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Florida Beaches Hit by Oil; President Meets with Victims' Families; Hard Times in the Harbor; Reporters in Search of Oil

Aired June 12, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Researchers double their estimate of oil oozing into the Gulf of Mexico. And we may get even higher figures in the day as head. This hour I will ask the president's point man in the Gulf, Admiral Thad Allen, about BP's failure to release good and timely information.

Also, they lost their loved ones in the deepwater rig explosion, and they told President Obama they want BP to be held accountable. Stand by for my interview with some of the widows of this disaster.

And as the president gets ready to head back to the spill zone, I will ask Florida Governor Charlie Crist about the federal response and how his state is dealing with the catastrophe.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

As we near the two-month mark in the Gulf oil disaster, roughly 100,000 barrels of leaking oil have been recovered. But that's just a drop in the bucket. Researchers doubled their estimate of the flow rate this week to as much as 40,000 barrels a day. And it could go higher. That was before the latest capping of the operation that may have unleashed even more oil.

As President Obama prepares to return to the Gulf Region on Monday, officials are scrambling to try to get more accurate estimates of just how much oil they are really facing.


BLITZER (On camera): And joining us now, the U.S. government's point man on the scene in this disaster in the Gulf, Thad Allen, the admiral from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Admiral, how could the government have gotten these flow rates so wrong? Originally BP said 1,000 barrels a day, then it was 5,000, then more recently it was 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day. Now they are saying it's actually double that, 20,000 to 40,000 and that was before this cut-and-cap procedure was put into place. What's going on here?

ADM. THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD: Wolf, thanks for asking the question because I think we need to have a good discussion about this. First of all, these are the government estimates. These are being developed by our flow-rate technical team under direction of Marsha McNutt, the head of the U.S. Geological Survey. And that is some of the best scientists around the country that are involved in this.

I have told them from the start, when I set this group up, we need to continue to challenge our assumptions, refine our work, and to the extent we can improve on our estimating, we need to do that. And they have been doing that. And I told them to come back periodically and let's see if we can get this to a much better place, as far as accuracy. The fact of the matter is we are never going to know to a virtual certainty what that flow is until we can actually measure it through a pipe with no oil leakage. But in the meantime, we need to continue to refine these estimates, and they are government estimates, and they will continue to change and hopefully continue to get more accurate.

BLITZER: And presumably it could be a whole lot worse after the cut procedure in early June took place because it was going to open it up. We don't know how much, by a factor of 20 percent or by multiple factors. Do you right now, Admiral, have any idea how much oil is still spewing out?

ALLEN: Well, Wolf, what we have done is we went back and we developed the new estimate as you have discussed. The next thing we want to do is add on what we think the incremental difference is as a result of the cut in the riser pipe. And we are doing that in a couple of different ways. The same team is now impaneled to take the increment that might have changed with the riser cut, and we are also going to use an ROV to deploy some pressure sensors down on the blowout preventer, to actually get some empirical readings of the pressure down there.

Dr. Steven Chu and Secretary Salazar are working with BP on that. This rebase line of the estimate is the first step in refining our estimates, moving forward post riser cut, and also to get better some readings with pressure. We had problems with so many ROV operating down there. But we are going to put some actual sensors and get some pressure readings over the next couple of days. I would expect this estimate could evolve over the next four or five days as we know more about what's going on with the pressure readings we are going to be taking.

BLITZER: If BP is capturing about 15,000 barrels a day, right now over a 24-hour period, we don't know if 10,000 barrels are still spewing in, or 30,000 or 40,000. The answer is we really don't know how much oil is still going into the Gulf as we speak right now.

ALLEN: Wolf, we are not going to know until we can seal the pipe, produce the oil that is coming out here and actually get an empirically measured production based on the pressures. We will be able to do that as we move the new oil containment system in that is going to be replacing the one we have right now, over the next two to three weeks. We hope to be able to actually cap the well, and produce what we can bring up through the dynamor (ph) or the well board, and at that point we will have an accurate measurement.

BLITZER: When are we going to see more of the high resolution video that the scientists, the outside experts you brought into this flow rate technical group, when are we going to see it? So far we have seen about 30 seconds of that high-resolution video and that was done before the early June cap procedure took place.

ALLEN: Well, we have both precut and post cut video that we are going to be using, Wolf. One of the problems is the video you see streaming that we are all used to seeing right now actually gets relayed by satellite. The density of those pictures is not as good as the high resolution video. We actually have to physically take disks from the ships and that are over the top of the ROVs and bring that back.

And the other thing is, not all of the video is usable for what we want. We need to have the right light, right sequence of events to be able to assess the percentage of oil, natural gas and water that is in that stream at any particular time. So, while all of it is interesting, only parts of it are really useful to the scientists for getting the best measurements they can.

