of the tools and the toys, if you will, to be able to drive this operation, and so there's very little that this administration can really do, beyond providing some of the expertise. You will see Secretary Chu who has been involved in the assessment period and also during that top kill operation. He was in Houston watching over that. He will continue to be actively involved, as the president told me Friday when he was touring the beach, that the best minds are working on this and will continue to work on it until the leak is plugged.
Having said that, the administration, much like the folks in the region of the Gulf there, they are very frustrated that this thing cannot be fixed to this point, even though they knew that the odds of the top kill operation were great. The president saying in a statement yesterday, quote, "We were hopeful that top kill would succeed. We are also mindful that there was a significant chance it would not. And we will continue to pursue any and all responsible means of stopping this leak until the completion of the two relief wells currently being drilled." Of course that won't take place at least the first well until August. The president going on to say, quote, "It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking and we will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up and until the people unjustly victimized by this man-made disaster are made whole. Of course given the magnitude of this disaster, Candy, that will take a long time.
CROWLEY: Dan Lothian in Chicago also sticking with us throughout much of the day.
I also want to introduce some other people who I am going to chain to the chair, Donna Brazile, CNN contributor. Joe Johns, CNN correspondent, and we have also brought in Bill Bennett, who thought he would get away with a summer without us. We will be right back to talk to all three, right after this.
CROWLEY: We are back with CNN contributors Bill Bennett and Donna Brazile, and CNN correspondent Joe Johns.
Joe, let me start with you. It seems to me that the president took on a bit of a risk when he comes out and says, I'm responsible, and then something like this happens. What -- is there blowback here?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's certainly blowback. But that's about the only thing he can say. If he says, I'm not responsible, people will point fingers at him and say, Mr. President, you're not doing your job.
The problem for this president, more than anything else I think, despite the fact of how bad this is, politically the problem is that George Bush had a series of disasters, including a huge disaster with Katrina in the Gulf. And he looked very ineffective, very inefficient. people pointed fingers for years, and still do at his administration.
Now we have a new president who promised change, and he's in a position with something else happening in the Gulf. It's very bad, 18 million to, what, 40 million gallons of oil, and he looks like he can't do anything. And apparently he can't do that much.
CROWLEY: And, Donna, even if BP, which I think you would argue, is not Katrina. the fact of the matter is that the president almost has to blame this entirely on the Bush administration if he's going to escape damage, does he not?
BRAZILE: Well, Candy, the blame game is easy. And I think for many people from the Gulf that we would like to blame someone so that we don't feel so helpless. But the truth is, is that this has been a body blow to the region. soon after getting our sea legs back from after hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike. We're confronted with another storm season in just a few days, on Tuesday.
So I think what the American people should demand, and what the president should call for is BP to perhaps bring in international experts. If they don't have technology, the wherewithal, bring in people from other countries.
We start off with Dubai, they're willing to send people. Well, give them a ticket or give them a passport to come and see if they can stop it. The Netherlands, Belgium, people with experience. Accelerate the revenue-sharing so that we can protect our own coastland. We can compensate those who are losing their livelihoods. And, of course, 11 people died. But we know sea life, wildlife, everything is at stake.
And this is, for us, not a game -- a political game that we want to play chess with. This is about saving lives, saving our coastland, and making sure we do everything possible to protect the people involved right as hurricane season begins.
CROWLEY: Bill, you hear Donna, and this is -- much of the frustration is -- much of the passion of the frustration is coming out of those with real connections with New Orleans, with Louisiana, we've heard James Carville, also sort of expressing this same kind of, whoa, wait a second, people are dying down here. What is missing? Where is the cavalry?
BENNETT: Well, that's a good question. Maybe BP knows something that they're not telling us, maybe something hasn't been tried. I doubt it. But the president is taking responsibility now. Look, this is a very serious body blow, severe hit to the people of this country and to that region particularly.
