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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Obama Tours Gulf Coast; Did BP Put Money Ahead of Safety?; Culprits of the Catastrophe
Aired June 14, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are live once again all this week in Louisiana, "Keeping Them Honest," holding BP and the government accountable on this, the 56th day of the worst environmental catastrophe ever in America.
Fifty-six days, that's how long this has been unfolding, almost eight weeks now. This is our fourth straight week broadcasting here from the Gulf. And, tonight, we have new and, frankly, stunning allegations about BP putting money ahead of safety, and some alarming news about what animal advocates say is going desperately wrong with the effort to save wildlife, in particular birds.
But, before we get to that, I want to show you something. Take a look. It's a picture you're probably all too familiar with. That's the oil pouring from the ocean floor, from the -- the Gulf floor, oil on its way to the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and God knows where else.
We believe, tomorrow night, when the president speaks, we may get a new estimate of how much oil is actually gushing into the Gulf. But no matter what the number, we already have started to seen it -- see its toll.
Now, I know it seems like we have been talking about this oil for a long time. And maybe you're getting tired of hearing about it. And I understand that, but this oil is not keeping track of days. It's not keeping track of the weeks. This oil, this crude, is relentless.
And it's destroying lives and businesses and threatens to end a way of life here in Louisiana. No one is more tired with this stuff than the people here, but they cannot turn away. This oil, this crude will not let them. It is spreading. It is not stopping.
And, tonight, neither are we. And we won't stop until the oil stops. President Obama is in the Gulf on a two-day trip. He's going to address the nation tomorrow night. We will have more on the White House strategy for getting tougher with BP.
But we begin tonight with startling allegations that we heard today. Now, frankly, we have heard some of these allegations in weeks of testimony and in interviews that we have conducted, allegations that BP talked a lot about safety, but today new allegations by Congress that the oil company sacrificed safety time and time again when money was at stake. Internal documents that appear to show that BP put profits and costs over safety, now, they were released today by a congressional committee investigating the disaster. They're preliminary, but they show that BP took measures to cut costs in the weeks and days before the rig blew up, as it faced one problem after another.
In one e-mail, a BP engineer described the doomed rig as -- quote -- "a nightmare well." That was on April 15, five days before the well exploded.
According to the documents, BP chose a cheaper and riskier well -- well casings, despite warnings from its own engineers, a decision that saved them between $7 million and $10 million -- $7 million and $10 million. This is a company that made $5.6 billion in just the first three months of the year.
BP also apparently rejected the advice its subcontractor Halliburton about how to close up the well. It took a shortcut. And get this. In an e-mail dated April 15, a BP official recognized the risk of that decision, but wrote -- and I quote -- "Who cares? It's done. End of story. We will probably be fine."
"Who cares. We will probably be fine."
Five days later, we know it was anything but fine. Eleven men are dead. The oil was gushing into the Gulf.
Representative Henry Waxman is chairman of the committee investigating the oil spear -- spill. Here's what he said about the BP documents released today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA), GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Each and every case, they cut corners. They wanted to save time. They wanted to spend less money.
And had they not done that, we might not have had the kind of explosion that we're now dealing with. We found five separate instances from their own documents, from their own e-mails, and from interviews that we have done that indicated that something was really wrong, not just once, but over and over again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Five questionable decisions he says BP made in the days leading up to the rig explosion, this from their own documents.
Congressman Waxman and Representative Bart Stupak laid out those five decisions in a 14-page letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward, putting him on notice that he's going to face some tough questions on Thursday in Capitol Hill hearings.
Now, these allegations confirm allegations made by survivors of the rig who we talked to just last week. Listen to what one of them said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: According to BP or to Transocean, time and money or -- or safety?
DANIEL BARRON III, DEEPWATER HORIZON EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: Time and money, honestly. I mean, they -- they preach safety. It's like safety's only convenient for them when they need it.
You know, you're pressured and pushed to do things. And, if you say, hey -- you know, because everybody has the right to call time out for safety. But you do it, you're going to get run off, you know? You're going to get fired. And they're not going to fire you for that, but they're going to figure out a way, eventually, to get rid of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining me now is Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and Rice University presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.
You're so focused on trying to beat back this oil and do what you can for the people in your parish, I don't know how much you're focusing on what is happening on Capitol Hill. But you testified last week.
When you hear Waxman saying, essentially, that BP, time and again, put money and time over people's safety, it's got to make your blood boil.
BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: It does.
You know, what we're dealing with here in South Louisiana could destroy our livelihood. And to hear those things makes me -- how can we trust them to close off the spill? How can we trust them in anything?
COOPER: Do you trust them at all?
NUNGESSER: No, I really don't.
COOPER: Because you have got to work with them.
COOPER: And you've got to interact with them every day.
NUNGESSER: We were day all there Saturday in Houma. And I think a lot of people on the ground with BP and the Coast Guard are working hard, but I don't see the -- no, you can't trust them. You know, you have got to trust but verify.
And we're hoping the equipment that they say is coming is coming. We have got approval for some of the vacuum units. We're adding some of our own.