BLITZER: How difficult is it to take a disk from the ship out there and bring it to shore and let us see it? Let the American people see what you're seeing?

ALLEN: Oh, it's not difficult at all. The real issue is going through the hours and hours of video, the high resolution video and finding the ones that has the attributes that will give us the best measurement, or the best means of estimation. What we are trying to find is basically, those areas that best represent the flow and the flow fluctuates. There are areas where there may be more gas than oil or oil than gas. What we are trying to figure out is can we come up with the right profile of the percentages of those elements that make up this flow, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want you to listen to what Billy Nungesser, he is the president of the Plaquemines Parish, said before Congress this week. Listen to this.


GOV. BILLY NUNGESSER, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: I still don't know who's in charge. Is it BP? Is it the Coast Guard? When I get mad enough in a meeting, the Coast Guard in our office stands up and says I can make that happen. When I throw a BP official out of my office, he comes back the next day and approves something. I have spent more time fighting the officials of BP and the Coast Guard than fighting the oil.


BLITZER: He's clearly frustrated. What do you want to say to Billy Nungesser?

ALLEN: Well, I have talked with the parish president on several occasions. I have met with him with the president specifically to address the issues of the parish presidents. We have sub-aggregated our response in this bill, to tailor to specifically to the request of the parish presidents. And they all have a different set of issues that they are dealing with. They all have a different set of priorities.

To make sure we do that correctly on our response we placed a Coast Guard officer with each parish president. That has been working fine for the last couple weeks. I would just ask Mr. Nungesser, if he's got a problem with our particular officer I would be glad to take the list of complaints he has and act on them. But those officers have been there supporting him at my direction for several weeks now.

BLITZER: So, who is in charge? Is it the Coast Guard? Is it you? Or is it BP?

ALLEN: The federal on-scene coordinator, by law, is the coordinating official for this and has the final authority in this spill response.

BLITZER: So, when you make a decision and you tell BP to do it, they have no choice. They have to do it. Is that right?

ALLEN: If we issue an administrative order to BP and they fail to comply there are civil and criminal penalties associated with that. Most of the things we do to BP are informal directions that is provided to them. If it has to get to the point where we issue a written order, we can do that, and again there are civil and criminal penalties for failure to adhere to it.

BLITZER: You wrote a letter this week to the chairman of the board of BP effectively summoning him and his other top executives to come to Washington next week, to meet with you, and to meet with the president of the United States. I guess, a lot of people, when they read that letter, they said what took so long? Why is it taking so long for the president and to you to meet with the chairman of the board of BP?

ALLEN: Wolf, as you know, as I have stated many times, I have frequent daily contact with Tony Hayward. I also meet with members of the board of directors. For example, their managing director, Bob Dudley and I deal routinely with the Secretary Napolitano, Carol Browner, the White House and I have frequent interaction with the president. There is as flow of information, there is contact both ways. I think it's a logical progression to bring everybody together, have a very focused meeting on the issues that both BP has, and the issue that the administration has and it's my job to facilitate that.

BLITZER: That meeting will take place I assume the White House next Wednesday. Will Tony Hayward be at that meeting?

ALLEN: It's my anticipation that he will. And it is part of my job today, once I finish with the press issues I'm dealing with right now, is to actually to work with both BP and the administration for the agenda for that meeting.

BLITZER: On the agenda, and the president will participate in some of that meeting. Is that right?

ALLEN: That's correct.

BLITZER: Do you trust BP?

ALLEN: Wolf, I get the trust question all the time. Here's what has to happen with BP. We have to have collaboration, we have to have unity of effort, we have to have cooperation. We have to achieve affects. To do that takes a wide range of personal relationships and communications. When we speak we have to have some assurance that we are getting accurate information and can exchange views very, very frankly. You can characterize that as trust. You can characterize that any way you want. That is what we have to have and that is what I am trying to create as the national incident commander. That's what I believe I have when I deal with the officials at BP.

BLITZER: How worried are you that BP could go broke?

ALLEN: That's not my line of work, Wolf. Right now they are a going concern. They are the responsible party. We are dealing with them. My assumption it will be that case moving into the future, unless conditions change.

BLITZER: And this whole impact this is having on U.S.-British relations, a lot of folks in Britain are suggesting the U.S. government is being way too tough on BP. What do you want to say to them?

ALLEN: Well, Wolf, my job is to try to create unity of effort and focus all the resources on this response. I will leave foreign relations and that stuff to the State Department, and political leaders. My focus is on this response.

