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Gulf Weather Worries; Interview With Florida Senator Bill Nelson

Aired June 25, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening from New Orleans.

This is day 67 of the BP disaster, day 67 of a catastrophe that has devastated the Gulf and left thousands out of work. We have been on the ground now covering this story for more than a month, demanding answers, and we will continue to do that tonight.

But we want to begin with the very latest developments on the situation here and other stories as well.

For that, we head to New York and Randi Kaye -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a new weather system could spell big trouble for the Gulf.

The first tropical depression of the season has formed in the Caribbean. You're looking at what could become Tropical Storm Alex, or, even worse, Hurricane Alex, in the Gulf of Mexico early next week.

So, are BP and the federal government ready if the storm moves toward the oil slick? This morning, Admiral Thad Allen, the national incident commander, said there is -- quote -- "no playbook." Then, later, he had this to say.


ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: We have a very robust hurricane contingency plan that has been produced by our incident commanders.


KAYE: So, is there a plan or not? That's the question.

Ahead: my interview with Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who is demanding an answer. His state could get hit by this weather system.

But, first, Tom Foreman joins us.

And, Tom, what is the latest on where this might be headed?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Randi, like you said, we're not really sure what the plan may be. But this is what disaster workers are most afraid of this evening as this storm gathers strength down here by Honduras. Of all these possible paths that it could take, if it follows this one, the red one here, or possibly the blue one here, up and over the broken oil well, that could make this spill considerably worse, much more catastrophic.

First, Incident Command officials say the mere presence of such a storm could force an immediate stoppage, a retreat from the wellhead for the safety of the crew. That would mean removing that containment dome we have heard so much about, stopping the drilling of those relief wells, which can ultimately stop this, we hope, completely, and pulling out all the ships that are rounding up, skimming, or burning oil up on the surface.

It's a big operation. All of this would have to start days ahead of the storm's approach. And getting everything back in place afterward would also be just as hard.

So, Thad Allen, you saw a moment ago, estimating, if the storm comes this way, the oil could be turned loose to gush freely for two full weeks, at an estimate of 60,000 barrels a day. That would mean about three times as much as the Exxon Valdez spill, on top of everything we have already seen -- Randi.

KAYE: So, Tom, what would happen, I guess, at the -- at the actual containment site at the rig?

FOREMAN: At the rig, exactly what we're talking about, these people would pull back. They would have to unhook this containment dome. They would have to pull the ships out of there.

This has not been easy getting this into place. You can imagine what it's like to pull all that up, all those people out. There's like 1,800 people on the water that they would have to pull back, get them to safety, and then move them all back out, a huge, huge problem.

KAYE: Wow.

All right, Tom, it certainly is. Thank you.

Well, that is the potential nightmare. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida wants to know what will be done to protect his state and the others along the Gulf if a storm hits. I spoke with him earlier.


KAYE: Senator, if a major storm does strike the Deepwater Horizon area, and cleanup operations there are actually shut down for more than a week or maybe even 10 days, I know that you're paying attention to the math here, as much as 60,000 barrels of oil leaking a day. Ten days, that means another 600,000 barrels of oil could spread into the Gulf completely unchecked.

You sent a letter about this to Thad Allen yesterday asking what the Navy and Coast Guard are doing to prepare for this.

Have you received any response? SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Not yet. But I expect to, because we need to preposition a surge capability that, when they would have to move out of the way of the storm, and before they could get back attached, all that extra oil going into the Gulf, we need extra ships out there scooping up that oil after the storm passes.

And that probably is going to be U.S. Navy ships. They could get them prepositioned in the vicinity, in port, and then go in after the storm.

KAYE: And, in terms of a detailed plan, I know that -- that you want to have one. But what would you like to see, more skimmers, more ships waiting in the wings?

NELSON: The Incident Command has known that they have Navy skimmers in ports, over 40 around the country. But only six have been requested.

But they have identified another 27 that could come. Why aren't those 27 on trailers right now, coming to the Gulf Coast to be positioned in the bays, in the calm waters, where they can scoop up the oil before it gets into the marsh grasses?

KAYE: BP has said that it's developing a new containment response, as they call it, that will help the cleanup operators connect and disconnect oil recovery systems faster. So, this way, they say that they would have fewer disruptions during the storms.

Is BP moving fast enough on this for you?

NELSON: No. And saying something like that, what, are you going to reduce it from 10 days lost to seven days? You're still going to have 420,000 barrels have gushed un -- unobstructed into the Gulf.

KAYE: And, as we head into full-blown hurricane season, how concerned are you that this may really be the first of many disruptions to the oil spill response and the cleanup?