COOPER: You actually went out, what, this weekend with -- what did -- you -- wet -- just wet vacs?
NUNGESSER: Yes, we actually used some wet vacs.
COOPER: Like the wet vacs you buy in a store, basically?
NUNGESSER: Absolutely. They work great.
COOPER: Like at a Home Depot, just a wet vac?
NUNGESSER: Right. And we're not supposed to be picking up the oil, but it went into some areas. And our team on the jack-up boat decided it was better to get it out of those critical areas.
So, they took a wet vac off of the jack-up, but went out there and, in a matter minutes, filled up four or five five-gallon cans. So, we're going to look at all opportunities. We can't let it continue to come in the marsh.
As I said Saturday in the meeting with BP, we have got to catch up and keep it from coming into the marsh. We're playing -- we're reacting, instead of being proactive. And I was disappointing the statements made in the local paper that nobody asked for us to deploy help from all over the world.
COOPER: Right, right. Because of the Jones Act, you're not allowed to have foreign ships in...
NUNGESSER: Well, there's -- there's foreign ships out there right now.
NUNGESSER: So, if that's what it takes, and that's where we need to get... (CROSSTALK)
NUNGESSER: ... skimmers...
COOPER: Skimmer boats maybe from -- from -- from Holland, someplace where...
COOPER: They should have all been deployed. The ones that they deployed was in a public meeting in Plaquemines Parish, where they said OK.
And the local commander of the Coast Guard said, we will try two of those, and they did order them. But we should be deploying everything. We ought to -- they ought to not -- for Admiral Allen to say he's waiting, if somebody asks, he will consider it, that's not my job to ask him. It's his job to deploy everything physically possible to fight this oil offshore. COOPER: Yes.
We're going to talk to Kevin Costner actually just a little bit later on in the program, because he actually has this machine that he's been working on for years. I know you -- you have some experience in this.
NUNGESSER: We put a request in for 16 of those units.
NUNGESSER: And we expect an answer back in the next two days.
COOPER: BP hasn't actually -- I'm not sure if they haven't signed the contract or given the money, but apparently that is under way. We will talk to Kevin in a moment about that.
Doug, though, I mean, when you hear Congressman Waxman and Stupak basically saying they have already pinned BP down on these five points, where -- where they say they cut costs over safety, I mean, is Congress now in a position where they have backed BP into a corner? Can -- can the CEO even testify? Can he say anything? Or do you think he will just take the fifth?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Might take the Fifth.
It's going to be a -- if not, it's going to be a slaughterhouse Thursday on Capitol Hill. Tony Hayward's not going to -- he's going to have his lunch handed to him, because this is evidence that BP's known all along that they have been lying to us for all these days.
These documents now are just being revealed on Capitol Hill. I think the Obama administration's had them for a little while now. And it's one of the reasons you see the president starting to pressure BP for an escrow fund for $10 billion or $15 billion or $20 billion.
Last week, Anderson, when we talked about BP having to pay the Gulf something like $15 billion, it sounded expensive to people. With these new revelations tonight, what we're talking about Congressman Waxman saying, $15 million is cheap. If BP can...
BRINKLEY: ... could get an escrow for $15 billion, they will be lucky, because this company is going down as one of the top scoundrels in all of American history.
COOPER: We're going to talk a lot more about President Obama in our next segment. You guys are going to stick around for that.
But, Billy, now BP is saying, well, they're going to bring in equipment that, by the middle of July, they will be able to capture some -- some 50,000 barrels of oil. They have never said that there are 50,000 barrels oil. All along, we know they have underestimated this thing. But -- but they also said that we have been planning for a worst- case scenario. Clearly, they weren't if now it's not until mid-July that they can bring in stuff to -- to capture this oil.
NUNGESSER: Anderson, we have got -- the government has got to take a group of experts from other oil companies somewhere and take control of this.
We have been playing into their hand from day one -- the top hat, the junk shot. We know now that we -- we knew all along they were lying. How can we trust that they're even trying to -- to stop this leak? I think it's time for the government to bring some people in a team, and say, let's come up with some other ways, and let's us decide.
Let's take control of the situation. We -- we can't leave it in BP's hands anymore. We have seen that they're incompetent. They can't get it done. They can't deploy enough equipment to keep the oil out of the marsh. How can we count on them they're trying to do the right thing there?
COOPER: We are going to have more with Billy and more with Doug in just a moment.
You can also join the live chat, of course, which is right now under way at AC360.com.
Also ahead tonight: President Obama's two-day visit to the Gulf. He is actually sleeping in the Gulf region tonight, ahead of his Oval Office speech tomorrow and his face-down -- face-to-face showdown with BP's executives. That's going to be on Wednesday.
So, what is -- is the White House worried about new poll numbers on how Mr. Obama is handling BP? We will talk to Ed Henry about what is happening behind the scenes at the White House.
And a new turn in the battle to rescue hundreds, perhaps thousands, or more, birds threatened by the oil. Are the right people in charge? Are there actually bird experts out there every day trying to round up these birds? You may be surprised by the answer. We will hear from some critics ahead.