BLITZER: One bottom line, you are going to be on this operation until it's over with. I know you have retired as the commandant of the Coast Guard. What's your time line? What is your game plan?

ALLEN: I was relieved of duties as the commandant on the 25th of May. And Admiral Pap is currently the commandant. I am currently on active duty but legally I'm required to retire on 1 July. And discussion on my exact status and how that might move forward are actually going on right now.

BLITZER: So, you might stay longer than July 1st?

ALLEN: I'm a work in progress, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's up to the president of United States. If he says Admiral Allen, we need you longer, you will salute and say yes, sir.

ALLEN: We are having those discussions.

BLITZER: All right. Good luck, Admiral. Thanks for your service. Thanks for helping us better appreciate what's going on. We really need your help.

ALLEN: Thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: As oil washes ashore on the Florida panhandle, I will talk to Florida Governor Charlie Crist about the status of the oil spill cleanup efforts, the long-term impact, and what he thinks BP should do to make things right.

And Mississippi also hit hard by the BP oil disaster. We touch base with the coastal fishermen, whose livelihoods are on the brink.

And the actor, director, Kevin Costner's other role, oil entrepreneur. He tells Congress he has the technology to help clean up the Gulf disaster. Stick around. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's get to our "Strategy Session". Joining us are CNN political contributors, Democratic strategist, James Carville, the national radio talk show host, Bill Bennett.

Can you believe, James, these new estimates, maybe it is way more. Maybe this cut-and-cap made matters even worse?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know what the saddest thing in the world is, I can believe this. Because everything that we have found out has always on the low side and been untruthful. They started out 1,000, then it was 5,000 barrels. Then it was 12,000 to 19,000. Then that was the low side. Now we are faced with this. I think that these people just inherently lie.

BLITZER: You say these people?

CARVILLE: The BP, or the people that are putting these numbers out. I don't know where-then we are told there are no plumes. Then they send a NOAA ship out. There are plumes. I mean, if the president is coming down, he's got to drop the hammer on somebody. And he's going to say, look, I want these people, the lives are suffering. They are being set back and I want them to have the truth.

BLITZER: Listen to what he told Matt Lauer this morning.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain, talking about what a potential crisis this could be. I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially had the best answers so I know whose ass to kick.


BLITZER: All right, he's throwing some I guess fiery words.

BILL BENNETT, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It doesn't solve the problem. I mean, I don't go for that. I think that's contrived. Remember they said Bush shouldn't talk about, you know, "wanted dead or alive, bring it on." That's just talk. They are reacting to the thing that he's too sleepy, too lackadaisical.

He's got to solve the problem. We've got to address the problem. If you can't believe BP and James may be right, that you can't believe BP. You've got to be someone, who is an expert. Now let's give this to the president, he is not an expert on this. What we in "The New York Times", on Sunday, just how many mess ups there are in government. Somebody who knows about this kind of thing has to take charge. Who knows about this kind of thing, not just a great guy, you know, on the Coast Guard like Thad Allen, but who it step up there and tell us something we can believe. Because the people loose credibility in this, it is going to make it worse and worse.

CARVILLE: I don't believe nothing they say. I'm sorry. I would like to. And let me tell you, you cannot-you cannot trust these corporations. That's why, I would end the mess that compromised, that is what happened to the banking crisis. That is what happened to Massey Coal. Whoever is the idiot that thought of this idea of the unregulated marketplace, they ought to all put them in reeducation camp in Louisiana cleaning this garbage up because that's the result of a failed philosophy.

We can never go back to that. The same people that say that, this is BP, that keep putting out a different number every day. If the president wants to know whose-to kick, I will give you a start right there. Our people are entitled to have the right information. Now, I want them to have it, when they get it wrong, there is going to be a price to pay for it.

BLITZER: As you know, he lives-James and Mary, they live in New Orleans. So, he has a right to be very angry and passionate.

BENNETT: Of course, he does.

CARVILLE: People call me every day. If you knew the calls-the people that have called me. And then the president's people say that James doesn't have the facts. This is not a battle of talking points. These are lives that are being affected every day. And they're entitled to have the truth.

BLITZER: If this were happening off of New Jersey or North Carolina or Chesapeake Bay, would the government have reacted differently?

BENNETT: I don't know. I mean, don't think so.

CARVILLE: Of course they would. Of course.

BENNETT: I don't know that they would.

CARVILLE: Of course they would.

BENNETT: I think, look, he's going to be more critical of the government than I am. Look, I think after Katrina, everybody knew you had to take this kind of thing seriously. There isn't a competence it seems. I know James is critical of the market, but the government seems to lack the competence. If you read that comprehensive story in "The New York Times" on Sunday. You have got to get people there who know what's going on, and who know are credible.