I don't like to do politics at a time like this, but when somebody says, you know, it's easy to play the blame game. The blame game was played big time with George Bush. Now let's not talk about George Bush. That's the past. It's a great unchangeable fact. But a lot of that blame was put on George Bush by Democrats. And this was part of the campaign.
The president has raised the level of expectation. He is the president and he, himself, has raised the level of expectation, you know, in campaign speeches and other things. He believes in government. He believes in big government. And now, that expectation is right at his front door. He has been slow. He has seemed uncertain and unsteady in a lot of ways. And I think that has hurt him.
But it's not so much the appetite for big government, it's the expectation for big government. And when something like this happens, and here's where we're all united, I think we all agree the government -- this is a catastrophe, the government has to take full responsibility.
This is a matter of security. This is the matter of the safety of the people. So I agree with Donna, any expert, and if anybody knows anything anywhere, internationally, let's get them to the fore so we can top this suffering.
But maybe, maybe when these things happen, we can temper a little bit of the immediate, immediate criticism of the president. I just think -- it's interesting to me that Democrats -- many Democrats are being much tougher on Barack Obama than Republicans are, conservatives. That has something to do with people's recognition, I think, at least on the conservative side, of the limitations of government. We're all with him now. We're behind him. We hope he can get it done. But, you know, there are things that happen where it is beyond the powers, at least immediately, of anybody to do much effective about it. Some sympathy, some empathy, I think, is called for.
CROWLEY: Well, one of the -- and I want to get back to the question of empathy and the president. But you all both talking about bringing in whatever -- whoever we can get in here to sort of say, why don't we try this, that kind of thing.
Now BP was saying, look, we brought in all of these scientists, all of these experts, they're working on it. But then there's the clean-up. And I think that's where people from Dubai and the Saudis have had quite a bit of experience. I also think that when Americans see this sort of catastrophe, where do they turn to? They turn to the U.S. military.
We have a president who is commander-in-chief. We had the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff on today on STATE OF THE UNION. And I did say to him, is there something more the military could do? Here was answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MULLEN: We're putting every capability that we have. We've brought thousands of feet of booms, in terms of being able to try to contain this. But it is really not for ours to lead right now because of the technical challenges, quite frankly.
And as best as I've been able to understand, the technical lead for this, in our country, really is the industry. And you can see obviously the challenges that they are going through, trying to figure out how to stop this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So, I mean, that would seem to me to be rather disappointing. Because basically it's like it's up to BP.
JOHNS: This is new science. This is really new science. They're a mile beneath the surface of the world, and they are digging oil in places where people don't understand, you know, how the chemistry works, how the environment works. It's very difficult.
So, you wonder, what's next to do? The only thing I can think of is, where is NASA? You know, these are the people who deal with these complex environments, and deal with the kinds of technology and electronics that they are dealing with underground right now. It's a very difficult world.
BRAZILE: This crisis is both visual and visceral. So you see the visual effect, and it's visceral. Yes, the president of the United States says, well -- you know, takes responsibility. I hold BP very responsible. And everyone else out there that put that rig together, that might have, you know, skimmed this, and didn't, you know, have all of the proper procedures, bottom line is that we have to cap it, we have to contain it, we have to clean it up, and we have to compensate the people whose lives were lost, the region, the sacrifices, and, yes, we have got to conserve those wetlands for the country.
CROWLEY: Bill, I'm going to come to you right after we take a quick break.
CROWLEY: We are talking with CNN contributors Donna Brazile and Bill Bennett and correspondent Joe Johns. Thanks, all.
Bill, I want to start with you because I want to talk about this whole idea of being in charge. But first I want to play you something from Interior Secretary Salazar from yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR SECRETARY: I told the president of the United States, I'm resolute and confident that we will see a better day ahead of us. And that better day ahead of us, for the Gulf Coast will be, yes, we will bring this pollution that is oozing out into the ocean in great numbers, and barrels, to an end. And we will engage in a campaign that will restore the Gulf coast of Mexico to an even better condition than it was before so I am resolute and confident about the immediate problem that I face, but I'm also resolute and confident about the future of all of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Bill, one of the things that I have heard people say and what they think is kind of wrong with how this is set up, is that there is no sort of recognizable face, down in the Gulf, sort of representing the administration. I mean, Ken Salazar is perfectly nice guy, probably a great interior secretary. Same with Janet Napolitano.