COOPER: President Obama, as we said, was back in the Gulf today, his fourth visit since the spill began, his longest so far. He's spending the night in the region.
He said he's gathering facts and stories, so he will be ready to press BP officials, including CEO Tony Hayward, when he meets with them on Wednesday. Now, the White House is pressing BP to set up an escrow account, as Doug mentioned, to pay for damages from the spill.
Meantime, there's a new national poll. Seventy-one percent of people said President Obama hasn't been tough enough in dealing with BP. Twenty percent said his response has been about right. Three percent said he had been too tough on BP. Six percent said they were not sure.
Tomorrow, President Obama's going to address the nation from the Oval Office, his first time ever doing that, on the cleanup efforts in the Gulf. It's, as I said, first speech from the Oval Office. In fact, that fact alone kind of speaks to the stakes that he believes are now involved.
Ed Henry joins me from Pensacola Beach, Florida.
Ed, I mean, what's happening behind the scenes? I mean, these poll numbers, has the White House seen them? Are they reacting to them? Are they ratcheting up efforts to be tougher on BP?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They have seen those numbers. And that's why we're going to hear a lot about accountability for BP in this speech tomorrow night.
When you talk to the president's senior advisers, they say they realize this is a huge moment in his presidency. That is why, as you noted, they chose the venue of the Oval Office. Even in the most critical moments of the health care debate, they did not use that weapon.
Instead, they went up to Capitol Hill. They used other venues. This is a serious moment. This venue, the Oval Office, was used by Ronald Reagan after the Challenger disaster, after that explosion...
HENRY: ... so many lives lost. You know, Bill Clinton gave a big speech like this after Oklahoma City. He didn't do it in the Oval Office, but it was another important moment in the nation's history.
What's different this time, though, is that, while 11 people lost their lives at the very beginning of this tragedy, it's not over. It's still unfolding. I mean, the restaurant behind me, the manager told me today he has lost 40 percent of his business already from last year, and the oil hasn't even reached the beach here yet.
HENRY: So, they believe it's only going to get worse.
HENRY: So, this is still unfolding. And that's why it's very important.
COOPER: What about this escrow account that the White House wants BP to set up? How much do we know about this? I mean, this was an idea originally proposed by some of the local leaders, state leaders, in some of the Gulf states.
HENRY: Right, and it's now being embraced by big congressional leaders, like the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, talking about $10 billion, $20 billion in this fund. It all goes back to what is going to be the key message tomorrow night. And there's two points, according to the president's senior advisers. First of all, he's going to talk about having a game plan moving forward. They realize the American people are confused because of all these competing claims by BP, many of which have turned out to be wrong. They finally want to lay out a plan, here's what's going to happen from this day forward.
Secondly, they want to stress that accountability on BP. I mean, there are signs on the side of the road here in Pensacola Beach on the way to the president's hotel that his motorcade probably saw that basically say, Mr. President, please activate FEMA.
FEMA was reviled just a few years ago with Hurricane Katrina, being slow. Now, all of a sudden, FEMA IS being praised.
HENRY: That gives you an idea of how frustrated people are with BP, that they're actually praising FEMA, and saying, bring them in, they will do a better job -- Anderson.
COOPER: That says a lot. Yes. I mean, that certainly resonates here. I mean, FEMA was a dirty word for a time here in Louisiana.
Ed, appreciate it.
COOPER: We will talk with you a lot more tomorrow night, as we watch the president's speech.
Billy, do you -- what do you think about this idea of an escrow account, I mean, basically, BP being forced to put in $10 billion, $20 billion to help pay out for people so that, if they ever went bankrupt or to make sure...
NUNGESSER: I think it's a great idea.
You know, some people have told me, quit talking so bad about BP. You're causing their stock price to go down. If they file bankruptcy, they won't pay for nothing. And that's from people that ought to be on our side, saying they're not doing enough.
So, there is that fear. So, it would be a great way of putting some money aside.
COOPER: Because you have still got fishermen who haven't...
NUNGESSER: Oh, absolutely.
COOPER: I mean, they have maybe gotten a $5,000 check, or two $5,000 checks, but, over the course of two months, I mean, that's nothing... (CROSSTALK)
NUNGESSER: Well, I had told that you they were giving us a list. They -- they told us for two weeks they were putting a list together. Then they refused to give it to us.
So, I don't know what of our fishermen have gotten paid or not gotten paid. We're going back into the community to generate a new list on our own, because so many people have not been compensated. We're trying to figure out, because they wouldn't make the list available to us.
I know the governor's taken action to get that list and filed suit. And, hopefully, we will get that information so we can see who actually has been compensated and who hasn't.
COOPER: Doug, what about this idea of -- of BP the White House -- basically, the White House putting pressure on BP not to give out their -- their stock dividend to -- to their shareholders, either put that in some sort of escrow account, until this other money is -- is put away, or basically just kind of holding back on it until we see what happens with BP?
BRINKLEY: Well, it's my understanding, Anderson, that the White House and BP have been negotiating. The lawyers are -- are -- are cooking up a deal.