BLITZER: One of the tragedies, James, was only BP had the technical equipment.

CARVILLE: That's true. Because we didn't-we didn't-and then BP said we didn't have the toolbox. It wasn't the government's -- the government's fault was in permitting this. The government's fault is that this MMS had become so corrupted that they were like putting it in pencil and it were gone over.

BENNETT: That's part of the government. That's the problem.

CARVILLE: But let me say this. It was because Bush and them, let it be corrupted, because they wanted to deregulate-

BENNETT: Oh, it was Bush.

CARVILLE: Of course, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) lay this one.

Look, the response would have been entirely different if it would have been off of Nantucket. And by the way, Katrina would have been entirely different if it had been somewhere else.

BLITZER: You say, Mr. Bush, but this administration has been in business for a year and a half.

BENNETT: Well, of course. And the federal government at this point has to come in and take responsibility. Notice, though, Barack Obama is getting worse grades than George Bush got on Katrina.

BLITZER: Well, the federal government.

BENNETT: The Federal government is getting worse grades, that's for sure.

CARVILLE: They knew it was corrupted. They tried to clean it up. They didn't do enough. Look at the 2007 IG report. Any body remembers, Google the 2007 IG report on MMS and you will be stunned. You will be stunned.

BENNETT: The president made a lot of promises and representations. It's time to live up to them.


BLITZER: A lot of interesting people are coming up with some surprising ideas for cleaning up the oil spill, including the actor Kevin Costner. We are going to tell you why he was asked to testify before the U.S. Congress.

And iReports from the spill zone, somber glimpses of this disaster from people experiencing it first hand. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Congress held hearing after hearing after hearing on the Gulf oil spill this week. One somewhat surprising witness showed up, the actor, the director Kevin Costner. What does he know about cleaning up the worst spill in U.S. history? Lisa Sylvester has been looking into this story for us.

Lisa, I take it he's also an entrepreneur in the oil industry. What's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, in fact he is, Wolf. Kevin Costner says he is a guy who is in love with the "what if". What if we can fix it? This is a question that he has started asking after the Exxon Valdez spill. He didn't want to wait until the oil came ashore, and thought, what if there is a better way to clean up oil. So, he started a company 12 years ago, and the technology may now be a key with the Gulf spill.


SYLVESTER (voice over): Kevin Costner added some star power at a congressional hearing. Lawmakers looking into the best way to respond to the Gulf oil spill. Just like in the movie "Field of Dreams," Costner decided, if you build it, will they come. As an entrepreneur he did build it, a machine he says is capable of separating oil and water.

KEVIN COSTNER, PARTNER, OCEAN THERAPY SOLUTIONS: I have been to all these oil response conventions around the country and around the world, and all I see are booms and the latest helicopter, but I have never seen one machine that deals with getting the oil out. That's me.

SYLVESTER: Costner says they have centrifuge machines that are compact enough to fit on a boat. They do not use chemical or biologic agents. He says he tried to get the oil industry and government agencies interested. But the company he financed, Ocean Therapy Solutions, had a hard time getting people to listen. That is, until the deep water oil spill. The centrifuges are designed as a first response, immediately after an oil spill; 51 days into the oil spill can it work now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We see all the pictures and images of this thick crude oil. Can your machines do something about that?

PAT SMITH, COO, OCEAN THERAPY SOLUTIONS: It can. The recent tests, it just happened in the last few days, even with the disperse ants and old oil, we were 99.9 percent efficient at separating oil and water.

SYLVESTER: BP has purchased 32 machines. In optimum conditions company executives say they could treat 6 million gallons of water a day. Costner says the machines could also be one tool to help make deep water drilling safe again. That if deployed at ports, they could be a quick response in case of another emergency. Right now production has been halted at 33 deep water rigs.

COSTNER: There are people out of work. There is a moratorium. And there is no way to lift that unless, I believe, the government feels that people can operate in a safe way. This represents that pivot point.


SYLVESTER: Now, Costner himself raised the issue in the hearing. Is he just out hawking a product? He says, honestly, he doesn't know. He said you can take his product or you can take someone else's. But he says the truth is no one has really invested the resources to develop this kind of technology, including oil companies. That was one other thing that came out of the hearing. Is that these oil companies have made billions of dollars in profits over the years, but as a group since 2000 have spent very little researching this kind of cleanup technology, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank very much. Lisa Sylvester reporting.

Florida is now feeling the impact of the Gulf oil disaster. Governor Charlie Crist, he is here with an update on the spreading crisis. Also, my interview with the widows of two oil rig workers. What do they think of their meeting with president Obama this week?


