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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Oil Disaster Day 71; Tropical Storm Set to Impact Gulf

Aired June 29, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight: Are efforts to skim the oil being snarled by government red tape, or is BP trying to slow the skimming and disperse the oil instead to limit its liability? Allegations tonight of both tonight.

We are here at the Audubon Aquatic Center sea turtle rehabilitation program. They have got a dolphin here, and they have got sea turtles, more than 100 sea turtles. We will show you how those sea turtles are being treated, how their lives are being saved, the oil cleaned off, and what's going to happen to them once this disaster is finally over. We will have that later in the program.

This is day 71, the oil still gushing into the Gulf, still flooding ashore, Tropical Storm Alex churning the waters, making them too rough to skim for oil.

The Coast Guard today ordering those skimmers, those boats specially designed to collect oil off the surface, skimming it off the surface, ordering those boats back into port until the sea calms down. The fact is, you don't need a tropical storm to stymie the skimming.

Long before the wind picked up here, it was already tangled in red tape. We are "Keeping Them Honest" -- people down here demanding to know, where is the sense of urgency? I mean, we saw the exact same thing during Katrina, emergency work hampered by people operating from the non-emergency rule books, rules that maybe made sense or might make sense or could have made sense in normal times that seem to make no sense now.

Take these skimmers, for instance. There are 433 of them, according to "The Times Picayune," the local paper in New Orleans. According to the paper, there are more than 1,600 skimmers available elsewhere in the continental United States.

They need every skimmer they can get down here, so why not use some of those? Well, it turns out the 1990 Oil Pollution Act requires many of them to be standing by in case of other spills elsewhere. But you would probably say, well, look, the nation's worst environmental disaster is unfolding right here right now.

And what does the federal government say to that? Well, not much. Admiral Thad Allen, last week, morning than two months into the disaster, saying that working around the 1990 law is -- and I quote -- "a work in progress."

Is that what you would say if this country is being attacked? Meantime, new waves of oil hitting the shore in Mississippi and Florida, new beach closings in both states, and officials closing the inlet into Pensacola Bay, as a six-square-mile sheet of thick reddish oil patches getting closer. So, what about foreign countries offering up their skimming vessels?

Well, it turns out there's a law against that, too, the Jones Act of 1920, intended to prevent foreign ships from taking part in American domestic trade, taking cargo from one American port to the other. The law being interpreted to mean that foreign skimmers cannot pick up oil within three miles of shore, because that's considered a port and dump it -- a port onshore.

As of last week, six vessels have applied for waivers to the Jones Act. None has been granted. Other foreign skimmers are working outside the three-mile limit, kept out by red tape. But are they also being stopped by BP to hide the true size of the spill?

Tomorrow, a Dallas investment banker is scheduled to testify before a Senate committee. His name is Fred McCallister. He's from a company called Allegiance Capital. He says he's been trying to broker a deal with BP to bring 12 large skimmers from Greece. He made the offer two weeks ago, first believed BP didn't respond because of the Jones Act. Now he's questioning BP's motive, and he's expected to tell the Senate committee tomorrow that BP is trying to disperse and sink the oil, instead of skimming, to serve -- his words -- its own financial interests.

Fred McCallister joins us now.

Fred, why do you think that BP would prefer to use dispersants over skimmers?


The issue that BP is facing right now is whether to use what's practices that are normal around the world, which is to try to cause the oil to come to the surface, and then deploy the right amount of equipment and the right type of equipment to gather that oil up and get it out of the Gulf.

Using the dispersants allows the oil to stay under the surface, and this accomplishes several purposes. It allows the -- it makes it a lot more difficult to quantify the amount of oil that's coming out, which has a direct impact on damages and royalties that have to be paid.

It keeps it out of sight and out of mind. And it allows BP to amortize the cost of the cleanup over several years, 10 to 15 years, because some of this oil is going to biodegrade, but a lot of that oil is going to roll up on the beaches for 10 or 15 years.

And if they can amortize that over 10 or 15 years,as opposed to dealing with that over the next 15 months, that's a much better financial position for BP to be in. COOPER: Well, let's be clear, though. The EPA has sanctioned the use of dispersants on the spill. Dispersants are generally less harmful, they say, and toxic than the oil itself. But you say it's really about BP's financial interests?

MCCALLISTER: Well, it's about -- well, in terms of environmental impact, it's about getting the oil to the surface and getting it out of the water. That's the best solution, bar none.

And I understand that the EPA has sanctioned the use of these dispersants, but I also believe that BP is in control of this situation. And they're doing what's in the best interest of BP and their shareholders.

No one wants BP to fail, trust me. I don't want BP to fail. It's in the best interests of the country and everybody in the Gulf region. I happen to be from that region. I have family there. I have property there. I want BP to succeed.

COOPER: But do you have any direct evidence, though, that what you're saying, what you believe is true is actually true? I mean, do you have any evidence that BP is basically using these dispersants to keep the oil from not coming to the surface for financial motives, and not using these skimmers?