The amount varies. You hear Democratic senators talking about $20 billion. Others say $12 billion to $15 billion. The number moves around in that range a little. But this is a way for BP to get back in and be a decent corporate citizen.
If they suddenly paid $20 billion, people like yourself will be talking about it tomorrow, the next day, and the money is going to have to be set up so it actually gets distributed to the right people on the Gulf Coast, so there's not graft involved with it. That's another major role the federal government will have to be paying -- making sure people actually get this money.
But it's a good idea. It's really BP's only reed of hope at this point, because, if they don't do something like that, then you're -- they're going to have the full thrust of the federal government, the Justice Department, going after them, as being essentially a criminal organization that has been lying to the American people at its time of strife for all these days.
COOPER: Obviously, concern by shareholders that the stock price will drop even further if they do pay out -- out the dividend. But, around here, people would just be furious if they're paying a dividend to investors in England and wherever else, and they're not paying fishermen in a timely manner, which a lot of people say is happening.
NUNGESSER: It will be just another slap in the face.
NUNGESSER: The comments made early on, I mean, what more can they do to slap the people of South Louisiana?
COOPER: When you hear folks in England saying that Americans are being too tough on -- on BP...
NUNGESSER: You know, I wouldn't expect anything different if an American company had an accident over there, for those people to be upset if they carried on this way. That's absolutely ridiculous.
COOPER: I was watching -- I was watching British television, British news reports. And I don't think they understand or appreciate the way BP has handled this and mishandled this just in -- in public relations.
NUNGESSER: And they don't.
I was on a radio talk show in England, and got some pretty nasty calls in. And I invited to fly those people over here to come see it, said, I will play your plane ticket. Come over here. Come dip your hand in the oil and see what's happening to our way life, and I think you will change your tune.
COOPER: I just want to ask, on a personal level, how are you -- how are you holding up? I mean, you're working around the clock. I mean, I have been out with you on the water. You're out there every single day.
I take a day off on the weekend. You -- you don't take days off. I mean, how -- how are you and the other folks you're working with handling...
NUNGESSER: Well, it's -- we don't have a choice.
You know, we're -- we don't have enough equipment. We don't have enough organization out there by BP. So, we're having to do everything we can. I mean, the guys on the jack-up boat today took their two wet vacs and went out there.
COOPER: I can't believe that you guys are using wet vacs on day 56. I mean...
NUNGESSER: Well, that's one -- that's one of our guys on the boat. He couldn't wait any longer.
COOPER: The governor calls that Cajun ingenuity.
NUNGESSER: Well, those guys went out today, and they came to my office tonight and said, we're going to go buy some more wet vacs. We're going to get this oil.
But that's the kind of people we got.
COOPER: Are they saving receipts, and going to send those to BP? (LAUGHTER)
NUNGESSER: They're very cheap, so -- but they will pick up a lot of oil with them.
NUNGESSER: And we will save that marsh. You saw what happens to the birds. When you leave it sit in the marsh, the birds, the -- everything dies.
And I don't think anybody gets it that's not from here yet. You get it, but BP obviously hasn't gotten it yet.
COOPER: Billy, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
NUNGESSER: Thank you so much.
COOPER: Doug Brinkley as well.
We will obviously talk to you both tomorrow night.
Again, just wanted to mentioned -- now, I know I mention this every single night, but I sort of feel, why not? It's worth another try. We invited BP executives to come on the program tonight. Again, they said no.
And, in case you haven't been keeping track of this, it's not the first time. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 17, 2010)
COOPER: 360 has repeatedly tried to get this guy, BP's chief, CEO, Tony Hayward, onto the program. He's passed repeatedly. At this point, I want to invite anyone from BP on this program.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 18, 2010)
COOPER: Well, every night for weeks, we have invited BP to come on the program. Every night, they have declined.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 19, 2010)
COOPER: After weeks of telling us, no thanks, BP tonight agreed to answer our questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 20, 2010)
COOPER: We have been asking for a long time for somebody. We finally got somebody last night. And I guess -- I don't know -- we didn't get him again tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 21, 2010)
COOPER: We should point out that we invited BP to be on this program today, but they declined.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 25, 2010)
COOPER: The invitation stands. We interviewed a top official a couple of days ago. We haven't heard from them since.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 26, 2010)
COOPER: For weeks now, literally weeks, we invited BP's CEO, Tony Hayward to come on 360. Again today, the answer was no. He does the morning shows. Maybe he doesn't want to stay up late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 27, 2010)
COOPER: Now, BP doesn't come on this program for some reason, though we invite them to every single night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 1, 2010)
COOPER: And, as always, we invited BP executives to come on the program tonight. We invite them every single night. Other than the one time they have shown up, they -- they basically don't return our phone calls anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 2, 2010)
COOPER: We invited executives from BP to come on the program tonight. They once again declined. As always, the invitation stands. Again, I will wake up early. Tony Hayward loves to appear apparently on morning shows. I will happily wake up very early in the morning just to talk to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 3, 2010)
COOPER: I invite anybody from BP or the government to -- to, you know, inform the American public and the world, frankly, who's watching right now what is occurring, and I can't understand a reason why they wouldn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 4, 2010)
COOPER: As always, we invite him on this program. We invite any BP official on this program. They have yet to take up our invitation for the last several weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 7, 2010)
COOPER: As always, we should point out we invited BP executives to come on the program again tonight. They, of course, said no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 9, 2010)
COOPER: BP did give us one interview, which we appreciated, one on May 19. We will keep asking. We hope they change their mind. We think we will be very fair. And I don't yell or anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 10, 2009)
COOPER: They refuse to come on my program. They have refused now for, I don't know, probably about three weeks or so. Every night, we ask them. They -- they don't return our phone calls at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Again, we invite them on the program. As you saw there, BP did give us one interview, which we appreciated, one on May 19. We're going to keep asking. We hope they will change their mind.