BLITZER: There's growing urgency right now in Florida as the gulf oil disaster spreads to a state famous for its beautiful beaches. Let's talk about that and more with the Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist. He's joining us from Pensacola.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

GOVERNOR CHARLIE CRIST, FLORIDA: Thank you, Wolf. It's always great to be with you.

BLITZER: How worried are you that what we're seeing in Louisiana, God forbid, could happen in Florida?

CRIST: Well, that's my greatest fear. Obviously, I want to protect the state, protect our beaches as much as we can, our wildlife, our estuaries. They're so critical, as you know, to the beauty that makes Florida so special, and it's very important to us economically.

You know, in Florida, our economy and our environment are inextricably linked. We get about 85 million tourists come to the Sunshine State every year, I think in large measure because Florida is such a beautiful place to visit and a great place to come. But we're doing everything we can to try to protect her and we'll keep doing that every day.

BLITZER: How far has the oil spread to the beaches of Florida, at least right now? CRIST: Not that far and -- and that's the good news, at least in the short term. Now, we don't know what long-term effect is going to be. Nobody does. And that really is all contingent upon capping that -- that spew that's coming out of the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.

We're glad that they've got a cap on top of it, that it is siphoning off at least some of that flow. But, really, the long-term solution is to plug the hole and get that thing done, and BP needs to be responsible and do that.

BLITZER: Have you had to close any beaches in Florida yet?

CRIST: Wolf, we haven't yet. No.

I was talking with Governor Riley of Alabama today. They've had some minimal closures, but we've had zero. And I was on Pensacola Beach this morning. It is absolutely beautiful. It was pristine. There are some tar balls that come up occasionally, but they're easily cleaned off.

And -- almost every beach in the Sunshine State is gorgeous, beautiful. People ought to continue to come down. The water is clean and the beaches are pristine.

BLITZER: We know the president of the United States will be coming down to Florida Monday and Tuesday. He'll be spending the night in Pensacola, I believe. I'm sure you will meet with him. What will you say to him? What do you need from the federal government right now?

CRIST: Well, just a greater focus, if you will, on -- on this issue, what's happening in all the Gulf States. Obviously, I'm about Florida first, but I think that, you know, having the leader of the free world come down and be on the Gulf Coast during this time is absolutely critical. I believe this will be this -- his fourth time coming down. We're grateful that he's coming back, you know, to the Gulf States and, in particular, to Florida on this trip.

When the president of the United States comes in, questions get answered a lot more quickly. Assets get mobilized a lot more rapidly, and things get done in the fashion that they should.

So those are the things I'm going to talk to him about, additional boom, additional skimmers, good coordination with the Coast Guard, and forcing BP to do the right thing.

BLITZER: Are you getting the cooperation from BP, the financial assistance, the other technical assistance that you need right now?

CRIST: Well, we always need more, so the answer is no. I mean, I think they're trying, Wolf, but they've got to try harder. They've got to do more.

You know, it's a struggle from day to day, and we just want to make sure we have every possible asset to protect our beaches. Let me give you an example. We have about 311,000 feet of boom already deployed in the Panhandle of Florida. Close to another 200,000 that are staged or stored, if you will, ready to go to really protect the marshes and the estuaries first. That's most important.

We also want to get more skimmers. We continue to ask for more. There couldn't be too many of them. In fact, every skimmer on the planet ought to be in the Gulf of Mexico right now protecting the Gulf States and, in my view, Florida in particular.

BLITZER: Do you trust BP? It's a question I asked Thad Allen, the on the scene point man for the federal government. What do you say? Do you trust BP?

CRIST: Well, we all want to, but -- but what's making that difficult is that we get continuing moving numbers. You've been reporting them as well as everybody else. You hear one amount of gallons that are spilled into the gulf during a day, and then, a week later, oh, no, it's really twice as much.

And so it makes it difficult and creates sort of a natural cynicism, if you will. And I'm more of an optimist and I'm a trusting kind of a guy, but I'm also trust with verify, and we've got to verify the information that we're getting. It needs to be accurate. Otherwise, it makes it hard to respond accordingly.

BLITZER: Do you support offshore oil drilling off the Coast of Florida?

CRIST: I do not. I mean, if ever there was a wake-up call to say that we should not drill off the beautiful coast of Florida, this is it. I mean, I can't imagine anybody in their right mind thinking that it's a good idea to do something that would potentially have the secondary effect of -- of one of these spills again.

I think, you know, most smart people have learned a lesson. This is not the thing to do. Not near Florida, not now, no way.

BLITZER: Because your Republican challenger for the -- for the Senate, Marco Rubio, he said this on MSNBC. Listen to what he said about the offshore oil issue and Florida.


MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: There's going to be drilling off the Coast of Florida. There is right now. Other countries are going to be drilling in the gulf and off of Florida's coast. Cuba's exploring. Russia's exploring. China, Brazil, Venezuela.

So the issue is not whether there's going to be offshore drilling or not, the issue is whether America is going to benefit from it or not. And -- so we -- that's a separate issue and an important one to have a conversation about, because, at the end of the day, we're still going to be using gasoline and who are we going to continue to buy it from, Hugo Chavez or our own producers?

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right. He sounds like he's open to offshore oil drilling because it's going to happen whether Cuba or some other country does it. You disagree with him?

CRIST: Yes. I significantly disagree with him. I just think it's the wrong thing to do. I mean, just because other countries might be doing the wrong thing, it doesn't mean the United States and Florida should do the wrong thing. I mean, that's -- that's hardly a logical conclusion to be drawn from that.

We need to protect our beaches. We need to protect our tourism. You know, so many people have a tie or connection to Florida, if you will, family members, and so many people come to visit the Sunshine State. We have a duty and an obligation to protect our beaches.

This is also a wake-up call, I think, for us to go more green and more clean in terms of the types of energy that we generate, whether it's wind or solar, nuclear. We have to look to other means, be responsible, do what's right and certainly not plug another hole in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico to potentially create another one of these catastrophes.

BLITZER: Well, let's hope there isn't another catastrophe.

Governor Crist, good luck to you and to all of the folks in Florida down there. Let's hope the oil stays far, far away. Appreciate you coming in.

CRIST: Thank you, Wolf. From your lips to God's ears, we're fighting for Florida.

BLITZER: An emotional session over at the White House as President Obama met with the relatives of the oil workers killed in the rig explosion. I'll speak with two of the family members.

And a hard times in the harbor. We'll take you to Mississippi where the oil spill has been devastating for the fishing business.

Plus, reporters just can't keep their hands out of the gooey pollution. Jeanne Moos takes a "Moost Unusual" look.


ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That definitely hasn't been dispersed.



BLITZER: At the White House this week, President Obama met with families of the 11 workers killed in that rig explosion that marked the beginning of the gulf oil disaster. I spoke with two of the people at that meeting, Shelley Anderson and Courtney Kemp. They both lost their husbands in the explosion.


BLITZER: Ladies, first of all, my deepest, deepest condolences to both of you. I know you've lost loved ones and nothing is going to be able to happen that will bring them back.

How did the meeting with the president go?

SHELLEY ANDERSON, HUSBAND KILLED IN OIL RIG DISASTER: I think today that it went well. He was very personable to each and every one of us, and he made a point to come to each and every person in that room and speak to all of us.

BLITZER: And, Courtney, what did you think?

COURTNEY KEMP, HUSBAND KILLED IN THE OIL RIG DISASTER: The president was very receptive to everything that we had to say. He gave us time individually to -- to express concerns to him that we had.

BLITZER: Shelley, what was the message that you brought to the president?

ANDERSON: I told him that I did not want him to stop the drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, that not only does my family depend on it, but there's so many other people that got off the rig and the people that are out there drilling the relief wells now, depend on this industry, and we did not want to it close down.

BLITZER: Even the deepwater drilling?

ANDERSON: Even the deepwater drilling.

BLITZER: Do you believe that it's safe?

ANDERSON: I think that they should make it safe.

BLITZER: But is it safe right now? What do you think?

KEMP: That's questionable.

BLITZER: Because what he's saying is, let's make sure it's safe. Once we are sure it's safe, then we can resume the drilling. And a lot of folks are saying, you know, better to be safe than sorry.

KEMP: That's right.

BLITZER: Is that -- is that your feeling?

KEMP: Well, safety should always be the main priority, because no family should have to go through what we have gone through. And it is so devastating and no amount of money and -- and nothing that anyone can do will ever bring -- bring our husbands back, and that is so important that no other family go through this.

BLITZER: How has BP, Courtney, dealt with you? Are you satisfied with the way they've been treating you and dealing with your family?

KEMP: Absolutely not. BP sent two representatives to my husband's memorial. They both extended their hand, told me who they were. One asked if he could hug me, and they sent two plants to his memorial. That is the only contact that I've had with BP.

BLITZER: What about you, Shelley?

ANDERSON: Just about the same. They both -- there were several representatives that signed a book at the memorial. They shook our hands and they sent beautiful plants.

BLITZER: That's it?

ANDERSON: That's it.

BLITZER: But financial reparations -- are they taking care of you financially? Are they taking care of your families?

KEMP: Nothing.