NELSON: Well, the greatest nightmare, with this storm approaching, is that it takes this oil on the surface of the Gulf and blows it over the barrier islands into the bays and the estuaries.

And that is where you really get the -- the enormous destruction, because it's just very difficult to clean up those pristine bays.

KAYE: Thank you for your time, Senator Bill Nelson.

NELSON: Yes, ma'am.


KAYE: And now back to Anderson.

COOPER: Thanks, Randi.

Up next: a deepwater warning -- an interview with the survivor of the explosion who said he detected a leak weeks before the deadly blast. Find out what he says happened when he told his bosses -- coming up.

Also tonight: empty promises. Fishermen say BP's program to get them working has left them high and dry. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Then, later: flight of freedom -- brown pelicans save from the oil released back into the wild, and we were there to watch it.


COOPER: Well, it was back on April 20 that the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded into flames, an inferno that killed 11 men. That's when the disaster began, of course.

But there were -- but were there signs of a catastrophe in the making before that night?

I want you to hear what one survivor has to say. His name is Tyrone Benton. His job was to remotely inspect the well and blowout preventer. He was checking for anything unusual. And, weeks before the blast, he says he found it.

He talked to Special Investigations Unit correspondent Drew Griffin.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Tyrone Benton may well have seen the first signs something was very, very wrong on the Deepwater Horizon.

(on camera): Did you ever get close enough to the leak to see what exactly was leaking?

TYRONE BENTON, ROV TECHNICIAN: Yes. We flew down to the pod and saw that there was an angular fitting that had a leak on it. What was connected to the angular fitting wasn't able to see, but there was an angular fitting that did have a leak.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): It was a fluid leak on one of the two pods. Those are the mechanisms that control the blowout preventer. If they don't work, the blowout preventer doesn't work. A leak, even if only a trickle, is a warning.

BENTON: Yes. It was abnormal.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Abnormal enough that you reported it to your company to Transocean, to BP?

BENTON: That's correct.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): One pod is always working, the other, says University of Texas petroleum engineer, Tad Patzek is designed as its immediate backup.

TAD PATZEK, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: I don't think that there is any discussion of that basic fact. And the basic fact is that you have to do whatever it takes to fix the -- fully the blowout preventer as soon as you can.

GRIFFIN: Patzek says the solution is to immediately close off the well, raise the blowout preventer, find out what's wrong, and fix it.

PATZEK: Anything less than that, you know, might have led, or probably led, to a major failure of the well and the results are well known.

GRIFFIN: Back on board the Deepwater Horizon, several weeks before the explosion, Tyrone Benton knew he was looking at a potentially dangerous leak, that the BOP, the blowout preventer, was at possible risk for failure.

(on camera): And it was taken care of?

BENTON: It wasn't taken care of. In order to take care of it, you have to pull the whole BOP, which will shut down production. From like I said, from my understanding, they just shut down one pod and work off the other.

GRIFFIN: Tyrone, 11 people dead.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): For the better part of a day, the leak was studied, observed, measured. The most prudent course, to fix it, says Benton, was ruled out.

(on camera): And, so, instead...

BENTON: They went ahead and shut down that particular pod, the yellow pod, and started working off the other pod.

GRIFFIN: You likened that to shutting down one engine of a twin- engine plane.

BENTON: That's correct.

GRIFFIN: You can do it.


GRIFFIN: But not ideal.

BENTON: If you have to, then you can.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Day after day, says Benton, the fluid leak continued. Day after day, BP and Transocean were notified.

(on camera): You're the first person that's come forward that I know of that said, we have this problem. It was a leak. Instead of properly fixing the leak, officials from BP and Transocean decided to bypass that leak. It's hard to determine, as you said, whether or not that leak had anything to do with this, but certainly the prudent thing, the most safe thing to do would have been to pull up that blowout preventer, fix it and put it back down. Is that not correct? BENTON: Yes, you could look at it that way, yes.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): No one listened, and a few weeks later, Tyrone Benton was lying in his bunk on the Deepwater Horizon when the first explosion knocked him out of bed. The second covered him in debris as he scrambled to find his flashlight. It was pitch black.

(on camera): Panic on-board? Screaming?

BENTON: Panic, screaming, people jumping overboard. It was completely chaos. And I could hear my supervisor telling everybody "let's go, let's go, let's get on the life boats. We got to go, we got to go." And he kept his head, he kept his cool. Most of us were just panicking. We wanted to go, like right then. But we had to wait for everybody. So we sat on that rig as long as we possibly could for everyone to be accounted for.

GRIFFIN: Not everybody was accounted for.

BENTON: There is a point where you have to say, we have to go. And we made it to that point.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Of the 11 who never made it to the lifeboat, Benton says many were close friends. He's now suing BP and Transocean for emotional and physical injuries. A BP spokesman wouldn't comment on reports of a leak but did say BP is determined to get to the bottom of what caused the explosion.

