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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Congress Releases BP Documents; Gulf Wildlife in Danger; Culprits of the Catastrophe; BP Orders Costner's Cleaning Machines
Aired June 14, 2010 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: 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 some 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 is 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 see 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 isn't keeping track of days. It's not keeping track of the weeks. This oil, this crude, is relentless.
And it is 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'll 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've 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 of 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'll probably be fine."
"Who cares. We'll 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: In 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 that 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, BP RIG EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: Time and money, in all honesty. 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've got to work with them.
COOPER: And you've got to interact with them every day.
NUNGESSER: We were there all day 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've 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, with 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 boats decided it was better to get it out of those critical areas.
So, they took a wet vac off of the jack-up boat 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've 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 disappointed with 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 --
NUNGESSER: -- skimmers --
COOPER: Skimmer boats maybe 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'll consider it, that's not my job to ask him. It's his job to deploy everything physically possible to --
NUNGESSER: -- to fight this oil offshore.
COOPER: We're going to talk to Kevin Costner actually just a little bit later on in the program, because he's actually got 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's under way. We'll 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. Now, 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 have 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've 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 us decide. Let's take control of the situation. We -- we can't leave it in BP's hands anymore.
We've 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'll talk to Ed Henry about what's 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'll 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 is 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, have 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.
COOPER: What -- 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. That gives you an idea of how frustrated people are --
HENRY: -- with BP, that they're actually praising FEMA.
HENRY: -- and saying, bring them in, they will do a better job -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes and that certainly resonates here. I mean, FEMA was a dirty word for a long 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 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 --
NUNGESSER: Well, I 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 which 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 then 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 playing -- 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 Britain 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. I 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?
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 sitting in the marsh, the birds -- 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.
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 man, 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 are 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, oiled 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 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 lower 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 as it gets incredibly hot here, that's even worse for birds.
WHEELAN: Absolutely. I mean, the heat index is such that rescuers or the cleanup crews can't even work. So, these birds that are mired in oil can't thermo-regulate, because 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 seemed 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, 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 that's 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 of 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 spokesmen 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 the 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 Lord 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 the 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.
(END VIDEOTAPE) 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 er look for answers to the top questions of just what caused this catastrophe.
As 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 up in a moment.
COOPER: Well, 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, multimillions 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 of 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 (ph). 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 it takes something like this to happen where -- you know, now, we're all pointed at it, and, you know, like -- the gut 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 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 appreciated 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 into 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: We'll have more from the Gulf ahead.
Plus a unique approach to farming in New York City. That's right, farming amid skyscrapers; it's our one simple thing report when we continue.
COOPER: Tonight's "One Simple Thing." Urban agriculture, this is no ordinary community garden. As you'll see, going green in New York City is going above and beyond. Here's Allan Chernoff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's 7:00 a.m., farmer Annie Novak is tending to her crop on a rooftop in Brooklyn.
Novak is a founding farmer of Eagle Street Rooftop Farms, an 6,000 square foot organic vegetable farm unlike any farm you've seen it.
ANNIE NOVAK, FOUNDER, EAGLE STREET ROOFTOP FARMS: First and foremost, it's a green roof. And that in a city like New York is really important because of our issues with storm water runoff. The fact that this green roof can capture up to two inches of rain every time that there's a storm is really crucial. And I think the city could use more green roofs like that.
CHERNOFF: In it's first season, the farm yielded over 30 different varieties of crops. The produce feed members of its community-supported agriculture program, farmer's market, as well as local restaurants.
NOVAK: No eggs? These guys are total freeloaders.
CHERNOFF: This year, Novak introduced a chicken coop to combat a problem with rooftop farming, the lack of rich nutrients.
NOVAK: This coop is a chicken tractor, so it rolls up and down the road. And it has a mesh bottom, so that as the birds do their thing it is fertilizing the crops. They better start laying more eggs soon, that's all I know. Or they're out.
CHERNOFF: Novak is not only a farmer, but also an educator.
NOVAK: Compost is not just soil, it's also full of micro organisms.
CHERNOFF: Last year alone, the farm hosted over 30 different schools and groups to learn the benefits of rooftop farming for both the environment and community.
NOVAK: I can tell what time of year it is and where the bees have been.
CHERNOFF: Novak is also a certified bee keeper. Her hives of domesticated Italian bees produce rooftop honey.
NOVAK: Just getting kids and organizations involved in growing their own food is as simple as having soil and a seed.
CHERNOFF: From farmer to teacher to bee keeper to businesswoman. Novak likes to keep a carbon neutral footprint. Selling her produce to local area restaurants.
NOVAK: Morning pick of the day. Chard, kale, tarragon and radishes.
SEAN REMBOLD, CHEF, MARLOW & SONS: It comes down to being friends and knowing the people that are growing our vegetables. And our customers in these restaurants, being friends with us and knowing who's cooking their food.
You can still often feel the sun's warmth in the leaves. It's pretty exciting.
CHERNOFF: For Novak, it's about planting a seed of knowledge.
Allan Chernoff, CNN, Brooklyn, New York.
COOPER: Wow. That's pretty cool.
That does it for 360. Thanks for watching.
"LARRY KING" starts right now.
I'll see you tomorrow from the Gulf.