But a lot of people say, why can't you say something like Colin Powell who comes out every day and says this or that or the other thing. Has anyone really seemed to have taken charge over the past six weeks?
BENNETT: The one person who does seem to be emerging full of ideas and wanting to take charge is Bobby Jindal, the governor. And I say that not as a partisan point but as in effect leadership. I praise Donna for noticing that and bringing that up, fellow Louisianan, I think Donna said that he's not trying to use that as some stepping stone, he's really out there.
He is out there and not just out there, he's proposing ideas, a whole bunch of ideas. He seems to have the energy and the executive which is what people want at this point, not I'll take the responsibility, I'll take the responsibility. But here's some things we can do, why don't we try this?
And if there's criticism he has in the federal government now, it's that it's slow to respond to a number of these suggestions and recommendations. And that sounds familiar.
But, look, the problem is the problem. This massive, this monster, or a mile down, it's a monstrous problem, obviously, it's an enormous problem. Solve that, address that, and then we can sort some of this out later. There are questions, how much of this is because this thing is so far out? How much of this is because it's offshore drilling generally? How much of the problem is worsened by the fact of the distance and the depth?
I think Jindal has acquitted himself well, and I think the people of Louisiana are pretty pleased at his efforts, and that's a good thing. That's something we can attach ourselves to and be proud of, I think.
BRAZILE: There's no question that I think Governor Jindal has been really focused on this. And of course, you got the parish presidents from Platham (ph) into Catahoula and Cameron and Terrebonne and Lafourche everything in between, pressing him to bring in more boomlets, to dredge up some of the outer isle so that we can protect the inlets.
You know Candy, those of us who are from the region, and I just want to sing out my praises from my colleague and friend, and someone who mentioned me, James Carville. Look, we're passionate about it because it's home. Our people not only eat and work and live, but we also drink the water. This is what we bathe in, we eat from the water. So we want this cleaned up. We want it contained but we want it capped now.
JOHNS: There's a certain irony to Governor Jindal's role so far. And you're right, very emotional, he does feel like a powerful figure down there and trying to do the right thing. When he was in the Congress, it's interesting that he did support lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling because he wanted to bring revenues to the state. And part of why he wanted to bring revenues to the state was to try to clean up the shores, which I thought was a really interesting way of approaching the issue, to take the revenue and clean up now the shores. Now he's got a completely different set of problems that extend from that, but it's clear that he's doing very well.
CROWLEY: But isn't Louisiana the collision of the two competing forces, that are in the -- throughout the country today, and in trying to put together an energy policy. You have an economy in Louisiana, dependent on oil. And friendly to oil, and yet you have these precious wetlands and shores, so where is -- it certainly does bring up the question of an energy policy. I'm not sure whether this makes it easier to get one, or harder.
JOHNS: Just risk, there's so much risk. There's risk off the coast of Alaska. And we saw what happened with the Exxon Valdez, now this. Wherever you're drilling, certain bad things can happen, even though, you know, the revenues and the benefit to consumers could be very high.
BRAZILE: And yet we should have a balance policy. There's no question about it. Go ahead, Bill, I'm sorry.
BENNETT: I take away -- I'm sorry. I was just going to say, I take away nothing from any of the other folks that Donna mentioned, but with Jindal, it's not just emotion and passion and energy, it's intelligence. This is one very bright man, and I think his ideas need to be taken seriously. But it is interesting, you talk about collision point. Here's a coincidence point for conservatives, liberals, whatever, whatever you think of the functions of government.
This is the responsibility of government. When you get to this point, when you get to overseeing this kind of thing, we have got all these agencies of government, this is what it's are for. This is a disaster that got to be cleared, not the boot on the throat of BP, all that, that's fine. But it is that we are in charge. As was said once at the White House and we will take responsibility, and we will address this thing.