(on camera): We also heard from a Transocean spokesperson, who tells us the blowout preventer was tested and operating properly in the days and weeks before this explosion.

Nonetheless, Transocean says it is doing its own internal examination and is cooperating with all the other investigations under way.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Houston, Texas.


COOPER: BP is the largest deepwater driller in the Gulf, but there are 10 other companies also drilling deepwater oil. Would these companies be any more prepared to handle a spill than BP?

Unlikely, according to at least one environmental group.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't just BP. It was thousands of other -- just in the last 18 months, 400 of these projects were pushed through with no environmental review at all.


COOPER: The Obama administration says it's going to reform the permitting process. But what about the rigs already out there operating? We're "Keeping Them Honest" -- Monday on 360 from the Gulf.

Ahead tonight on the program: claims and controversy -- BP's vow to pay back victims. The company says it will make people whole again. That's not what some are telling us, though.

Also, a victim of the spill, an oyster company right here in New Orleans founded 134 years ago now struggling to survive -- we will talk to the brothers who are trying to keep it going.


COOPER: BP has put $20 billion in escrow and said it will pay for all legitimate claims to those affected by the disaster. But one business owner says, instead of compensation, the company is giving him the runaround.

Here's Chris Lawrence.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It took 40 years for Stu Scheer to build his business running charter fishing boats for tourists in the Gulf. Now it's all falling apart, between the oil spill that shut down business and haggling with BP over his claim.

STU SCHEER, CHARTER BOAT CAPTAIN: Excuse me. You would wonder how a guy my age, at 260 pounds, could be emotional.


But, you know, it's like I told you. Saltwater runs through my veins. It's all I have done. It's all I have ever wanted to do,is fish.

LAWRENCE: Stu walked into the local claims office, but BP classified him large loss and moved his claim 90 miles away. He only speaks with his adjuster by phone.

SCHEER: They wanted 2007, '8, '9 returns. They wanted my logbooks. They wanted my bank statements. They wanted all my licenses, P&L statement.

LAWRENCE (on camera): So, you laid out...

SCHEER: Everything.

LAWRENCE: ... all this paperwork?

SCHEER: Everything.

LAWRENCE: To the -- to the number?

SCHEER: To the penny, virtually. This is what I calculated from May 9 through the end of December that I had on the books, actual books, not projections, not people still calling me.

LAWRENCE: And when you itemized this cost for BP, you even accounted for -- that you wouldn't be using fuel...

SCHEER: That's right. So, if my boat didn't leave the dock, I wouldn't have fuel, bait, rod, reels, ice, contract labor. My gross was $162.800. Less expenses, daily boat expenses, came out to 107,$982. My bookings for this year amounted to a gross net of $107,000. And they basically offered me $33,000.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): He turned down that offer and is now haggling to make up the difference.

(on camera): Are you any more confident in the government running the claims process as you were with BP?

SCHEER: Well, again, like I said, there's always an air of optimism. And the fact that the Obama administration has gotten BP to put the $20 billion in escrow, and supposedly a new regime is going to come in and handle the claims, yes, there's optimism. I hope it works out, but I'm suspicious.

LAWRENCE (on camera): Unfortunately, the bottom line is, he's probably going to have to take that initial offer, and then refile additional claims every months while his boats are out of business.

We did call BP. Now, they don't comment on individual claims, but, so far, they have cut more than 30,000 checks and paid out more than $100 million.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, New Orleans.


COOPER: Well, let's talk about this with Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish.

I mean, a guy like that, who has all the documentation, earned $107,000 or so, should have earned that, and gets an offer of $33,000.


What we have asked -- and I know they're meeting with a lot of our marine owners this week. And we're very concerned to see how this all works out. And if it is a large claim, and they can't put all the money up, they want to do some checking, we have asked them to meet their obligation.

If it's $50,000 a month to the bank, and it's going to take them 90 days, pay them the $50,000 a month while they work out the claim. Don't make them sweat it out until you come back and either make them whole or sit down and work out the difference.

So, if their bills are $50,000 a month, and you have got a $400,000 claim, and you want to take 90 days to review all the data and come back to them, we're asking them to step up to the plate and make them pay their -- give them the money to pay their bills monthly. If it's 90 days, if it takes an extra month, at least that person isn't going bankrupt. COOPER: Right.

NUNGESSER: He's feeding his family and he's paying his electric bill, his insurance, and he's keeping above water.

COOPER: Ken Feinberg obviously is now the guy who is going to be taking over all of this, taking it from BP.