MCCALLISTER: I -- I have been working on this project of trying to get these skimmers into the Gulf for over a month now.

Everybody in Europe, where standard practice is to raise the oil and to collect it, is scratching their heads and, quite honestly, laughing at what's happening in the Gulf. This is -- and I have educated myself over the last month, as I have gone through this process of trying to get these skimmers here, because it seems self- evident that these skimmers were needed.

People like Billy Nungesser down there are using makeshift equipment. And so I began to educate myself. And what I have learned is that everybody is looking at us and wondering why we're allowing this to happen.

And, as a businessman, the only answer I could come up with is, what are the motivations for not dealing with this issue head-on, raising the oil, and collecting it with the skimmers? And the only answer is the financial interest of BP.

I don't -- I don't see any other reason that it should be handled the way that it's handled.

COOPER: I mean, the other alternative could be, A, that they believe in the dispersants or don't believe in the skimmers, or, B, that they're simply incompetent or just not doing a very good job.

MCCALLISTER: Well, Anderson, it's a grand experiment on an unprecedented scale.

And, unfortunately, I don't know that we're going -- you and I are going to know the results of this experiment until we get 20 years down the road. I think we know what the result would be if we put an armada of vehicles -- vessels out there and gathered the oil off the surface and took it out of the Gulf.

We know what would result from that. We don't know what's going to result from emulsifying this oil into the Gulf, what's happening under the surface to the marine life, and what the long-term effects are going to be.


Well, I should point out, as we always do, we invited BP to be on the program tonight to defend themselves, basically, and show their side of the story. They declined that. In particular, in response to this, they said they wouldn't have any response to your allegations.

Mr. McCallister, I appreciate you being on with us tonight. Our invitation stands, as always, to BP to come on.


COOPER: More now on the skimmer shortage and the red tape angle. I talked about it just a short while ago with political contributor James Carville and the president of Plaquemines Parish, Billy Nungesser.


COOPER: Billy, does this make any sense to you? Seventy-one days into this thing, and they're still in need of skimmers to -- to -- to pick this oil up?

BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: You know, it's beside -- how do you say we're at war, and we're still piecemealing this thing one skimmer at a time, two skimmers at a time? Maybe we will set aside the Jones Act. Maybe it doesn't have to be set aside.

It seems, by now, we should have a clear picture of where all the equipment is and have it all deployed. The oil still has not stopped. What do we not get here? I mean, the men and women on the ground in Plaquemines are working hard.

Coast Guard, BP, we're making progress. We're not there, but we're making progress. But the support from above is not there. This equipment is still being piecemealed. We still are having trouble getting equipment approved through the process.

COOPER: Shell Oil apparently has offered up this huge vessel that they have. And, basically, BP said no thanks, and it's still just been sitting in a dock.

NUNGESSER: There's many vessels all over, German. There's Australia. There's Dutch equipment. All these skimmers all over the world, some that can go down and get these -- this oil beneath the surface, and yet none of it has been deployed. JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it strikes me that the president said in a speech -- I was glad to see it, because of the language he used -- we're being invaded. This is -- but the heck with the oil spill act of 1990.

And they're governed by that and they're governed by something else. Go to Congress, get them to change it. They went in 1:30 in the morning for Terri Schiavo. They changed it like that. It's not -- this no one envisioned this.

So, if the statutes we have now are inadequate to deal with this, have something amended. And it's not the -- the Coast Guard would tell you, we're in compliance with this statute and this person is in compliance with that statute.

And I think the president -- I have always thought from the get- go that this is an extraordinary event, a catastrophe of the first magnitude. I still think that we haven't gotten the whole truth as to how bad this is. And I just think that we're operating under a 1990 statute that's not appropriate to the gravity of the situation we're in.

COOPER: It does seem that people use that rhetoric of fighting a war, but, I mean, honestly, if a war was fought the way this is being fought, the country would be...

NUNGESSER: We would be occupied territory.

COOPER: ... completely...

CARVILLE: Maybe we are in Afghanistan.


NUNGESSER: You know, when you talk about the dispersants, and if we let it come to the top, it would be ugly, if equipment like this, one that is sitting up in -- the largest skimmer in the world...

COOPER: Right. There's this huge supertanker now which can apparently suck up -- I mean, they claim can suck up hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil.

NUNGESSER: And there's no sense of urgency to get it to work. If we brought all that kind of equipment and put it out there, and this oil is light, and we quite spraying the dispersants, let it come to the surface, and surround it with all these fleets from all over the world, we could be kicking butt, as the president says, out there, before it comes ashore underneath the surface.

COOPER: You saw Vice President Biden today. How did that go?

NUNGESSER: Well, I was disappointed.

We waited with the other parish presidents a little over three hours. He walked in, took a picture, and was on his way. I got 30 seconds with him. And I thought we were going to sit down and have a meeting. I brought a book of stuff to discuss.

