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Tuesday, June 8

BP Gulf Crisis: Anderson Cooper and Billy Nungesser discuss success at using simple vacuum to clean heavy oil. Meanwhile, spill threat changes.

The following exchange is from a 'rush' transcript from the June 7 AC-360 show on CNN. Most of the first part of the conversation is between show host Anderson Cooper and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, with Douglas Brinkley joining in toward the end. Plaquemines Parish (county), in suburban New Orleans, Louisiana, has been hit hard by the oil spill.

The last part of the discussion I've excerpted is between Anderson and CNN anchor Tom Foreman, who summarizes new evidence that there's a second large underwater oil plume. BP has been denying the existence of the underwater plumes.

Of course you can choose to watch the podcast of the show. But for readers overseas who still don't understand why Americans are so very angry at BP, here's just one part of the transcript, which I've put in more readable form:

BILLY NUNGESSER: But we've ordered skimmers. We've got vacuum trucks.

ANDERSON COOPER: And you actually went out -- you know, that's been the big thing, what to do with these [oil filled] marshes, and you've been saying all along, 'Look, putting down absorbent pads isn't enough.' You actually went out this weekend with vacuums?

BILLY: We took a truck that vacuums out --

ANDERSON: Like port-a-potties?

BILLY; Right; put a truck on a barge, drove it out to the island [marsh] and sucked up several miles of that black [heavy oil] guck.

ANDERSON: You actually took a truck that's used like port-a-johns --

BILLY: Went out there and showed it works. Hopefully tomorrow we'll get approval from BP to put more suction equipment out there. We've made a proposal for the Kevin Costner-type machines as well as some other machines.

[See this Bloomberg report for more information on the KC machine.]

ANDERSON: We went out there today and saw oil all over -- [Billy?] saw it firsthand.

BILLY: We didn't see one skimmer.

ANDERSON: That's unacceptable.

BILLY: We've still got a lot of work to do.

The kind of vacuum that Billy was talking about is an ordinary industrial 'wet vacuum.' All the while BP has been stonewalling the most simple requests for the most simple measures and equipment to deal with the oil spill.

It took Billy Nungesser and other Louisiana officials appearing nightly on AC-30 for weeks, voicing their complaints, to get any noteworthy action from BP with regard to cleaning up the oil spill. But by now the spill has become far more difficult to deal with than in earlier weeks. From RTT News, June 7:
British Petroleum and Obama Administration officials responding to the ongoing gush of oil into the Gulf of Mexico are facing a new challenge as an oil slick 50 miles off the coast begins to break up.

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the top federal official overseeing the response, said Monday that the oil slick appears to be disaggregating itself.

"We're no longer dealing with a large, monolithic spill," he said at a White House briefing. "We're dealing with an aggregation of hundreds or thousands of patches of oil that are going a lot of different directions."

He added, "We've had to adapt and we need to adapt to be able to meet that threat."

Allen said the Coast Guard is shifting some of its skimming assets, boats equipped to scoop up the oil from the surface, from Louisiana to Alabama in an effort to deal with the patches of oil while they remain roughly 50 miles from the shore.

"This is an adaptation to the changing characteristics of the spill, which is no longer a single spill but a massive collection of smaller spills moving forward," he said. "What is becoming critical, in the near future we'll be able to get skimming capability offshore and be able to work those small patches."

The good news, Allen said, is that such smaller patches are allowing for the expanded use of "vessels of opportunity" - local fishing and work boats whose crews have been trained and equipped to assist in the skimming operations.

"Between Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, right now we have about 1,500 vessels of opportunities where we've certified the crews and put them out there," he said. "What we now have is an opportunity to match vessels of opportunity with skimmers."

"We have over 100 large vessels that are skimming offshore in and around the surface area above the well," he said. "What we want to do is take this down to a slightly lower level -- smaller skimmers and smaller vessels that can work in the harbors and the bays up to 50 miles offshore."

However, the newly separated oil patches make it more difficult for the Coast Guard to deploy booms to prevent the oil from coming ashore, on top of weather conditions that can defeat their efforts.

"Boom is not a silver bullet against oil," he said. "I think we have to deal with the reality that no matter how much boom we have out there, that this aggregation of this slick is going to cause oil to come ashore from time to time."

He added, "The question for us and the challenge for us is get quicker and agile where smaller units can get to back-bay shallow areas, and work offshore to find smaller patches of oil and deal with them as quickly as we can moving forward." [...]
Okay; here are more excerpts from the 'raw' transcript; the transcript website has more of the show's interviews regarding the oil spill, including the interview with Edward James Olmos and survivor(s) of the BP oil rig explosion:

There's a group called america's wetland.

00:03:31 And people are wondering, when will bp give money to the wetlands?

00:03:34 We're looking for $1 billion, not six berms from the fourth largest company in the world.

00:03:40 $1 Billion to refix the wetlands that are being destroyed by the oil.

00:03:44 And when you heard president obama today, how could he not erupt like that?