Do you have a sense of the timing on all that? I mean, we're going to talk to him tomorrow on the program, but of when they actually may be -- you know, have folks in place who are ready to actually...

NUNGESSER: No. And we have a lot of local businesses that have meetings in Plaquemines Parish this week, all the way through Friday. And we want to do some follow-up and make sure there's some kind of payment put in place right away, that they're not waiting 30, 45, 60 days, and sweating it out to see if BP is going to come back.

COOPER: I know this weekend you actually went out on the water and found a bunch of folks, contractors, who were not actually out there working? What happened?

NUNGESSER: Well, what happened was, they were called to stand down. The meteorologists said there was bad whether. It was out of Venice. It wasn't out of Myrtle Grove.

We sucked up 300,000, 400,000 gallons of oil from about 5:30 in the morning to 10:00. But I think we got that fixed.

Those people will now be out there living on the water. And we will come up with a horn device. We don't want anyone to get electrocuted by lightning, but we need to stay out on the water and work every minute we can.

COOPER: So, before, they were -- people were coming back and forth from the water, taking up a lot of time?

NUNGESSER: And any time there was bad weather, they came in. They have to be able to -- like we talked about the jack-up boats, there's got to be a safe place for them to go, 15 minutes out the way, get out of bad weather, and go back to work.

COOPER: Now, a jack-up boat is basically, what -- it's like a barge that people can go and sleep on.

NUNGESSER: And living quarters and get out of the bad whether when it -- because we have bad weather every day during the summertime.

COOPER: Well, we were out one day on the water. A storm came in. And we went basically to a barge and just hung out there for a while.

NUNGESSER: Absolutely.

And that needs to be out there. Wherever there's oil, wherever we are fighting this war, we need to have those quarters out there, and they agreed to do it. So, we appreciate their efforts. And I think we have got some people on the ground that are really starting to see the sense of urgency, so we're real glad about that.

COOPER: So, you're starting -- are you more optimistic today than...


NUNGESSER: I really am.


NUNGESSER: We have already seen all the vacuum devices approved through the process. They're on their way down from Canada. We will have more suction devices than ever in the water next week.

COOPER: Do you have a sense of how many you're going to have? Because the governor has said he would love to see 100 of them.


NUNGESSER: Well, we bought everything they have, 20-something, and we have asked them for a production schedule. These things work. They suck up the oil. They're quick. They can get in close where the birds are, so we can save a lot of wildlife, a lot of marshland. And we seem to be getting the support from the Coast Guard.

So, we're optimistic, and we think we have got a team we can work with on the ground now.

COOPER: All right.

Billy, appreciate it. Thanks your time.

NUNGESSER: Thank you very much.

COOPER: All right.

Next: waiting for work -- a BP program to hire fishermen and boaters. They were told to apply. Then they heard nothing. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight: the Grammy Award-winning artist with a long connection to New Orleans Lenny Kravitz on the spill and why this city keeps on rocking -- the "Big 360 Interview" coming up.


KAYE: Hi. I'm Randi Kaye with a 360 news and business bulletin.

Dick Cheney is in a Washington hospital. A spokesman says the former vice president wasn't feeling well this afternoon when he was admitted for testing. Sixty-nine-year-old Cheney has had five heart attacks since 1978, the latest one earlier this year. He is expected to remain hospitalized through the weekend.

Michael Jackson's father files a wrongful death lawsuit against Dr. Conrad Murray on the one-year anniversary of his son's death. The suit alleges that Murray withheld information from doctors and paramedics trying to save Jackson's life, specifically, that he had given the singer propofol. Murray has pled not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges in the criminal case.

House and Senate negotiators have reached an agreement on a sweeping overhaul of Wall Street regulations. The bill is designed to address many of the causes of the financial crisis. Full House and Senate votes are planned for next week.

And Sarah Palin's controversial speech at a California state university will bring in a record amount of cash. Plans for the event prompted California's attorney general to launch an investigation into the struggling school's finances. The university says the black-tie dinner raised more than $200,000.

Those are the headlines -- more after this.


COOPER: BP says it's hired thousands of people for oil recovery efforts. They say it's Vessels of Opportunity Program. This is what they call it, is helping those who can't work on the water because of the spill.

That's not what some commercial fishermen have been telling us. They registered but say they are still waiting for a response. And they want answers. Tonight, so do we.

Gary Tuchman is keeping them honest.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We met Carl Leblanc Tuesday, working on his crabbing boat. But it's on the front lawn, not on the water. That's his fishing boat. That's his shrimping boat.

(on camera): Are you making any money?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): So, Carl applied for BP's so-called Vessel of Opportunity Program. BP pays for boats and crews to help in the cleanup. The program is intended for people like Carl, fishermen who have lost their incomes.