COOPER: You actually brought a book of stuff that you wanted to discuss with the vice president?


NUNGESSER: Well, I wanted to show him my five-point plan, why the berms are important, why we have to have a long-term plan. If the oil is going to be out there two to three years, we have got to control our destiny.

We have got to clean it up inside and we have to have a long-term plan to keep it out. And we're fighting to get that approved. So, I had that plan to give him. I did give him the book. But I said, listen, tell the president it's not too late.

But if we don't make some serious changes and a sense of urgency does not take hold here, we will lose this war, and it will be his fault.

COOPER: We have got to take a quick break. Will have more with you guys in just a minute.


COOPER: In the meantime, let us know what you think. You can join the live chat right now at

I just want to remind you, we're at the Audubon Aquatic Center sea turtle rehabilitation program. They're really doing remarkable work here, trying to save the lives of sea turtles. They have more than 100 of them here that they have found covered in oil. Here's one of them. It's actually kind of just resting here. We will have a lot more about what they're doing to take the oil off these turtles and one day hopefully re-release them into the wild.

Also ahead tonight: BP's so-called reporters on their blog. They always seem to find the silver lining in this disaster. They have even been getting some of the people around here to talk and be quoted in their stories.

The question we had is, are they cherry-picking quotes and taking what people say out of context to make the company look better? We asked one of the folks they spoke to, "Keeping Them Honest."

And later: Chad Myers on Tropical Storm Alex, where it's heading, how soon it's likely to become a hurricane, and what impact it's already having here.


COOPER: BP is spending $50 million on a public relations campaign. The company also devotes a big portion of its Web site to P.R., which, of course, it has every right to do, except it's kind of dressing it up as journalism and calling the people doing it reporters. We showed you some examples last night, BP's so-called reporters talking to people who had either positive or at least very understanding things to say about the company. Again, it's their right.

Today, though, we located one of the people who was quoted to see what they had to say now.

Randi Kaye tonight is "Keeping Them Honest."


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the managing editor of the "Lafourche Gazette" newspaper in Larose, Louisiana, Vicki Chaisson knows a thing or two about journalism. So, when a BP employee showed up unannounced to interview her on May 21 at her office, she realized right away, she says, he had an agenda.

VICKI CHAISSON, MANAGING EDITOR, "LAFOURCHE GAZETTE": I think what he did was try to come in here and get something positive.

KAYE (on camera): What kinds of questions did he ask you?

CHAISSON: What he wanted to know was how people's reaction was to BP. In other words, I got the impression he wanted to know if everybody thought BP was the bad guy.

KAYE (voice-over): Her answer at the time was that people were looking for someone to blame, and BP was it, hardly a blistering critique.

Days later, her interview was posted here on BP's Web site, among their "Blogs From the Gulf" in the BP newsletter.

(on camera): It turns out BP has dispatched two employees to the Gulf who call themselves, according to their blogs, BP reporters. But their reporting looks nothing like our reporting or the rest of the media's reporting. It's far more positive.

(voice-over): Check out this blog by BP reporter Tom Seslar, the same guy who interviewed Vicki Chaisson. Here, he interviewed a family in the seafood business, who says -- quote -- "There is no reason to hate BP, and, "The oil spill was an accident," this from folks in the seafood business, which has been destroyed by the BP spill.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There isn't one person in America who is going to be fooled by this propaganda campaign. The reporting has been so positive, that you would think that they were on BP's payroll. Oh, that's right; they are on BP's payroll. Maybe that explains it.

KAYE: But wait; there's more. A blog from May 28 by another BP reporter about the cleanup efforts on the water describes it as -- quote -- "a ballet at sea, as mesmerizing as any performance in a concert hall, and worthy of an audience in its own right." And, with tourism in trouble, how's this? A May 24 blog: "Much of the region's other businesses, particularly the hotels, have been prospering, because so many people have come here from BP and other oil emergency response teams."

Wait. So, BP is helping tourism?

CHAISSON: He's not over here to publish the negative stuff. He wants the positive stuff. And there's not a whole lot that's positive. If he would come in today and do the interview, ooh, I don't know that he would want to publish it.

KAYE: "Keeping Them Honest," we asked BP about these so-called reporters. A spokesman told us -- quote -- "These articles are intended to provide our readers with coverage about our response efforts."

BP says it's offering stories about the response -- quote -- "that are generally not covered by mainstream media, by major cable networks, or by CNN."

BP also says -- quote -- "Many of our employees are putting their hearts and souls into this response. Telling these stories is one way we are recognizing their efforts."

CHAISSON: You know, there's just been so much printed and so much that's come to light since then that no one is trusting whatever BP says at this point. No one is.

KAYE: Especially not Vicki Chaisson anymore, who, 10 days after her interview with BP, wrote a negative editorial about the company. Comments like those, she believes, would have been edited out by the BP reporter who interviewed her.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New Orleans.