That's a point we can all agree on now. A federal government is for anything, it's for taking charge of something like this at this moment.
CROWLEY: The three of you are going to stick with me, but when we come back, what BP will try next to try to shut down the oil spill.
CROWLEY: After the failure of top kill, BP's next move will be to try and place a cap over that damaged underwater well to try and stop oil from gushing out. CNN's Josh Levs is in Atlanta with a look at what BP has tried up to now and what has gone wrong.
LEVS: Yes, hi there, Candy.
Because, you know, in order to understand what they're trying right now, we need to dig into the specifics of all of these steps we've been seeing throughout all of these days. And fortunately the good folks at our cnn.com have done some of the heavy lifting on this with a timeline.
I want to take us all back to the first big big effort that we saw, was at pretty much the beginning of May. And this was at -- right here, this was the containment dome that we were hearing so much about. And it was just like it sounds.
The big idea here was to take that giant dome you're seeing there in the water and to place it on top of where the oil was gushing from. Well, the idea technically made sense. But the problem was this, it formed these ice-like hydrate crystals. Because that's what happens when gas combines with water, you get these crystals. Those crystals prevented that from working. BP said it had anticipated the problem, but not that it would be that big of a problem. So ultimately they had to give up on that.
Now a few days later, May 12th, we're back to the timeline here. And this is when they tried that next thing we kept hearing about called top hat. And we've got a shot of this right here. And the idea here is to put a cap, basically, on where the oil was gushing, but also pump in this stuff called methanol that would prevent those little crystals from forming.
Well, guess what, yet again, no luck on top hat boom. They go on to the next idea. This was a couple of days later, May 14th here. This was inserting a tube, and the idea here was basically this tube acting as a straw. So it goes into the pipe. The idea was it would hopefully pull out a lot of oil, bring it up to the surface, contain the flow without stopping it.
The problem with that idea, that tube, from the very beginning, was that U.S. officials said this is not a solution. It might help a little bit contain the flow, but it was never a solution. And that -- all of those efforts bring us up to now.
What we saw with top kill, we have got this video for you here. This was last week. And what happened here, the basic idea. These preparations were made, BP kept 60 to 70 percent chance of success. The idea, as you've heard, was to cap the spill using this heavy mud, and they actually call kill mud.
And then that was supposed to reduce the pressure. And then they were going to use cement to cap the flow once the pressure was stopped. Yet again, it's the same scenario. You have this new technology that they were using. It has never been used this far underground. This has been used far up, but never that far under, 5,000 feet underneath.
So yet again what we saw there was a failure and it's not working there. So all of that leads us up to today and the kind of containment that BP is talking about right now. And what they are going to try to be doing, creating this new cap now while avoiding those ice crystals.
And, Candy, unfortunately, what BP is saying, as we take a look at this, is that it could be maybe four, five, six, even seven days before that goes in. And now before I disappear here, I'm going to show you one more thing, because we can't talk about everything BP has tried without mentioning this: the junk shot.
People like to joke about this, but BP has tried this as well. This basically means taking little pieces of golf balls and tires and trash and formulating this, take mud, which would partially close that as well. BP said it has continued to try that as well.
So right now all hopes are on this next step, hoping that the cap they put in now will ultimately do the trick. We'll be watching that in a week. And even BP, unfortunately, is saying that the cap that they're trying next is not going to be 100 percent.
Even if it works, it's not going to completely stop the flow. So we're in a tough spot, Candy, and we're looking at now to see how well that works. And if not, what BP tries after that -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Josh Levs with a sorry saga so far.
The disaster the oil spill has caused in the Gulf of Mexico is also battering BP's image. CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti has details.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Candy, you know, after the latest BP announcement, we reached out to a public relations crisis expert to get his take on how things went after last night's pronouncement at the news conference.