And it's easy for me to kind of smile about this and almost kind of make a joke about it. But it's not a joking matter. The people here deserve answers and deserve transparency.
BP early on, Tony Hayward early on promised transparency, and they have not delivered on that. I mean, under no definition of the word transparency can you say that they have delivered on it, from -- from not explaining what is going on in a timely manner on serious operations, like the top kill procedure, to basically underestimating and -- and -- and fibbing on how much oil has actually been leaking out.
I mean, they're now talking about bringing in supplies, bringing in ships that can handle 50,000 barrels. They have never even admitted that there were 25,000 barrels. They have even admitted that there were more than 5,000 barrels of oil. And that only came after holding on to a 1,000-barrel figure for -- for -- for weeks at a time.
We invite them on.
Up next: bird rescue 911. More birds turn up every day coated with oil. Is the -- is the whole rescue effort actually misguided? A bird expert weighs in ahead.
And some say BP was misguided for years by this mean, former CEO Lord John Browne, known as a master of cost-cutting. Did he push the master plan too far? We're going to dig into that, as we kick off our special series this week, "Culprits of the Catastrophe."
COOPER: Well, the oil spill in the Gulf continues to take a toll on wildlife. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that more than 1,000 birds have been impacted by the spill. An untold number are already dead. That doesn't take into account, of course, the other species at risk.
I mean, the images, frankly, just -- they make you sick to your stomach, particularly those of the brown pelican, which, just last year, managed to make its way off the endangered species list, after four decades.
Drew Wheelan is Gulf conservation coordinator for the American Birding Association. He joins me now.
What are your biggest concerns?
I mean, I think a lot of people don't realize that there's -- in every boat that goes out right now, there has to be a federal wildlife official, a state wildlife official, I think a BP contractor. And, for a while, there were bird experts, oil bird experts, going out, but they have now pulled back and they are no longer going out.
And there's a lot of concern about the level of expertise of people actually getting these birds.
DREW WHEELAN, GULF CONSERVATION COORDINATOR, AMERICAN BIRDING ASSOCIATION: That's correct, Anderson.
From the beginning, the IBRRC had people on the ground...
COOPER: IBRRC, that was the International...
WHEELAN: The International Bird Rescue and Recovery Corporation...
WHEELAN: ... had people on the ground from day one. And after they experienced that huge wave of oil on the 3rd and 4th of June...
COOPER: Right, when -- and that's when we started seeing all those pictures.
There seemed to have been some sort of a -- a conflict between agencies and these people. They thought that the recovery mission wasn't going well enough. They weren't able to go after -- proactively go after birds that were still flighted, birds that were -- would have the best chance of survival.
COOPER: Right now, basically, the birds that are collecting -- they don't have the expertise to go after birds that are in flight, which people can do who are -- who are experts...
COOPER: ... and have familiarity with it.
So, they're basically, you're saying, just going after the birds who are completely covered in oil and -- and unable to move. And these are the birds that are likeliest, basically, to die?
I mean, the longer a bird sits there and becomes fatigued and -- and lower in fitness, these birds are going to have a much less chance of survivorship.
COOPER: So -- so, birds that maybe have less oil on them, but -- and can fly, they're not -- they're not going after those birds because it's too much effort, it's too difficult?
WHEELAN: Yes. They just don't have any -- any expertise in that area, whereas there are hundreds of people across the country, including employees of the IBRRC, that are highly trained and have responded to oil spills like this, and -- and could do the job.
COOPER: When I asked wildlife, federal wildlife officials about, why -- well, do you have to have a state person and a federal person in each boat, it was basically like, well, we have separate chains of command.
And they were trying to sell it as a good thing. It's like equal -- you know, two experts in a boat. But it just seemed bureaucratic and didn't seem to make -- it wasn't really helping. And -- and, from what I'm being told by people who don't want to go on camera, it's basically this bureaucracy which is getting in the way of getting experts out in boats, moving, you know, fast, and getting as many birds as possible.
WHEELAN: Exactly. Yes, there's no reason why there shouldn't be 50 people down in Grand Isle every morning, at 5:00 in the morning, going at dawn trying to capture these birds. I mean, we're talking about a huge area. These islands and estuaries -- I mean, there's a lot of coastline there to cover. And the most I've seen is 20 people. Often, they're down there at 8:30 in the morning, in the heat of the day. They're not down there at dawn.