COOPER: I talked about this earlier with James Carville and Billy Nungesser.


COOPER: So, BP is sending their own -- own employees out, their own -- quote, unquote -- "reporters" to kind of -- to blog and explain the situation as they see.

One of their reporters described the cleanup effort that they witnessed on the water as -- quote -- "a ballet at sea, as mesmerizing as any performance in a concert hall, and worthy of an audience in its own right."

It's certainly not exactly hard-hitting.

NUNGESSER: I don't know where they were. They might have been downtown New York, but they wasn't at Pass a Loutre, Bay Jimmy, or Barataria Bay, Cat Island.

We are still getting killed by the oil out there.

COOPER: The -- I mean, for 70-some odd days now, I have been kind of, I guess, complaining or pointing out the lack of transparency that BP has, even though they had promised transparency.

It doesn't seem like -- I mean, that still seems a major issue that no one else seems to be as concerned about as we have talked about.

CARVILLE: But they can't be, because they have an obligation to their shareholders, just like they can't be transparent about the flow.

We discussed this last night. When the guy says, well, we don't -- it's irrelevant to us what the flow is, you have to pay probably, maybe $4,000 a barrel for the flow. And so they're -- you can't -- you can't believe anything that they say, because they have an obligation to their shareholders.

COOPER: But isn't their obligation to their shareholders to be transparent, to let their shareholders know what's going on, just as they should let everybody else know what is going on?

CARVILLE: I think -- I'm afraid if their shareholders -- I don't -- I think this thing -- like I said, my own view -- and I hope I'm wrong -- but has been from the get-go, this is a catastrophe of the first magnitude.

And, in that war room, in that place in Houston, the night that -- on April 20, they thought this thing was 100,000 barrels a day. I still believe that's going to be the case. I think that's how much oil is coming out...


NUNGESSER: You know, instead of hiring P.R. people to talk about ballets on the water, if we just do the right thing, sit down and deploy every piece of equipment, there's something to hang your hat on.

Look in the camera and say, we're doing everything feasibly possible to save coastal Louisiana, to contain this oil, to pick it up, to make this wrong right. There's your P.R. But don't just say it. Go out there and do it, and the P.R. will take care of itself.

CARVILLE: And we have got to remember, too, is, there are people who are literally working 100 hours a week here. And they're working hard, people in the Coast Guard, people -- I suspect that even -- but to make all of this bunk, they just lose anything that they could have. And I'm sure that they...

COOPER: Well, I think -- I mean, frankly, I think that BP management has done a poor job of representing their own employees, because I have no doubt their own employees are working around the clock. I have no doubt the engineers, the people working those...

NUNGESSER: Absolutely.

COOPER: ... submersible vehicles are working round the clock, not eating well. I mean, I have no doubt that their lives have been destroyed and they're trying everything they can. But that story is not getting out, because they don't want -- they're not allowing anybody to see it.


CARVILLE: But they -- but they put this bunk out, instead of like these guys that are drilling this relief well. Obviously, if they're closer than we thought -- these guys are working hard. They're away from their families.

And you're exactly right. And the management, by sending this guy talking about some symphony on the water and the thing to behold or something like that, if he would have like profiled people or talk about, you know, what it's like for...


COOPER: Yes, or actually even let real reporters out to see it, you know, and to talk to these people freely to see who is controlling the remote-controlled vehicles...


COOPER: ... to even narrate during these operations what is actually going on. That, to me, I find stunning, the fact that they will not even narrate, like NASA does during a space launch, what is actually happening underwater.

CARVILLE: The reason that they don't let you out there is one word. And it not plastic. It's lawyers. They do not move unless some lawyer in Houston or Washington or London tells them what to do.

And that lawyer is saying the last thing that you're going to do is have Anderson Cooper anywhere around anybody or anything to do with BP, because they will have all that tape. It will come into court. And you -- just like when Tony Hayward went before the Congress to testify. He was so lawyered up. He was so shot up with tranquilizers or God know whatnot, so told not to say anything...



CARVILLE: Whatever they put in him. The poor man couldn't -- he couldn't -- he couldn't have a thought.


CARVILLE: And that's the nature of what happened here. They're so lawyered up, they can't see straight. COOPER: James Carville, Billy Nungesser, thanks.


COOPER: Well, just ahead tonight: new updates on Alex, the tropical storm that's already making it too choppy to skim oil. They have had to bring the boats back, could end up driving a lot more oil on to the shore. That is the big fear here right now. We will have more of that coming up.

Up next: caring for hard-shelled creatures, a lot of sea turtles here that are a lot more delicate than they look. How they are being saved right here where we are, we will show you ahead.


COOPER: We're coming to you tonight from the Audubon Aquatic Center outside New Orleans.

Now, even before the oil disaster hit, sea turtles in the Gulf had a big -- their own share of trouble. Some were already on the endangered species list. And now, with this spill, a turtle rescue is under way, and a good chunk of the work is being done right here.