00:03:51 Because the more you learn the facts about this company just cutting corners on environmental safety and allowing this to happen, your impatience can't be there anymore, but you are starting to see bp even this many days later getting a little bit into stride and doing some of the symbolic and important things like you just heard in the gulf south.

In terms of bp, if they lifted this liability cap, there's some who say, look, this is not a good idea because it's going to make it difficult for oil companies, give them incentive to leave.

But in terms of this bill, getting bp to, under law, pay more than $75 billion to be a huge thing.


00:04:30 It should be done.

00:04:34 The president's doing a right thing.

00:04:37 This is going to cost a lot more than $75 million.

00:04:40 Today was a big move.

[Skip part of transcript featured above]

00:05:26 More with billy and doug in just a moment.

00:05:30 We've got to take a quick break.

00:05:31 The live chat and up and running at ac360.com.

00:05:34 >>> Also, my day with edward james olmos out on the water.

00:05:36 His opinion.

00:05:37 Also new evidence to show you about those underwater plumes, the one that bp doubted for weeks.

[Ad Break]
00:09:52 >>> We're back talking about bp accountability, the white house and the breaking news tonight.

00:09:55 The administration fully supporting legislation removing that $75 million cap on liability payments for oil spills.

00:09:59 Joining me again, billy nungesser here with me and douglas brinkley in austin.

00:10:02 Billy, you met with bob dudley today, basically the new face of bp trying to confront this spill.

00:10:06 And you said to him that you needed more skimmers out there on the water.

00:10:09 And you put in basically a lot of requests to them.

00:10:12 >> We told them -- we put a lot of requests in for the suction equipment.

00:10:16 We showed it works.

00:10:18 The skimmers, we saw none out there today.

00:10:20 He saw the miles and miles of oil.

00:10:23 The thick stuff.

00:10:26 He saw the stuff that was in patches, tar balls, all over the water.

00:10:30 And we looked around, and there were no skimmers.

00:10:33 So we ordered 100 skimmers, and we turned in the request to put those skimmers on shrimp boats and let them go out and start attacking this oil.

00:10:41 >> You also said there's not enough resources being deployed to pick up these birds, pick up these animals covered in oil.

00:10:51 >> We've asked bp to make the contractor they hired, train 20 of our boat captains tomorrow.

00:10:58 >> So they have a contractor who they're paying, and only that contractor -- >> absolutely.

00:11:03 >> -- Can go out with wildlife people to pick them up.

00:11:06 >> Exactly.

00:11:07 We need to give them a course.

00:11:08 We had, last night, one of the boat captains brought in two pelicans, held them in his arms, while his wife drove him down there to turn these pelicans in.

00:11:15 He said, billy, I couldn't leave them out there.

00:11:17 They were dying.

00:11:18 The boats we saw coming back with pelicans in dog cages today, they put their hands up and said, billy, get us some help.

00:11:24 We're leaving birds out there that we should be bringing in.

00:11:26 We shouldn't let them wait till tomorrow.

00:11:28 They won't live.

00:11:29 So we've got to have more people out rescuing these animals.

00:11:31 >> It's pretty basic training, too.

00:11:33 I mean, I've seen them go out there withs and stuff.

00:11:36 They're basically grabbing birds.

00:11:38 >> Most of them can't fly, can't get away.

00:11:40 The ones we're talking about, if you don't get them in right away, they're going to die.

00:11:43 So we'd rather have someone untrained take that bird and give it a chance of living than say we can't do it because we have professionals doing it, that's absurd.

00:11:49 >> Doug, this bizarre situation, this entire disaster, I've never been in one in which a private company is essentially, I mean, government says they're the ones calling the shots.

00:11:56 A private company is sort of the -- I don't know, the sieve through which all this has to go.

00:12:01 So if you want to get more people out on the water rescuing birds, you can't just do it because there's a contractor who's being paid by bp.

00:12:08 That's what's been so frustrating, and I think the president's starting to change that paradigm.

00:12:14 He's making it very clear that the united states is in charge of this, that bp's going to do what we tell them to do, that they're going to pay.

00:12:21 And I think it's been -- the reason is that the president keeps getting information, and everywhere he works, whether it's from congressman markey, information coming in, or whether it's reports in "the wall street journal" or "new york times," this company seems to have lied numerous times to their safety record was a disaster coming into this.

00:12:42 And the obama administration, rightfully, did a couple of quick things that they probably haven't got enough credit for, the moratorium.

00:12:48 You cannot start doing well digging while this is going to be gushing for the next three or four months.

00:12:57 And number two, be cleaning house at MMS.

00:13:00 Now once he sent eric holder down to new orleans and the president made his third visit, you're starting to feel now that the administration is ready to really go after bp here.

00:13:10 They're getting enough information to realize what this company has done to that region.

00:13:16 And, again, it's not about getting a little bit of things.

00:13:20 People begging to bp for something.

00:13:24 This company should be paying $1 billion to refurbish louisiana's wetlands in the coming years.

00:13:28 And we don't need to sue them.