COOPER: You're saying they're starting too late because once it gets incredibly hot, that's even worse for birds.
WHEELAN: Absolutely. I mean, the heat index such that rescuers or the cleanup crews can even work. So, these birds that are mired in oil can't thermo-regulate, that's what the feathers do, they heat and cool themselves by using their feathers. And once that becomes oiled and fouled, they can't do that. And --
COOPER: So, what needs to happen? I mean, the federal wildlife official I talked to said, well, look, we have about 160 people here, some 50-odd boats -- how many of those are actually on the water at any one time, he didn't actually say. But it seems like one of the big things holding back getting more people was the logistics. But it -- I mean, it seems like there's a lot of volunteers and a lot of bird experts who would love to be down here and love to be helping.
WHEELAN: Absolutely. I know hundreds of people that have experienced handling thousands of birds that would come down here for free. I know the Audubon Society has over 17,000 people that have signed up to volunteer in this effort, and so far, they've not received a single phone call. I signed up day one to be a volunteer. I have 15 years of experience handling birds. I have not gotten a phone call.
COOPER: Really? Not one phone call at all?
WHEELAN: No phone call.
COOPER: So, what needs to change? I mean, how does -- how does this log jam break?
WHEELAN: I have no idea, Anderson. That's such a conundrum right now. It just seems like a top down thing that just don't want to allow any help to come in to the situation.
COOPER: You don't need -- to catch birds, you don't need four or five people in a boat. I mean, two or three people, I would think, would be enough?
WHEELAN: Absolutely. Two people. One person -- I mean, they do employ techniques where they get somebody on the ground, that kind of can scoot a bird toward somebody else or scare it out into the water, and then it can be picked up safely. So, sometimes three people is a good number. Four people, that's kind of ridiculous.
COOPER: I was alarmed when I heard it's not bird experts in these boats any longer. I mean, these people were working hard. It's the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. And, you know, one guy I talked to was an otter expert, another guy was a fire fighter.
COOPER: They all want to do good.
COOPER: But you need some expertise and you need some people down there.
WHEELAN: I mean, if we had a hostage situation, a hostage crisis in Afghanistan, we'd bring in our best military personnel, our best snipers, whatever it takes, but they'd be the most expert people in that field to deal with it. And here we have --
COOPER: And that's not happening here.
WHEELAN: We have the most crucial environmental crisis ever and no, we don't have the people that we need.
COOPER: We'll keep following it. We appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
WHEELAN: Thanks a lot.
COOPER: Drew Wheelan.
Still ahead, a look at the culprits of the catastrophe. Tonight, the man who ran BP for more than 40 years, former CEO Lord John Browne. He's a lord. Some called him a visionary; others say he put profits ahead of workers' safety. It sounds familiar. Our special series begins tonight.
Also breaking news: two people under arrest for trying to break into the Air Force base that houses the headquarters for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. We'll have details on that.
Also, Kevin Costner joins us to talk about his equipment for cleaning oil out of water that BP seems to be about to buy. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Right here along the Gulf, people, of course, are demanding answers. They want to know how this oil disaster happened, who's responsible. With that in mind, we're launching a new series beginning tonight. We're calling it "Culprits of the Catastrophe."
As we mentioned earlier, BP CEO Tony Hayward will be in Washington Thursday where he testifies before Congress for the first time. He's expected to face some tough questions, obviously, about the decisions made in the days and even hours leading up to that explosion on April 20th, questions about safety and whether cost- cutting took priority over safety. They're not just swirling around Hayward but around his predecessor as well.
Randi Kaye reports.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whatever you think about BP CEO Tony Hayward, you should know he was brought in to fix the public relations problems created by this man, Lord John Browne. Lord Browne worked at BP for 41 years, more than a decade as CEO.
In financial circles, Browne was considered a visionary, a profit maker for shareholders. He transformed a sleepy company with just two pipelines into a global empire. But critics say he created a culture of cost-cutting and encouraged a "fix it when it breaks" attitude that's still in place at BP today.
"Wall Street Journal" reporter Steve Levine says Browne's fixation on profitability may have helped BP grow, but compromised worker safety.
STEVE LEVINE, AUTHOR, "THE OIL AND THE GLORY": There was a lot grumbling from the rank and file about the cost-cutting. A lot of people knew that it had gone too far.
KAYE: In 2005 when Browne was CEO, Texas City learned that firsthand when BP's refinery there exploded. Fifteen workers died, 180 were injured. That year, OSHA said BP had nearly 300 "willful safety violations" at the plant -- violations that BP did deny.
Attorney Brent Coon sued BP on behalf of the victims.
BRENT COON, SUED BP AFTER TEXAS CITY EXPLOSION: Lord Browne's fingerprints were all over what happened in Texas City. The budget cuts came from him in 1999 that went directly to Texas City and all of the other refineries around the world.
KAYE: Coon says the staff at the plant had been cut to save money. The victims never had a chance, he says, because the alarm system was broken.
(on camera): Levine told me at BP, Lord Browne had earned the nickname Robin. He says he was part of a penny-pinching duo with another executive they called "Batman." Levine says he would swoop in just like the caped crusader, make massive cuts, and then figure out a way to justify them.