I got a tour just a short time ago from Dr. Robert MacLean.


DR. ROBERT MACLEAN, AUDUBON AQUATIC CENTER: One of the most endangered turtles we have here. About two-thirds of our turtles we have gotten into the center have been Kemp's Ridley turtles.

COOPER: And this turtle was, what, covered in oil?

MACLEAN: Yes. It came in about 15 days ago. And, normally, they're -- when we get them when they're covered with oil, they have oil all around their skin. They tend to wash them in the feet a little bit for us.

So, they're a little cleaner here. But all in their (INAUDIBLE) area, and everywhere, just covered in oil.

COOPER: Does the oil actually get underneath the shell?

MACLEAN: No, it doesn't get under the shell because the skin meets tightly here.

COOPER: Oh, yes, it meets. OK.

MACLEAN: Yes. But it's all in their mouth. It's in their nares. And it's down their esophagus, so we know they have ingested the oil.

COOPER: What kind of effect does -- if the turtle has ingested oil, what -- I mean, will that kill it?

MACLEAN: Well, we didn't know when we first got them. And we still really don't know, but they seem to be doing very well.

Most of them are responding quickly to fluid therapy. We're giving them antibiotics, vitamins. And we're feeding them mayonnaise to help move that oil.

COOPER: Mayonnaise?

MACLEAN: Yes. Mayonnaise and oil mixture...

COOPER: Wow. Who knew.

MACLEAN: ... to help get the oil out of their system.


COOPER: What are you going to do now?

MACLEAN: Well, this one just needs a quick recheck. We're going to weigh it, check its I.D. It has a PIT tag microchip in it. And then it's due for an antibiotic shot.


MACLEAN: And they do get a little more active when you handle them, you can see.

So, Michele, we have 1.8 kilograms. And that's what this one has been, which is good. So, we're just going to -- I'm going to pull out antibiotics -- antibiotics.

COOPER: And the antibiotic is for what?

MACLEAN: It's basically to cover what we're -- we're worried about the oil causing some G.I. damage. So, we're covering for that. That's a gastrointestinal injury. But, also, we don't know if they have inhaled any of the oil and might have lung damage. So, it's just basically prophylaxis, trying to cover them. And they get this about once every three days.

COOPER: Do you think this turtle, though, will make it?

MACLEAN: Yes, this one seems to be doing quite well. And most of them, like I said, seem to respond very well to just basic supportive care that we're giving them and seem to be behaving, eating, and defecating like normal turtles.


COOPER: And I'm joined now by Michele Kelley, who is with the Audubon Aquatic Center.

Thanks very much.

So, there's -- all of these drums each have one turtle in it, right?


COOPER: And you have about 105 you've rescued?

KELLEY: We have 105 -- 101 of them are oiled.

COOPER: OK. So, what kind of turtle is this?

KELLEY: This is a Kemp's Ridley. This is the one that we have the greatest number of.

So, we have 73 in-house Kemp's Ridley. And then the rest of our turtles make up of green sea turtles, hawksbills, and loggerheads. But this is the one that is also critically endangered, by the way.

COOPER: This is critically endangered?

KELLEY: Yes, it is.

COOPER: So -- so they respond pretty well, though, once they're actually here?

KELLEY: Yes, yes. Thankfully, we've had a really good success rate with these animals and being able to get them cleaned up. And you can start to see the underbelly now.

But when they come in, they are covered in oil, all in the folds of the skin, all in the neck.

COOPER: And it gets in -- it gets in their mouths; it gets in their eyes?

KELLEY: Yes, yes, because they eat a lot of prey that's already been covered in oil. It actually goes all the way down to their esophagus.

COOPER: In terms of re-releasing these, at this point, it's a very difficult situation.

KELLEY: It really is, especially with the Kemps-Ridley. The Kemps-Ridley is the only sea turtle that nests in only one area in the world. And it nests along the coast of Mexico and partially the Texas coast, as well. But that's it.

COOPER: Right.

KELLEY: They don't nest anywhere else in the world. So -- and guess what season it is right now? It's nesting season.

COOPER: Right, right.

KELLEY: So they're swimming across the Gulf. If we release them right now, the mechanism in their brain that tells them to migrate is going to send them right back through it.

COOPER: You also have a dolphin here, but the dolphin, it was not affected by the oil, correct? KELLEY: No, not right now. It was not. It was not found on a beach that had any oil on it and hasn't had any oil on it at all. We, of course, are going to run blood tests to confirm that. But we're pretty sure that it had nothing to do with oil.

COOPER: But it was sick in some way?

KELLEY: Yes, yes. And he's doing much better. We're thankful to say for that. He's eating on his own, interacting with toys or his enrichment. And he's also still hunting. We put live fish in there for him to hunt down.

COOPER: You also have a very large sea turtle, which we have pictures of.

KELLEY: Big Mama.

COOPER: Big Mama. That's what you call her?