00:13:29 It doesn't have to wait for courts.

00:13:30 The "exxon valdez" took about a decade or 15 years.

00:13:32 That louisiana wetlands can't wait for that.

00:13:35 If this company wants to spend money on commercials, nobody's going to pay attention.

00:13:37 $1 Billion, people will feel that the company is feeling sorry for what they've done to this region.

00:13:59 >> Obviously, the moratorium on offshore drilling is very controversial down here.

00:14:03 A lot of people very concerned.

00:14:05 The governor wrote a letter to the president, concerned of the impact it's going to have on jobs.

00:14:11 What are you hearing from fishermen in terms of payment?

00:14:16 They said they've sent out a second round of these $5,000 checks.

00:14:20 There seems to be a disconnect of what I've been hearing from fishermen who, say, I can make $5,000 in a good shrimping day, it's now been two months and, you know -- >> bp has said they'll get that second check this week or next week.

00:14:34 And then they will have claims people on the ground to make everybody whole before the next monthly check is due.

00:14:40 And we've got to hold their feet to the fire.

00:14:44 And as he was saying a minute ago, the president did say in the last visit that he doesn't care who the contractor is.

00:14:52 If we've got equipment that can go to working, he wants it in the water working.

00:14:54 And so I think that's why we're turning all this -- we're finding equipment all over that we didn't know was available.

00:14:58 We're putting it in.

00:14:59 We want bp to pay for it.

00:15:03 We don't care who it works for.

00:15:04 We want it getting oil out of the marsh.

00:15:08 >> Billy nungesser.

00:15:10 Billy has oil-covered boots.

00:15:11 You've been out on the water all day, haven't you?

00:15:12 >> Yes, sir.

00:15:13 >> Appreciate it.

00:15:13 Talk to you again tomorrow night.
[Begin discussion with tom Foreman]

00:15:14 >>> The oil coming ashore, the oil droplets suspended in water, traveling these vast undersea plumes.

00:15:21 Now, until recently, bp wanted to see evidence that they even existed.

00:15:26 They denied that they existed.

00:15:27 Tonight the evidence is coming in.

00:15:30 And tom foreman has it.

00:15:31 Tom?

00:15:31 >> Hey, anderson.

00:15:32 A university of south florida researcher now says he has smoking-gun proof a chemical match between these plumes and the bp spill.

00:15:40 After extensive testing all around the gulf, taking about 130 water samples with these robots, all the way from the top down to two miles below, those researchers say this middle part of the water here, in some places, is filled with microscopic drops of oil.

00:15:54 Can't see them, but they can be chemically detected.

00:15:58 And as those robots passed through, they picked up this signature.

00:16:05 These droplets are believed to be the remnants of the oil that bp pounded with dispersants.

00:16:07 So yes, many, many barrels of oil were dispersed.

00:16:10 But they did not go away.

00:16:11 And bp now says it's looking into this information, anderson.

00:16:16 >> So where are these plumes, and how big are they?

00:16:21 >> Well, that's a good question, anderson.

00:16:25 The simple truth is, when they first found them here, let me move this one aside, the first was last month.

00:16:31 They found it generally in this area.

00:16:34 Now they found another one over in this area.

00:16:39 It's kind of hard for them to put a handle on exactly how big they are because these things, as I say, can only be detected chemically.

00:16:59 One of the concerns is this, the loop current.

00:17:05 You see it running right through here?

00:17:07 This little current right here, one of the concerns is that it will pick this up and carry it all the way up here into the east coast.

00:17:14 Both the surface spill and the subsurface spill.

00:17:16 But there's also some deepwater currents here.

00:17:17 And there's a concern about that because that could carry it this way, particularly those deep clouds of oil over here into this.

00:17:21 Remember, they're invisible clouds.

00:17:23 You can't see them.

00:17:24 But all these microfine droplets, these are all undersea, very deepsea coral colonies, anderson.

00:17:30 So a lot of concern about that.

00:17:33 >> [ANDERSON] Let me inject a note of skepticism.

00:17:37 If we're talking about oil drops so fine you can't even see them, how much danger do they pose?

00:17:41 >> Researchers, anderson, say this really is a case of uncharted water.

00:17:43 They've never dealt with anything quite like this.

00:17:44 In the worst case, what you're talking about is something where these clouds kill off microscopic organisms that feed crabs and they feed shrimp, and that filters up into grouper and amber jack and all the way into the sea birds up above.

00:17:50 So the whole food chain gets affected in the worst-case scenario.

00:17:52 In the best case, bacteria keeps eating these fine droplets until they are gone, maybe not so much damage.

00:17:58 But with no real handle with how much oil is in this cloudlike state, because we've never had a street read from bp on exactly how much oil is coming out, the danger level is anyone's guess.

00:18:11 >> All right.

00:18:12 Tom, appreciate it.

00:18:13 As always.

00:18:14 Should point out, we invited bp executives to come on the program again tonight.

00:18:19 They, of course, said no.


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