But after Carl applied, he heard nothing.

(on camera): So, you call them up, say what's going on. What did they tell you?

LEBLANC: They told us they needed to bring --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They didn't know where our paperwork was. LEBLANC: That we weren't in the system.

TUCHMAN: You weren't even in the system?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Same thing happened to fisherman Thomas Barrios.

THOMAS BARRIOS, APPLIED TO VESSEL OF OPPORTUNITY PROGRAM: We called, we were checking on where we were in the system. And so far, it seems like no one knew who we were.

TUCHMAN: So, Tuesday night of this week, both men went to this open house, designed for people with these types of problems. And there were many others with similar complaints. But they say they didn't get meaningful answers from a BP contractor who was there.

So, because BP lifted its controversial rule, preventing contractors from talking to journalists, we went looking for answers.

(on camera): We wanted to see if we could talk to you about the Vessels of Opportunity Program and why so many people who want to be part of it are not hearing from anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. I can't comment.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This man wanted us to talk to his supervisor, who was not at this open house.

(on camera): He's been very specific that his contractors are allowed to talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've not given me that information. I suggest you talk to Judy Paul.

TUCHMAN: That BP has told you you can't talk?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They told me to refer media requests to Judy Paul.

TUCHMAN: I'm asking you, sir, has BP said you can't talk to the media?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They told me to refer media requests to Judy Paul.

TUCHMAN: I'll ask you one more time. Have they told you not to talk to the media?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. They've told me to refer media requests to Judy Paul.

TUCHMAN: So, we decided it was time to find Judy Paul. But we had no luck reaching her. A BP spokesperson did give us a written statement to us, saying the two men's cases will be investigated. But we still wanted to talk to Judy Paul.

(voice-over): So, we showed up at a heavily secured BP office in Homer, Louisiana.

(on camera): You are the Judy Paul we were looking for?

JUDY PAUL, BP: I am the Judy Paul you were looking for. Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Ms. Paul says she's sorry she missed the town hall meeting. But lo and behold, tells us she just called the men we interviewed.

PAUL: I can tell you I spoke with Mr. Leblanc and Mr. Barrios this morning. Their contracts have been confirmed of being in the system.

TUCHMAN: That's the good news. Bad news is that hundreds of other people are also in the system, on the waiting list.

(on camera): Is there a chance these two gentlemen will get work with your program?

PAUL: There is a chance, but we can't displace someone else who perhaps entered the program earlier just to move people forward because they happened to talk to CNN.

TUCHMAN: You can't offer anybody any guidance about whether they're going to get called or not.

PAUL: That's correct.

TUCHMAN: That's a tough position to put all these guys in, who are not making livings any more.

PAUL: It is. It is.

TUCHMAN: You acknowledge that?

PAUL: Absolutely.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): In Louisiana alone, about 1,900 vessels are on the waiting list.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Homer, Louisiana.


COOPER: There's really tragic news tonight about one man who was hired by BP to help with the cleanup efforts. He was a fishing boat captain in Alabama. And on Wednesday morning, he took his own life. Now, no one may ever know why he committed suicide. But some friends say they saw a changed man after the spill.

David Mattingly reports.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): People who knew him say Allen Kruse lived to fish, and those closest to him say that life unraveled when the oil spill hit the Gulf waters where he worked. (on camera): He thought it was dead?


MATTINGLY: He said that to you?

M. KRUSE: Yes.

MATTINGLY: And that there was no hoping that the fishing was ever going to come back.

M. KRUSE: Not in his lifetime.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Among charter boat captains in Orange Beach, Alabama, Kruse was a leader, drumming up business in good times -- and voicing the frustrations after community in the bad times.

ALLEN KRUSE, GULF FISHERMAN: The day that the oil entered the Gulf, my phone quit ringing.

MATTINGLY: Just a month after that interview, Kruse was found on his boat dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. For 14 days, he had worked for BP hauling boom and looking for oil. His brothers say he felt like his role in the clean-up as a BP Vessel of Opportunity was worthless.

(on camera): That's what he told you?


MATTINGLY: That he felt like he was being put out there just for show?

F. KRUSE: Yes. That's what he told his wife. He didn't tell me that. That's what he told his wife. That's what she told me just a while ago.

M. KRUSE: He told me it was madness.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Kruse's friends tell me he felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the disaster and that they're all feeling the stress.

CAPT. BEN FAIREY, FRIEND OF ALLEN KRUSE: This has been a long-term situation. This started in 2004 with a direct hit from Hurricane Ivan, then the next year was Katrina, then skyrocketing fuel prices, fishing regulations, and then an oil spill. This has been six years that this area has really suffered a lot of stress.