KELLEY: Wouldn't you?

COOPER: What type of turtle is that?

KELLEY: She's a loggerhead. She weighs in at 136 pounds.


KELLEY: Yes. She was oiled when she came in, and she actually broke two capture nets coming in. She was lethargic on the surface of the water in oil. And they brought her in because of that. We got her cleaned up that night and she's turned out not to be a typical loggerhead. They're generally very aggressive animals. She's pretty passive despite her size.

COOPER: And you guys do a lot of fund-raising. You need donations. Where can people go if they're interested?

KELLEY: Actually, you can go to our Web site, which is And then you can follow there. We have an oil spill related key on there, so you can just click on that, and it will tell you what...

COOPER: This is different than the Audubon Society?

KELLEY: Very much different. Yes. We are...

COOPER: This is not -- this is a local organization?

KELLEY: Yes. We're Audubon Nature Institute, located in New Orleans, Louisiana. And we actually operate several facilities in the New Orleans area: a zoo, an aquarium, an insectarium, and also the research facility, which is what -- the property we're standing on right now.

COOPER: I'm going to let you put the -- Michelle, put that back in. Thanks very much, Michelle. KELLEY: You're welcome.

COOPER: Appreciate it. All right. We just -- breaking news. We've just learned that Alex, Tropical Storm Alex is now officially a hurricane. Seems to be headed toward Texas. Still having an impact on the cleanup efforts here in the gulf.

Chad Myers is tracking the storm for us. We'll have the breaking news with him in just a moment.

Also ahead, Louisiana reopens two oyster harvesting areas that were closed for weeks because of the spill. Does it mean the oysters are safe to eat? We'll go out on the waters for an up-close look. We'll taste them for ourselves, coming up.


COOPER: We have breaking news. Tropical Storm Alex has just been upgraded to a hurricane. There's already a huge weather maker. It's expected to approach -- well, it's heading toward Texas, we believe. Just a short time ago, President Obama issued a federal emergency declaration for the state of Texas, where the governor already issued a disaster proclamation, allowing him to call up the National Guard.

Big question, of course, is what impact it's going to have for the spill already. Boats -- trawling boats out there involved in the cleanup have been called back into port.

Chad Myers joins us now with the latest -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I think that's probably the key, Anderson. Is that the boats that were skimming, the boats that were rounding up oil and setting it on fire, these in situ (ph)-fires that they were talking about. And also the new booms, the new layers of booms that were being laid out. All of those boats have now been brought back to shore because the waves are over six feet.

Now, the boats that are still pumping the oil out of the ground and still sucking it out of the top of that blowout preventer, those boats are still out there because they can handle 12-foot waves. Look at the size of the storm. Convection in Florida, into Georgia, into the Carolinas and also from Louisiana back through Texas from this storm system that's spinning here.

The problem is that it's going to be pushing oil, with the wind speeds 20 to 25 miles per hour, onto the shore of Louisiana. So here it is, the 11 p.m. advisory. I know you can look at your clock on the Eastern Time zone and say they're 23 minutes early, but the hurricane center will do that for you, sometimes if they know what they're going to say anyway.

So right now, 75-mile-per-hour storm. The first hurricane of the year. Clearly, it's the "A" storm. It's Alex. It could go to 95 miles per hour, before it's all said and done, before it's all said and done getting stronger. Let me show you what these graphics look like here. Now although in between those Websites and in between these points where we have it now compared to what we've have it tomorrow morning, only 85. As it makes landfall, that would be Texas and also into, I would say, probably Mexico, more likely 100 miles south of Brownsville, but Brownsville and Padre Island will still have an effect because of the way the winds are blowing there. This is the way the winds blow around this hurricane.

And it could be coming onshore at waves and winds. Winds, 95 miles per hour and probably some type of a storm surge of 10 feet along that Mexican coast. Now, if you go and you take a look at a Google earth map, you'll notice that they're really not in a very populated area there.

But there is a populated area right back through here, and that's Monterey. Monterey, Mexico. There's a little bit of a mountain range through here, too. Sometimes it will rain in this mountain range quite heavily. The water will travel down into Monterey, Mexico, and make quite significant flooding. So we will watch that.

Where does it go from here? What are the other options? And basically, are there any? Well, not really. Now we know that it's so close to shore, less than just a couple hundred miles. All of these computer models bringing it right onshore. Nothing even taking it to the U.S. at all anymore. There are no models doing this, no models going through the oil.

But because of the way the wind is blowing, it's going to continue to do that, Anderson. It's going to blow that oil onto the shore, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, blowing it away from Florida, at least for a while -- Anderson.

COOPER: And at what point do we know that it's going to come ashore? I think I saw, was it Thursday A.M. sometime?

PAGE: I believe now, because it's going a shorter distance, Thursday A.M. could have been up toward Brownsville. See, that's a longer distance than this is here. The Isosceles triangle. There's the hypotenuse there, a word you didn't ever think you'd use again. A hypotenuse is father. This line is shorter. So it will be a shorter time because it's a shorter distance. I'm thinking 8 p.m. tomorrow night, this storm will be on shore in Mexico.