(voice-over): In response to our questions, Lord Browne told us in a statement, "I look back on my career with BP with satisfaction. Under my leadership, BP took its environmental, social and safety responsibilities incredibly seriously." Browne would not answer our questions about whether the cost-cutting measures he championed contributed to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf. Browne's spokesman did deny that the former CEO had ever risked worker safety.
In 2006, the year after the BP refinery explosion in Texas City, Lord Browne earned more than $11 million, making him one of the highest paid CEOs in Britain.
(on camera): But Browne's reign at BP ended abruptly, he retired two months early, disgraced in a midst of a growing personal scandal. A British newspaper was threatening to publish allegations Browne had used company money to support a young male lover. Browne admitted the affair, but both he and the company deny any misuse of funds. (voice-over): In February, this year, just two months before the Gulf oil spill, Browne's autobiography, "Beyond Business" was published. It's described as an inspirational memoir from a visionary leader. The timing of its release, critics say, could not have been much worse.
COON: I think where Browne's fingerprints are in the spill of the Gulf of Mexico because he was the CEO of BP for over a decade. The safety culture and lack of safety culture that BP developed through his tenure is one that's hard to scrub off.
KAYE: And that is why former BP CEO, Lord John Browne, makes our list of the culprits of the catastrophe.
Randi Kaye, CNN, Miami.
COOPER: All right. So, former CEO of BP is the first name on our list, Lord John Browne. We'll add new culprits of the catastrophe every night this week as look for answers to the top questions of just what caused this catastrophe.
Much more to come from the Gulf, first Joe Johns joins us with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we begin with breaking news out Tampa, Florida, tonight. A heavily armed man and woman are in custody after attempting to illegally enter MacDill Air Force Base, the home of the U.S. Central Command which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Air Force says military style gear and weapons were discovered stashed inside their sport utility vehicle.
A harrowing scene in Oklahoma City today as heavy rains dumped up to 10 inches in just 12 hours. Dozens of people were rescued from the rising water, including a woman trapped in a tree.
Spirit Airlines is canceling all flights through Wednesday in wake of a pilots' union strike. Workers walked off the job Saturday. Grounded customers can opt for a full refund or for credits toward future flights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you fully support the Obama agenda?
REP. BOB ETHERIDGE (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Who are you? Who are you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: Oh, boy, that's Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge of North Carolina today, apologizing for that confrontation he had with two young men on a Washington, D.C. street last week. Despite repeated questioning, the pair identified themselves only as students.
So, in the age of viral video, you just got to watch what you're doing out there on the streets, Anderson.
COOPER: Wow. That's bizarre.
All right. Joe, thanks.
Our coverage of the environmental disaster in the Gulf continues. Ahead, a prime time exclusive, Kevin Costner, actor, director, environmentalist, turned oil recovery entrepreneur, joins us for the big 360 interview from Capitol Hill to the Gulf Coast. Hear how he's making an impact on the cleanup efforts and big news ahead in a moment.
COOPER: BP has just announced tonight that it has ordered 32 machines made by Kevin Costner's company to clean oil from water. The actor/director vowed to do something about oil spill during the Exxon Valdez disaster back in 1989. Now, more than two decades later, years of research, multimillion of dollars spent, that something is a machine that separates oil from water and manages to recycle that crude at the same time.
Kevin Costner joins me from California for tonight's exclusive big 360 interview.
Kevin, how long have you been working on this machine, exactly?
KEVIN COSTNER, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: Well, I took a technology out at 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.
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, I really thought --
COOPER: So you can do 200 gallons a minute with this machine?
COSTNER: A minute. Yes.
COOPER: How exactly does it work?
COSTNER: Well, it's a centrifuge system. And centrifuges have been around forever. But this was a highly technical piece of machinery developed by David Meikrantz. And we formed the 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 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 we take something like this to happen where -- you know, now, we're all pointing at it, and, you know, like -- probably just got sucked back into this thing.
COOPER: You know, I went out a lot the last couple weeks with, you know, Billy Nungesser, Plaquemines Parish president, and the governor here. And, I mean, they're out there -- Billy Nungesser was telling me tonight, that over the weekend, they went out there with wet vacs basically just trying to get up some oil that had been in the marsh.
COOPER: I mean, it's kind of that desperate over here.
COSTNER: Well, Billy --
COOPER: It's great that they've gone ahead and bought 32 of these things. How quickly do you think you can get them actually manufactured and deployed?
COSTNER: Well, we're starting up. We're coming to this fight late, but we're both going to attack the problem to date the best we can going forward. And we're going to have a real impact as we go forward.
There's a lot of inefficiencies out there in the protection of the people and the gathering of oil. But Billy is in front of his people, and Billy saw the machinery. He saw it 10 years ago at an oceans conference.
And Doug Suttles, incidentally from BP, who ordered this 32, he saw the machine about three weeks ago, and he's an oil man. He told me at the time, you know, he said he was excited. He knew this machine had great potential, but he knew that a lot of people had had been disappointed by what had already happened, and he didn't want to kind of create a false hope where the machine was concerned. And so, he began to put it in place as the machine wasn't even intended, in very difficult situations. And the machine performed.