BLITZER: Nothing?


BLITZER: Have they made promises that they will take care of you?

ANDERSON: Nothing.


BLITZER: That's pretty shocking, isn't it? Your -- how long did your husband work for them?

KEMP: Four and a half years.

BLITZER: And your husband?

ANDERSON: Almost 15.

BLITZER: What -- can you walk us through -- and I know this is painful. If it's too painful for you, Courtney, you don't have to do it. When you got the word, what were you hearing? Was there any indication from your husband earlier that he was concerned about the safety of this rig?

KEMP: Yes. My husband had indicated to me before that there were many problems. They were receiving many kicks. They had lost control of the well. They had lost millions amount of dollars of -- on tools and everything when they did lose the well, and it was devastating to hear the news.

I received a phone call at 4:30 on April 21st, and told me that there was an emergency evacuation to the Deepwater Horizon and the Coast Guard was on the scene. There was no word concerning my husband.

BLITZER: Did you have any indication, Shelley, that there were any problems out there?

ANDERSON: Jason had expressed some concerns, and he was very -- there was a sense of urgency with him on his last trip home. He just wanted to take care of a lot of business, going to as far as writing his own will and taking care of things around the house and making sure that I would be OK. There was a sense of urgency with that.

Whenever I would talk to him the last couple of hitches on the rig, he always said that there was just a whole bunch of stuff going on and the walls were too thin and he couldn't talk right now, he'd tell about it when he got home.

BLITZER: Tell us something about Jason.

ANDERSON: Jason is the most amazing man. I'm sorry that you never got to meet him.

He's a friend to everybody. He's a wonderful father. He's the perfect husband. He was the best at his job.

BLITZER: And tell us something about your husband.

KEMP: My husband, first and foremost, was a Christian. He loved the Lord with all of his heart. He was a wonderful father and husband and an avid outdoorsman. He loved hunting and fishing, and really, really enjoyed his job and was just being promoted to assistant driller and was very proud of that.

BLITZER: I wished I would have known both of these gentlemen. It would have been nice. And I know this has been a painful, painful experience. I think I speak not only for all of us at CNN, but for all of us watching here in the United States and around the world, our deepest, deepest condolences.

ANDERSON: Thank you. Thanks very much.

BLITZER: Good luck to both of you. Good luck to all the family members.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks for coming over.

ANDERSON: Thank you.


BLITZER: Livelihoods in limbo right now. We're going to take you to a fishing dock in Mississippi where the oil spill has been devastating for business.

And CNN iReporters are bringing us some dramatic images of the oil's impact on the Gulf Coast.


BLITZER: In Mississippi right now, the fishing business has been hit hard by the oil spill. Our Brian Todd faces to what used to be a very busy harbor.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Delivery time, the boat Sugar Babe pulls in with a fresh catch of shrimp. It looks plentiful, but this is a harbor in distress.

With about a third of federal waters in the gulf shut down to fishing, this is what often passes for a day's work for fishermen here in Pass Christian, Mississippi -- signing up with BP to inspect boom and look for oil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to stay 100 feet away from the booms. We have a process for the booms and stuff like that.

TODD: Joe Jenkins and his daughter Jennifer have been in the seafood processing business their entire lives, bringing it into the docks, packing it, shipping it to retailers.

TODD (on camera): Where's your business at right now?

JOE JENKINS, OWNER, CRYSTAL SEAS SEAFOOD CO.: Well, we're on the verge of being closed up totally, and our shrimp dock is closed, our oyster docks are closed. We've got one boat here, so we're almost closed here.

TODD (voice-over): A story you can see unfold with the catch brought in by the Sugar Babe.

JENKINS: As fast as you can see it, all the shrimp are going through the tube.

TODD: Through the tube to a conveyor belt, where appearances are very deceiving.

TODD (on camera): Coming off the conveyor belt there then they got to get weighed over here on these scales, about 4,000 pounds brought in on this batch. And, Joe, 4,000 pounds not very much on a day. How much do you usually get on a good day?

JENKINS: Almost some of our best days, we've bought upwards of 70,000 or 80,000 pounds on a day.

TODD: This is only -- this is the only boat that's coming in for you today.

JENKINS: This is the only boat we have coming in today, or this week. We only have one boat left.

TODD: This is really a microcosm of what this spill is doing to the fishing industry. From the guys looking for work now at BP, to the wholesalers on the dock here at Pass Christian Harbor. This is the Kimball Seafood Company in business since 1930.

This catch, not so much, in fact, these are crawfish that are brought in from Louisiana, from ponds on farms. So, they're getting about their normal catch with the crawfish here, but it's the shrimping aspect of it, what they're bringing in shrimp-wise, that is really hurting. These shrimps are from Louisiana.