COOPER: And how much -- or how much longer, even after it's onshore, will folks around here be affected by the wind? Will the oil be affected by the wind? Because already the big concern here is those -- that southern wind is going to be pushing oil inland, pushing it more into the marshes.

MYERS: Yes, yes, very interesting question. Very good point, too.

Seventy-two hours, I think, the wind blows this way. Seventy-two hours of winds blowing 20, 25 miles per hour. That's going to stop all of those boats from coming back out. Then where does this thing go? Most of the models taking it into the Sierra Madre, which would be the Mexican Rocky Mountains. But I believe it could turn itself back. And as a low pressure center makes significant thunderstorms. That hearing is expected to last in consumer confidence, as you get through global, economic recovery, may be slowing down.

The Dow closed well below 10,000. The S&P 500 fell to an eight- month low.

And after 25 years of hosting his own nightly program on CNN, Larry King is stepping aside.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": I'm incredibly proud that we recently made the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest running show with the same host in the same time slot on the same network.

With that chapter closing, I'm looking forward to the future, what my next chapter will bring. But for now, for here, it's time to hang up the nightly suspenders.


JOHNS: Larry is 76 years old, says he wants to spend more time with his wife and young children, and, boy, what a buzz tonight. A lot of people tweeting about Larry King, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. The idea of Larry not being on on a nightly basis is just -- is stunning. I know his kids are going to be happy and his wife are going to get a lot more ball games together. And I know that Larry will enjoy that, as well. But...

JOHNS: Going to miss him.

COOPER: ... hard to imagine CNN without him, frankly, yes.

Still ahead, back on the water. We'll go up close with oystermen whose lives and livelihoods have been forever changed by this spill.

Also ahead, she says she doesn't want money. She's just angry. We'll talk to one of New Orleans' most respected chefs, who is suing BP and several other companies for what they've done to oysters and other seafood.


COOPER: Well, today Louisiana reopened two oyster harvesting areas that were closed for the last several weeks because of the spill. They're in Plaquemines parish, and they've been off limits to oystermen for -- as I said, for several weeks.

We went out with one oysterman today who's a third-generation member of his family who's been working the waters in this area. And we kind of expected to see a lot of oyster boats back out there farming -- farming up oyster beds, but they weren't.

Part of it is that a lot of the crews now work for BP and haven't been recalled to work for the oyster boats that they normally work for. But also, at least the oystermen we talked to isn't exactly sure that the oysters are ready to be harvested. He's still concerned about what may still be out there underneath the water. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): In Empire, Louisiana, the oyster boats are idle. Mitch Jurisich last went out to farm oysters more than three weeks ago.

(on camera) How many oysters would you bring in on a normal day?

MITCH JURISICH, NEIGHBOR: A normal day, prior to the shutdown, I was averaging 150 sacks.

COOPER (voice-over): Though the state of Louisiana today reopened the waters here to shrimpers and oystermen, Mitch isn't going to farm oysters just yet. He's not convinced the oil isn't still here.

And besides, he doesn't have a crew anymore. They've all taken jobs with BP.

Every day he still goes out on the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is the first area where I spotted, you know, heavy oil.

COOPER: The heavy oil is gone for now. But he thinks there may still be oil and dispersants under the water. He uses long tongs to scrape a few oysters from their beds.

(voice-over) How do you tell if it's...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, besides -- well, the color of it, you know, the brown -- the brown-looking color. Everything looks good. But what lies inside, we don't know.

COOPER (on camera): That's the concern, what's inside?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the concern, what's inside. An oyster can ingest oil and still survive. You know, and the dispersants and all, we don't know anything about how they can survive dispersants and anything associated with that.

COOPER (voice-over): It takes three years for an oyster to mature to the correct size.

COOPER: And this is about a year old?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About a year old. These are about three -- three years old when you see them get to be the three- to four-inch size. COOPER: May and September are the spawning months for oysters. Mitch worries this disaster could not only wipe out the current crop of oysters, but the next generation, as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We now oil will impact oysters if it gets on the oysters. But most of the time, the oil would be on top of the water, and if it doesn't come in direct contact with the oysters, the oysters have a good chance of survival.

But when it's dispersed in the way it's being dispersed, and it winds up throughout the water column where the oysters can ingest it, and that's the big question mark. Will it have an impact? Yes. To what extent? We don't know.

COOPER: In shallower water, Mitch has begun to find dead oysters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This oyster is recently dead.

COOPER: An unusual sign he believes has something to do with the oil or the dispersants being used to combat it.

(on camera) Now, is that normal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not for this time of year. No, this is not normal. You know, we have certain -- some mortalities that are normal, but we're finding more and more of this. Something is not right.