MATTINGLY: Stress that his friends believe finally became too much for Kruse. And now, they're worried about others.

(on camera): Are you afraid that maybe one of your other friends out there might be thinking about something extreme?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. FAIREY: We worry about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We worry about that every day.

MATTINGLY: What are you going to do about it?

FAIREY: That's why we're trying to get the word out.

MATTINGLY: As a gesture to the community that's now grieving for him, Kruse's family thought it would be best for his boat to be brought back here to home port in Orange Beach. And here it is right now, The Rookie. His friends say that there's really no better way that they could think of to pay tribute to a man who loved what did he for a living and loved the waters where he worked.

(voice-over): It's The Rookie's final voyage, carrying a cargo of uncertainty and sorrow.

David Mattingly, CNN, Orange Beach, Alabama.


COOPER: Allen Kruse was just 55 years old.

Up next, a family-run business right here in New Orleans now in jeopardy. They've been distributing oysters here since 1876. Then came the BP spill and everything has changed.

Also ahead tonight, Lenny Kravitz. He has a house here in New Orleans, a message and the disaster and the resiliency of this city. The big 360 interview -- coming up.


COOPER: We've been saying over and over for weeks now on this program that New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast is open for business. Most beaches are open across the Gulf.

And the city of New Orleans is alive and well. The restaurants are open. The food is great as always. Seafood is safe.

But oysters are getting harder to find. And the oil spill is already having a big impact on at least one New Orleans institution.


COOPER (voice-over): At P&J Oyster Company, business is a bust.

(on camera): How many oysters would you normally get in every day?

SAL SUNSERI, P&J OYSTER COMPANY: Well, we normally do about 30,000 oysters in a day.

COOPER: Processed?

S. SUNSERI: Yes, right here. AL SUNSERI, P&J OYSTER COMPANY: Those shucked oysters are used for oysters po-boys, oysters Rockefeller, oysters (INAUDIBLE) all these great recipes.

COOPER: So, normally, you would be getting, what, you said 30,000 oysters a day through here?

S. SUNSERI: Just for the shuck. We also sell whole oysters for the oyster bars. That's another, shoot, 20,000 a day.

COOPER (voice-over): The walk-in refrigerator should be full of oysters.

A. SUNSERI: This is what we have left.

COOPER (on camera): These are the only oysters you have left?

A. SUNSERI: That's it. That's it.

COOPER (voice-over): It's all but empty.

(on camera): So, what is this? This is four, five, six, seven, eight, nine -- you got 10 bags of oysters.

A. SUNSERI: We have 10 bags of -- of oysters that will go to the oyster bars.

COOPER: I can't imagine what it's like for you, seeing this room empty.

S. SUNSERI: It's a first. It's a first.

COOPER (voice-over): Sal and Al Sunseri are the fifth generation in their family to run P&J, a New Orleans oyster distributor for 134 years.

(on camera): Can you get oysters now here?

S. SUNSERI: We are still able to get a few oysters. But it's dwindling. And the Louisiana production is short because of a combination of reasons, different variables. One being that there's too much fresh water coming in from the two freshwater diversions, on the east and west side of the river. So, that causes mortality.

COOPER: That kills off the oysters?

S. SUNSERI: Kills off the oyster. So -- and the other reason is we have precautionary closures throughout the state. Our farmers are not producing.

COOPER (voice-over): So far, they've laid off 11 of their 23 employees. Wayne Gordon still has a job, but after 24 years here, he's not sure how much longer his job will last.

WAYNE GORDON, EMPLOYEE: We're close knit. We're like family here. And just to see everyone just part their separate ways and saying that this is it for us, we may not ever work together ever again is disheartening.

COOPER: P&J's going to start shipping in oysters from the east and west coast, and their accountant is now preparing records to submit a claim with BP.

A. SUNSERI: And we don't know where they'll take us. We're hoping that we'll be made whole. We don't know if that's going to occur.

COOPER: Al and his brother are still trying to figure out what happens next, still hopeful they can one day bring back the Louisiana oysters they've always sold.

S. SUNSERI: It's beyond our control and the amount of oil that's out there, I just don't know what the future entails.

A. SUNSERI: I hope that in the future we'll be able to come back. This is what I know. This is what we've learned. This is what we've grown up doing. So, hopefully, the future will be OK for the oysters business and P&J Oyster Company will be able to bring Louisiana oysters back. And all my hopes are that we'll be able to do this and my son will be able to carry on our tradition.

COOPER: A tradition that survived countless natural disasters, but which may not survive this catastrophe made entirely by man.


COOPER: Monday night, CNN aired a telethon for the Gulf oil spill. Thanks to many of you. More than $1.8 million was raised. Now, all of the donations are going to three charities, the United Way, the Nature Conservancy and the National Wildlife Federation.