And this expert said, Brian Dobson, that it was interesting to watch the COO of BP choosing his words very carefully. He said, you noticed he never used the word "failure," he said, it didn't work and we're moving on to the next option. And it was left to the admiral of the Coast Guard to use the word, it failed. This, according to the expert, was very calculated, in his opinion, and one more effort to try to repair the company's tattered image.
CROWD: BP, (INAUDIBLE), you can have your oil back.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): BP's crumbling environmentally-friendly image is taking yet another pounding. Demonstrators in New York mocking the company by covering themselves in fake oil.
BRIAN DOBSON, PRESIDENT, DOBSON COMMUNICATIONS INC.: A foreign oil company on our shores doing damage to our coast, to our nation. That's the image that they have got to try to correct.
CANDIOTTI: PR crisis expert Brian Dobson says BP dug its own hole early on in part by calling the spill, quote, "relatively tiny" compared to a big ocean.
DOBSON: To call the spill "tiny" relative to the ocean is ridiculous. That's totally irrelevant. This is the CEO of a company who is spewing oil off the biggest customer on the globe off the coast of the U.S., the number one consumer of energy.
CANDIOTTI: Time and again, BP's boss has been asked to defend earlier statements downplaying the spill.
TONY HAYWARD, CEO, BP: The time that I made the statement, we clearly had not had any oil on the shore, and we were doing everything we could do contain the oil offshore and defend the shoreline. A cup of oil on the shore is failure. And in that regard we have failed to defend the shoreline to the degree and extent that we believed we could.
CANDIOTTI: BP also came under fire for not telling anyone the top kill procedure was temporarily stopped on its first night and for its performance at town hall meetings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need an affirmative on (INAUDIBLE). UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That, I need to check on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are they pre-testing the soil, the current condition of soils in that area before they start doing the decontamination process?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'm going to have to get back to you on that one as well.
CANDIOTTI: CNN affiliate WEAR reports that BP spokesperson now has now been let go. And the latest blow-up, BP is being accused of busing in clean-up workers in time for President Obama's Friday visit, and who left when the president did.
One Louisiana politician calls it a, quote, "dog and pony show." A BP spokesman downplayed the claim, saying the workers were following a normal schedule.
CANDIOTTI: And so, Candy, the company, really, in the view of many experts, are saying that it has to be as open and as transparent as possible as this process goes on.
CROWLEY: Well, beyond plugging a leak and cleaning up, what's it going to take for BP to repair its image?
CANDIOTTI: Well, one of the other things they're talking about is that the company has to keep reminding people that it will be willing to spend as much money as it takes to clean up this mess, over the years, in years to come, in order to try and win back the hearts and the minds of the American people.
CROWLEY: Thanks, Susan Candiotti.
Let me go briefly back to our panel. Not that we actually at this point really care about BP's image, that's kind of BP's problem. Nonetheless, it has very deep pockets, and it can monetarily, so far, survive this.
BRAZILE: Well, Candy, as you know, they've given some of the Gulf states $25 million to mitigate some of the damages. They've given them another 15 million for tourism. But, you know, that's just a drop in the bucket, $15 million for a state like Louisiana, a state like Florida that depends on tourists for our livelihood?
I mean, you're talking about the restaurants, you're talking about the taxi cabs and everything else. So I hope BP steps up to the plate, set aside billions of dollars to compensate those whose livelihoods who have been affected, but also to help with the clean- up.
It's going to take years to clean up this mess. It's a crude river now.
JOHNS: And, you know, the estimates are that the fisheries have suffered billions of dollars worth of damage. Tourism has too. And we do know about this liability cap -- this $75 million liability cap that is in place for everything except for clean-up costs in this kind of situation.
Congress has been talking about trying to raise that either to perhaps $10 billion or maybe making it unlimited. I talked to Senator Jim Inhofe last week of Oklahoma, who has been one of the people sort of standing in the way of that, because, he says, we need to think about it, talk about, you know, what is going to happen.