COOPER (voice-over): Back on shore, Mitch opens up some of the oysters he's harvested today. They're plump and fresh, and there's no sign of oil. They taste terrific.

If the storm passes and no new oil appears, he thinks he may start farming next week, but he's not overly optimistic. After farming these waters all his life, he's sure more oil is coming, and he's sure time is running out.


COOPER: Well, harvesting oysters from a farm bed like that with those tongs is actually very, very hard. Mitch tried to show me how to do it for quite a while. They had a lot of laughs watching me struggle to try to do it. Take a look at how long it took.


COOPER: Like this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like that, yes, sir.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You're feeling them. Try to close the sticks the whole way. That way you'll grab them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got it. You got something. Close them up. Got to get underneath. And watch it out on your way up. There you go.

COOPER: All right. I got one giant oyster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One full of mussels.


COOPER: Yes. All that and I got one. It was pretty pathetic. He said I was like Forest Gump on his first time out shrimping. Next on -- thanks, Mitch.

Next on 360, we're live with a top New Orleans chef, Susan Spicer, who's suing BP, saying the spill has hurt her business. Susan joins us after the break, live.


COOPER: Well, as we've been saying pretty much every night on this program, New Orleans is open for business. You should come down. You should have your vacation here. The seafood is not only terrific. It's, of course, safe to eat. You just saw me wolf down on oyster fresh from the sea.

There's a huge amount of restaurants open. I mean, the restaurants here are better than anywhere else in the country.

Several owners, though, are now suing BP. Susan Spicer is among them. She's a famous chef here and across the country. You might have seen here as a judge on Bravo's "Top Chef." Susan Spicer joins us from Mondo, one of her restaurants, a new restaurant opened about two weeks ago, in New Orleans in the Lakeview area.

Susan, how are your restaurants and the seafood business in general being affected by this? Are prices going up? What's happening?

SUSAN SPICER, CHEF: Oh, yes. The supply is definitely diminishing. You know, the variety of what we can get is definitely diminished, and the prices are going up.

You know, we're still seeing great things like crawfish and beautiful, you know, jumbo lump crab meat, but of course, as you know, oysters are -- are pretty much not happening at all right now. And the -- the supply of fin fish is -- the variety is getting much less.

And, you know, I think we're worried more about the future. You know, right now things -- where everybody is kind of managing, but it's the uncertain future and the fact that the oil spill is ongoing and hasn't been stopped yet. That's what this lawsuit is all about.

COOPER: Why sue BP? I mean, why not just put in for claims? SPICER: You know, I think they just -- they're -- the damage and the extent to which our culture is going to be affected and -- you know, I think it's the big unknown factor.

I'm not interested in -- you know, Viona (ph) as a corporation, as a restaurant, is not in need of a hand-out today. It's more about taking a stand with a lot of the smaller restaurants and seafood- related businesses that are suffering now that are casualties now. And, you know, they're part of our way of life here in Louisiana.

You know, all of these things are part of why we live here and what we love about living in the Gulf Coast region. And they're all being very dramatically affected now, but even more so -- you know, what's going to happen six months from now, a year from now, five years from now? We just really don't know. So...

COOPER: I don't -- I think unless you've been...

SPICER: I think that BP should be held accountable.

COOPER: You know, I want to talk a little bit about how important seafood is to the people and the culture of this region. I think New Orleans is one of the few cities where -- I mean, I've had people driving down the street roll down their window and yell out to me, ask me what I'm going to have for dinner tonight.

You know, food is incredibly important here. It really is a way of life here.

SPICER: It is. And I've been reading -- you know, it's funny. Because since this all kind of, you know, came up yesterday, the suit was filed on Friday. And, you know, I've read a few of the blogs online and some of the discussions that people have had.

And there's those people that go, "Oh, you know, what's the big deal? You know, we'll always -- we're great cooks here in Louisiana. We'll always be able to -- you know, we can cook pork and we can cook chicken."

But, you know, that just -- that's just not right. I mean, it isn't -- you know, when you've got one of the most famous restaurants, you know, in New Orleans and it's talking about having to charboil mussels instead of oysters, you know, something just isn't right. When one of the oldest seafoods, you know, one of the oldest oyster purveyors, you know, goes out of business after 137 years, somebody I've been buying seafood from for, you know, my 32 years of cooking in New Orleans, you know, that's just wrong. That's just wrong.

And you know, there's a lot of that that's going on. And all these little places, we lost so much after Katrina. And now it's just going to happen all over again. And it's just a big smack-down for all these small businesses. And...


SPICER: ... you know, it just makes me angry. COOPER: Yes. We do want people to know that New Orleans is open for business. The restaurants are open.

SPICER: Absolutely.

COOPER: I'm not able to eat out very much because I'm working, but the few times I do, the food is as good as it's ever been.

So Susan, I appreciate you being on with us. We'll continue to follow your suit against BP.

SPICER: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thanks very much, Susan Spicer.

More from the Gulf at the top of the hour. We'll be right back.