Lenny Kravitz took part in the telethon. He's a Grammy Award-winning artist, obviously. He has a long connection to New Orleans. He joined me earlier for the big 360 interview.


COOPER: Thanks for being with us.


COOPER: You've been -- you have a house down here, you've been living here for like 17 years.

KRAVITZ: I have a house here for 17 years. Yes, the first home I ever purchased.

COOPER: And you have already -- early on, you performed at a concert for -- to benefit folks in the spill?

KRAVITZ: Yes. We had the concert that was Gulf aid. And it was -- it was a quick reaction. It was about two weeks afterwards. And it was put together in a matter of days. And we raised some good money.

COOPER: And now there's a song you put that's on iTunes that you got -- you did with a bunch of people.

KRAVITZ: That's collaboration with the Preservation Hall, jazz band, with Mos Def and myself, Trombone Shorty.

COOPER: What's the song?

KRAVITZ: It's called "Ain't My Fault" and it's on iTunes. And the money goes to Gulf aid. It's a dollar in, dollar out. So, the money that's given is given out.

COOPER: One of things that we've been trying to get across in this program is that, you know, a lot of places are not affected by this spill yet, the beaches in Mississippi, in Florida and a lot of places, in Alabama. And that the life in New Orleans is still as strong as ever. I mean, I was talking to someone at the hotel who said that a person who called up and canceled their honeymoon here because they thought, you know, somehow New Orleans was asked and was ruined.

KRAVITZ: Well, this is obviously a horrible, horrible spill. But, you know, there isn't oil, you know, going down the streets here. People think that the place is a mess and that they shouldn't come here. And this place is jumping. It's thriving. I mean, I'm out every night. I'm listening to music. I'm on Frenchman.

COOPER: Are you just waking up?

KRAVITZ: I was out late last night. You know, I'm really inspired by this city and it's a great place.

COOPER: There really is no place like it in America.

KRAVITZ: Not at all.

COOPER: It's hard to kind of describe. But just -- the vibrancy of the life here, whether you're involved in music or food or just walking the streets, it's really an extraordinary place.

KRAVITZ: You can't -- you can't find this anywhere in America or anywhere in the world really. It reminds me of what my parents always told me that it was like in New York City when you, you know, go down one street and you'd go see Miles Davis, then you would go see Charlie Parker, go see this one, that one. You know, I was on Frenchman the other night.

COOPER: Frenchman Street is a street in the Marigny which has a lot of --

KRAVITZ: Amazing music.

COOPER: Right.

KRAVITZ: There were brass bands.

COOPER: One of my favorite spot.

KRAVITZ: That's your spot? COOPER: That's my spot.

KRAVITZ: There were bands on the street playing, people in the street dancing.

COOPER: There's a band that plays on the corner of that street.

KRAVITZ: That's right.

COOPER: It's so great.

KRAVITZ: They're amazing.

COOPER: I've never seen anything like it. People just kind of gather around and listen to them for the longest time.

KRAVITZ: It's beautiful.


KRAVITZ: You know, we went to go see two or three brass bands, great little blues bands, and small bar. The whole street is just music. And that's still going.

The food is great. The vibe is great. The architecture is great.

This is a great city. And it's a place that people need to know, they still need to come. They should come. And they'll enjoy it.

COOPER: The seafood is still totally edible. I eat it every single day here.

KRAVITZ: The seafood is great. It is diminishing.

COOPER: It's harder to get oyster.

KRAVITZ: Last night we went to Irene's, which is a great, great local restaurant. And she served us oysters and said enjoy these, you know? We're not getting them like we used to, you know? And it's diminishing.


KRAVITZ: But it's here. It's clean. It's healthy. No one is getting sick.

COOPER: Yes. I appreciate all you're doing for the city.

KRAVITZ: My pleasure. And all you're doing, brother. You're representing the city in a beautiful way.

COOPER: I'm trying. I'm trying.

KRAVITZ: Appreciate it.

COOPER: Thank you. Thanks a lot. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Coming up next, back to nature, treating turtles saved from the spill. We'll take to a center that is caring for them. And also showing the release of brown pelicans saved from the oil going back into the wild.


COOPER: With each day, the threat from the spill may only be increasing for wildlife in the Gulf. We've been showing you the toll this disaster has been taking on animals here, including pelicans covered in oil. Last weekend, some good news, dozens of brown pelicans rescued and then treated were re-released.

It's an incredible. Rob Marciano was there when it happened.



DR. DAN MULCAHY, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: Yes. This is going to be the largest release to date of pelicans that have taken in as a result of oiling from the oil spill and we're going to release up to 40.