JOHNS: And his argument is, the reason why you don't put an unlimited -- you know, no ceiling in there, in other words, is because he says that countries like China will come in and they will be the ones who are working oil off your shores because no company will be able to ensure itself, if there's no cap at all. So it's a question of do you want to be in control of your own oil? Do you want to be in control of your own offshore drilling or do you want another country do that? I don't know whether that argument works or not. But that's what he says.
CROWLEY: Bill, isn't part of the problem us? I mean, isn't part of the problem the reason we need BP out there drilling this, is that you and I plug in 5,000 things every night to make sure the batteries of running? Isn't this a pretty good argument for some substantial move toward alternative energy?
BENNETT: Well, maybe. What are the options? Maybe again, it's to consider offshore drilling to take place but maybe not at this step. These are questions for experts that need to be answered. No, I don't buy this the problem here is us.
The problem is BP. Sure, things can go wrong, but then you have to have redundancy, systemic redundancy. You have to be sure that you have a plan "A" if things go wrong, a plan "B," a plan "C," and a pretty good likelihood that these will work, and it looks to me like those were missing.
In all the international experts that are going to be sought out, and that's a good idea, I hope the last ones on the list are the PR experts, I really do, because they are going to end up sounding like they got advice from PR experts and talking PR talk.
Go to the example of Tylenol. You remember Jim Burke and Tylenol with that scare? They told the truth and they tried to do everything within their power to make things right and they got their reputation back. The truth is what we need now. People are going to suspect you're not telling the truth so all the more reason to tell the truth. And if that means say failure, everybody knows it's failure. They might as well just say so because it looks like they are trying to dodge it by not using the words that fit the situation, that fit the fact.
CROWLEY: The truth is always helpful. Bill Bennett, I understand we have to say good-bye to you, but thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.
BENNETT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Always here for you Candy.
CROWLEY: Thanks, Bill. To make matters worse, the hurricane season is about to begin. We want to check in with Bonnie Schneider at our CNN Weather Center when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CROWLEY: Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins Tuesday. Needless to say that is not good news for efforts to stop the oil spill or for that matter, to clean it up.
We want to bring in Bonnie Schneider at the CNN Weather Center. Bonnie, what are we seeing right now?
BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well Candy, looking at the size of the spill right now, that's where we're going to look at our parameters in terms of what would happen if a hurricane were to work itself into the Gulf of Mexico, which is certainly possible. As you mentioned, hurricane season begins June 1st which is Tuesday. Right now we don't have anything out there in the tropics that we're watching. But this is going to be a very active season, so we need to be prepared.
So here's a look where the oil slick is and you can see the size and scope has a lot to do with it. If a large-size hurricane were to come in the Gulf of Mexico, like a Rita or a Katrina, it certainly would be a lot larger than the size at least on the surface of the oil slick.
And that will really make a difference in how the interaction will occur because the oil spill will likely have a minimal impact on the intensity of a hurricane. A lot of people thought that the oil would slow down the force of the hurricane or kind of inhibit its growth. But that's not likely to happen because again, the hurricane is so much larger than the size of the oil spill.
Also, another huge risk of course is the track. How will the oil come on shore? Will it come on shore due to the high winds of the storm. Well, it depends on the direction of the storm. Really to the west we see that counter clockwise flow. You can kind of see it circulating here. That would have more of an onshore flow bringing the potential for oil to come in pretty far, possibly and the reason it could come far inland would be the storm surge that could carry it inland, which is the huge risk and one of the worst factors that hurricanes have, storm surge brings that water far inland and because it could go far inland, it could also bring debris that's soaked with oil further on shore, contaminating the area around the hurricane.
But it's important to note that the rain would mostly not contain oil itself because the evaporation process with the oil isn't so expansive that we see again, the size of the hurricane, taking on the water of the Gulf on a much larger scale.