And I've had to be kind of silent for the last few weeks as this machine was put through a lot of hoops. And it just passed everything that BP could throw at it, and Doug. And I chose to believe him. Today, he did. He put us in business, and he said he's going to help us. And I think that this is the key, it's the linchpin to I think as people going back to work. It's certainly a way to fight oil spills in this 21st century. And it certainly -- what it does is it creates an efficiency where there are no efficiencies out there, and, you know, it's been a long time coming. But I appreciate where Doug went with me.
And Buddy Caldwell was the one person who heard me early on, the attorney general. And Buddy has opened a lot of doors. And I just try to keep my head down and kind of work in a steady way, and to have Doug come through today was a big moment for me and for everybody who's ever worked on this.
And it's -- I think it was a big moment for Doug, too, because, you know, big moment maybe for our president. We're all kind of looking for answers, and we don't want to seem feeble, and this gives us a legitimate -- a legitimate response going forward.
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. Well, it's -- the smallest one -- 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 to 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: All right. Up next: attacking the spill like it's World War III. The general best known for his command at Joint Task Force Katrina, hear his battle plan with 360, General Russel Honore. Will the government listen to his plan? Well, hear for yourself -- ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: Some tough words tonight from the retired Army man who led the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina. We're talking, of course, about Lieutenant General Russell Honore. He says the U.S. is not doing nearly enough to fight this oil spill.
Gary Tuchman caught up with the general to talk about his battle plan.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: General, we came from the National World War II Museum here in New Orleans today because you have said we need to declare World War III when it comes to this oil disaster?
LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE (RET.), CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. We need to act like it's World War III. You know, when we did the world wars, everything was mobilized, nothing was left on the table. All branches of the military should be there working for Admiral Allen, apply (INAUDIBLE), as well as advance command and control, to find this oil and kill it.
TUCHMAN: I mean, you're treating this like it is a battle?
HONORE: Absolutely. And to -- for the people of the Gulf, this is their life. It was just like an enemy force invading the Gulf, taking over our shoreline. We got to treat this like a war if we're going to get the fix that we want, as oppose to the environment spill.
TUCHMAN: One of the things you're saying is there's an inherent problem with having BP being responsible for the cleanup, right?
HONORE: Absolutely. It's like getting mugged and having the burglar determine what your compensation is. The government needs to be determining that.
TUCHMAN: What's the first thing you would do, immediately, within an hour, to change the way this cleanup with the current, in line with --
HONORE: I would go on the offense. I would go on the attack. We've been playing defense for too long, waiting for the oil to come on the shoreline. I would mobilize Northern Command, as U.S. Northern Command out of Colorado. I would tell them to send men and equipment from the Army, Navy and Air Force, and get command and control in that Gulf so Admiral Allen had command to find the oil, really meet (ph) on them on the table, whatever it takes.
You know, the effect of losing this battle and having that amount of oil come ashore could be equivalent -- beyond what the ramifications of losing the war in Afghanistan or Iraq. TUCHMAN: And that brings up an interesting point, you said you would consider taking troops who are currently in Iraq or Afghanistan and bringing them here because --
HONORE: Whatever it takes.
TUCHMAN: Should Americans be as worried about what is going on in the Gulf with the oil as they are with the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan?
HONORE: I think we should. As well as, equal to what we're concerning about terrorism. You know, we keep worrying about this one guy slipping through and having a significant event, and blowing a building off or an airplane. But this is at that level and higher because we've seen this as a man-induced event from an accident. We understand that, but we've got to fight that oil.
TUCHMAN: And what kind of pressures need to be put on BP?
HONORE: I think one of the things would be to look at big (INAUDIBLE) out there, whether that's 1 July or 15 July, to say, if you have made progress, here's what's going to happen. We're going to put that, a well hole in receivership.
TUCHMAN: You wanted to declare World War III basically on this.
TUCHMAN: Can you actually draw out a battle plan?
HONORE: Absolutely. This is Amarillo, Louisiana coastline, state of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. We need to divide this into zones, get military, Army, Navy and Air Force assets, put them into water, and combine them by zones.
This is Florida coast here. You'd have a two star general here, whether it's the National Guard, division commander, or an active duty commander, or a naval commander that would be responsible for defending the coastline along Florida, as well as running reconnaissance vessels and aircraft throughout this part of Florida. Find the oil and kill it.
TUCHMAN: So, for each state, though?
HONORE: Each state. We need to start now. We need to go from the defense to the attack.
TUCHMAN: As you can see now, General Honore is issuing a double- pronged attack. He's attacking the oil. He wants to attack the oil. He also wants to attack BP regarding, Anderson, those July 1st and July 15th deadlines he's talking about, he's proposing a $100 million a day fine past those dates. And after a few days, a couple of weeks, that could be real money.
COOPER: Interesting. Gary Tuchman, appreciate it. Thanks.
More in the Gulf in a moment. We're here all week by the way.
So, stick around. We'll be right back.