MARCIANO (voice-over): Wildlife vet Dan Mulcahy leads a carefully selected team that gets these birds from rescue centers back into the wild.

MULCAHY: It is all about the animals. And that's -- that's our goal.

MARCIANO: These animals spent the last few weeks being nursed back to health. Now, they're on a Coast Guard plane getting a second chance.

(on camera): I'm pretty excited about this flight. Here we go. Let's take these pelicans home.

(voice-over): We climb over Louisiana wetlands en route to similar habitat in Texas, far away from the spill.

(on camera): I just got airborne and there is a sense of relief among the crew that everything went relatively smoothly, getting these birds on-board. But they know there is some urgency, they got to get these birds back on the ground and back in the water just as quickly as possible.

(voice-over): It's a pretty tight squeeze inside the plane, but the passengers seem remarkably calm.

We land in Rockport, Texas, where another team is anxiously waiting.

(on camera): So, now, the delicate but expeditious process of unloading these birds, 20 kennels need to come out and be unloaded into these vans, and then they'll be transported about 45 minutes away into a wildlife refuge that has a whole lot of other pelicans.

(voice-over): The bird-carrying caravan rolls towards the coast, in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, the release point.

The rest happens quickly. We carry the kennels to the water, raise the roof, and release the pelicans.


MARCIANO (on camera): All right! How about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was that worth the trip or what?

MARCIANO (voice-over): These are wild animals and can be dangerous, so they've been reluctant to let me participate -- until now.

(on camera): Walk me through this, baby. This is exciting.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't let go of the bottom.

MARCIANO: Don't let go of the bottom, just lift off the top?


MARCIANO: Fly pelican.

(voice-over): Stubborn bird, giving me the stare-down.

(on camera): These guys -- these guys don't want to go. Come on, guys. You got it. I know you don't want to leave, but come on, guys.

(voice-over): Finally, these two take flight.

(on camera): That was the last one. That's just an incredible feeling. Look at them. That's awesome.



COOPER: Rob, after all you covered, it's great to actually see them re-released. You're at -- you're in Gulfport, Mississippi, right now, where they've actually seen a big uptick in the number of turtles coming in?

MARCIANO: The number of turtles have ramped up.

We're inside the institute for mammal studies. And these are just some the turtles that have been brought in. Oh, look at that magnificent creature. There are so cool when you see them alive in person, especially when they're taken out of the water.

I got a couple of handlers that are here with me. Megan and Becky handle these turtles on a daily basis.

Becky, why don't you grab this one and tell us exactly what kind of turtle this one is.

Oh, yes, he's a flapper. That's for sure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a Kemp's ridley sea turtle.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they are endangered in the Gulf of Mexico.

MARCIANO: And OK, so why -- how long has this particular animal been with you guys in rehabilitation? Is he going to snap at me if I get too close? He keeps moving.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry -- possibly, if you get close to his head. This guy has been with us for around two to three weeks.

MARCIANO: So, compare that, guys, and now, I think we have some video of what these -- what these animals look like when they're actually oiled, before they're brought to these facilities. And it's just -- it's just heart wrenching. So, to be able to see this transformation when they rescued these animals to when they're released, in that pelican piece that we shot there yesterday, it was certainly an incredible experience for me. And to see these amazing creatures as well is quite unique.

All right. Megan is handling this little guy. And he's a little feisty one as well.

Becky, we had you miked, what kind of turtle is this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a loggerhead sea turtle.

MARCIANO: So, this is pretty common in the Gulf of Mexico, is it not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are fairly common.

MARCIANO: All right. So, as far as the texture of the shell, how does it differ from, say, a loggerhead or the Kemp's ridley?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They do have a fairly smooth shell. But this guy obviously has a bumpy shell.

MARCIANO: Gosh! I mean, he just looks like a dinosaur in many respects.

And then this little guy right here, I was going to pick him up before we came here. And you're like, he seems a little feisty, you want to keep your fingers away from his mouth. But the backside of his shell is so cool. Look at -- it's just like artwork back there.

What kind of animal is this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a Hawksbill sea turtle.

MARCIANO: Oh, he doesn't look too happy. I'd put him back. I'm sorry, guy. Sorry we did that to you. Anyway, Anderson, so they got 17 right now here that they're rehabilitating. Across the Gulf of Mexico, there's over 100 that have been taken in. And there are a number of turtles that have been found dead. And that's the - that's the sad part of this story, and the numbers, as you well know, that we'll never know about that have perished in this oil spill and that's -- that is the unseen toll for sure.


COOPER: Thanks for watching. We'll be back here Monday live from the Gulf with the latest on the spill. I'm Anderson Cooper. Have a great weekend.