In terms of benefits, well there are some, but again, this has never happened before so this is what we can speculate. If there were to be water sweeping up onshore on more of a flat area beach like Alabama or Florida, we could see a cleaning effect or a washing effect of the water kind of sweeping any oil that comes onshore. However, just to note, here in Louisiana, where you're looking at the topography here, look at all the marshes and the inlands, that would make a much more tough situation because the oil would stick and kind of settle into those nooks and crannies even further, making that washing effect less likely, Candy. So there's a lot of factors to consider. And we're watching here of course because it's going to be such an active hurricane season that we're ready for activity to start early on and to be continuous throughout the entire season.
CROWLEY: Complicating matters for sure. Thanks so much, CNN meteorologist Bonnie Schneider, we appreciate it. When we come back, a conversation with the president of Louisiana's St. Bernard Parish. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CROWLEY: Lots of frustration and fear among residents of Louisiana's Gulf Coast.
CROWLEY: Joining us from New Orleans is the president of St. Bernard Parish, Craig Taffaro. Thank you so much for joining us. First, just your personal reaction about when you learned that this latest effort had failed.
CRAIG TAFFARO, PRESIDENT, ST. BERNARD PARISH: Well, obviously we were cautiously optimistic but very disappointed to learn that the battle is not over because we don't have an end in sight. We were hopeful that our universe of oil would be defined. And with this additional failure, it just really gets us into a mode of, not only our physical assets being tried but many of the psychological emotional strains continue to be tried as well for our residents.
CROWLEY: And I can imagine it's particularly true in the fishing industry at this point, which St. Bernard Parish obviously a lot depends on that fishing industry. Have you been out and about talking to some of those whose livelihood basically is stopped?
TAFFARO: Absolutely. You know, even as early as this morning, in one of our early morning meetings, we have two fisherman who have been fishing for 30-plus years. And the stress and strain is just really getting to everyone. Both of those individuals broke down in tears in front of me this morning because of the uncertainty, because of not knowing what's going to happen to them and whether they will be appropriately taken care of in the face of this disaster.
CROWLEY: Are they getting checks? Do you feel that that's -- I know there's a lot of complaints that people got $5,000 which doesn't even come close to what they would make in what is really a high season for fishing.
TAFFARO: Right. That's part of their frustration and their fear is that they know what they're doing. They know what they make during this time of the year. And unfortunately the claims process isn't matching up to what that is. So a $5,000 check certainly does not go very far in giving these fisherman any type of confidence that what they need will be supplied to them, especially in the face of continuing failure to cap the leak.
CROWLEY: I know that St. Bernard Parish among others is still recovering from Katrina at this point. I want to ask you about the levees. Have they been rebuilt, back in place? It's hurricane season.
TAFFARO: Yeah, right. As you know, we're approaching hurricane season starting this coming week. The levees are better than they were before Katrina. Certainly not where they need to be. They are on scale for about another year of building and basically putting in the levees into place where they need to be. And you're right, we've led the Gulf Coast region in St. Bernard with our recovery projects over the last two years.
But certainly we're not where we need to be. I liken this to a prize fight where St. Bernard is getting to round 12 or 13. We've taken our punches and we've stood strong and now we have someone else who jumps in the ring, basically to add to the beating that we've already taken.
CROWLEY: Is there a way that you can compare those two disasters, as far as impact, Katrina versus this oil spill?
TAFFARO: I'm not sure that they are the same in the sense that obviously two very different sources of the disaster. The frustration, anxiety, the uncertainty, those are very common traits that both Katrina and this particular disaster has in place.
The very different part of this, though, is that we have an identified responsible party. If BP continues to drag their feet and not take the approach and your earlier guest hit it on the head, just say what it is. Just be truthful with the public, be truthful with the municipalities and with the commercial fishing industry, tourism and what not. Let them know what is really going on. Any time there's bad new, it's not necessarily welcome, but at least certainty is better than uncertainty.
CROWLEY: Craig Taffaro, who is president of St. Bernard Parish, thanks for joining us today, good luck to you down there.
We are running up against the top of the hour where we will have much more on what is going on in the Gulf and the possible impact, as you just heard, to so many residents down there. We'll be back at the top of the hour.