Darlene Kimball, the owner of this company -- normally, you're not getting these shrimp from Louisiana, are you?

DARLENE KIMBALL, OWNER, KIMBALL SEAFOOD CO.: No, we're getting them right here off our docks.

TODD: So, this is really hurting your business. What do you have to do to get these?

KIMBALL: Well, we have to travel either to -- you know, either I will go get them or they have to be delivered, and if they're delivered, we have to pay a little bit extra.

TODD (voice-over): Rudy Toler, captain of the Sugar Babe, is hoping for a job with BP. He knows there's only so long he can bring in these meager catches.

RUDY TOLER, SHRIMP FISHERMAN: We're doing the best we can because it's all we got. And we're just trying to get as many as we can before they close it, because, like I say, we're still waiting for BP.

TODD: Joe and Jennifer Jenkins now face laying-off several employees, cutting back the hours of those left.

JENNIFER JENKINS, CRYSTAL SEAS SEAFOOD COMPANY: It's not fun. It's not fun to tell somebody that's worked here longer than I have that you probably don't have anywhere to come back to work to tomorrow.

TODD: A BP official on this dock told us they can pay fishermen between $1,200 and $2,200 every day they hire them. That's more than a lot of them make on a normal day. But the work is certainly not consistent.

Brian Todd, CNN, Pass Christian, Mississippi.


BLITZER: A close-up look at the catastrophe. CNN iReporters bring us some gripping of the oil in the Gulf Coast.

And some reporters just can't keep their hands out of the oil. Jeanne Moos finds it "Moost Unusual".


MARCIANO: That definitely hasn't been dispersed.



BLITZER: We're getting lots of vivid images of the spill coming in from our iReporters.

Tim Arnold shot this photo of a giant orange boom in Louisiana. Eileen Romero shot the oil in Grand Isle, Louisiana. You can see up close the different swirls and colors of that gooey substance.

Also from Grand Isle, a very somber image, former Black Crowes bass player, Johnny Colt, shot this makeshift cemetery in someone's yard. You can see they're labeled with names like Shrimp and Beach to reflect things that have suffered as a result of the spill.

Most people are trying to avoid the oil that's fouling the Gulf of Mexico, but not TV reporters. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Moost Unusual" look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember when beachgoers used to stroll along collecting shells? Now, reporters are using shells to collect oil. Oil's like the catnip to the press.


MOOS: From the teeniest tar balls --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just dug this up

MOOS: -- to huge patties.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just look at that size.

JON STEWART, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: Who's -- who's going to be dumb enough to touch the oil? Oh, right, newsmen.

Were you not -- oh, reporters, what are you doing? What? No, no. Mr. President, don't do it. Wait a minute. I'm not an oil cleanup expert, but I can tell you what I don't believe will get the job done -- Doritos.

MOOS: Warning --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tar ball materials you see on the beach are not to be touched by your hand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can see how very sticky they are. It doesn't even come off with normal soap and water.

MOOS: They put on masks. They put on gloves.

MARCIANO: Look how thick it is.

MOOS: They put on waders. Sometimes the waders --

BALDWIN: Microphone just fell to my leg.

MOOS: -- can be more problematic than the oil, especially when you have to fish your mike out of them. And don't break the ladder.

But at least CNN's Brooke Baldwin stayed dry. An AP photographer and divers jumped right into the goo and lived to describe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These big snot balls coming through.

MOOS: But, gross or not, oil from the BP spill of 2010 has become a keepsake.

BALDWIN: And I brought you some souvenirs, hoping that it don't -- how it smells.


MOOS: One beachgoer had her souvenir baggy commandeered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I have this for a second?

MOOS: By a reporter doing a live shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sand, oil that's what it looks like. The hardened stuff right over here, this is a McDonald's cup.

MOOS: Talk about product placement.

MOOS (on camera): For most of us, this is as close as we ever get to handling oil. But down in the Gulf Coast, they're poking at it like it's a bad dessert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like fudge, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are going to continue to assess this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like what you'd put on a cake or something.

MOOS (voice-over): Yes, well, we doubt Martha Stewart would frost with this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It kind of felt like I stepped in poo. We kind of pooped on ourselves. Humanity has just kind of pooped on itself, and we're swimming in this stuff.

MOOS: No wonder the CEO of BP warned a photographer not to step in it.

TONY HAYWARD: Hey, get out of there. Get out of there.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just disgusting.

MOOS: -- New York.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 5:00 to 7:00 P.M. Eastern, and every Saturday at 6:00 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN, and at this time every weekend on CNN International.

The news continues next on CNN.