Landrieu Defends Oil Industry's Safety Record; Won't Say If She'll Return Contributions From BP

The Senator from Louisiana continues her defense of the oil industry even as the massive oil slick caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster threatens
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The Senator from Louisiana continues her defense of the oil industry even as the massive oil slick caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster threatens to destroy much of the Gulf coast's economy and downplays the potential environmental damage the slick may cause. I really don't know how this woman sleeps at night.

I don't know if anyone else has been watching HBO's new series on Sunday nights, Treme. I think it's wonderful if you haven't seen it. It's hard to watch the show without thinking about how ironic it is that just when someone decided to shine a spotlight on what happened after Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans and give that forgotten area some much needed attention, something like this happens.

Our ambulance chasing media is paying attention to the Gulf coast because of the oil spill, but they are still ignoring how devastated that region already was after those storms. They only seem capable of paying attention to anything long enough to go from one shiny object to the next. This oil slick story sadly won't be going away any time soon, but I'm quite sure John King asking very many politicians about their campaign contributions will.

Transcript via CNN below the fold.

KING: This afternoon Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told reporters the edges of the Gulf Coast oil slick are grazing Louisiana's Chandelier (ph) Islands. It's been two weeks now since the oil rig explosion that started the spill. While the administration keeps saying BP will pay for the clean-up, there are still plenty of questions.

The state senior Senator Democrat Mary Landrieu here with us to go "One-on-One" -- let me start with the briefings that folks are getting on the Hill today about how bad this could still get, how much worse this could still get. I know you had some briefings from BP today. Ed Markey (ph) on the House side came out of his briefing -- and I want to show our viewers these numbers -- he said if they're unsuccessful -- they are trying to put this new dome over the spill and they think that will take maybe a few more days to a week to get that in place. But he said if they are unsuccessful the worst-case scenario is that the amount of oil gushing out could rise from 5,000 to as much as 60,000 barrels a day and the most likely scenario around 40,000 barrels a day. Is that what you were told?

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA), ENERGY COMMITTEE: Well, John, one of the other ways to understand this is in the last 10 years we've only had 7,000 barrels of oil spilled in the gulf in the whole decade not counting hurricanes which account for some but 7,000. This well is spewing that amount every day and a half. So relatively speaking to the other wells that have been drilled, this is spilling a huge amount of oil and it is uncontrolled to date. I do know that the company has been trying to plug it from day one. The people of Louisiana and the gulf coast and the whole nation of course very upset about this spill. And we should be, because this shouldn't have happened. And it did. And we've got to find out why.

KING: Again, I want as specific as you can be with your meetings with the BP officials because the president, everyone in the administration says this is BP's well, BP is accountable, BP will pay for this. But the law as you know say they're only required to pay a $75 million limit on other kinds of damages. That is put in the law. While the BP officials said they will pay one of the executives was on Capitol Hill today and our reporter Brianna Keilar caught up with him. I want you to listen to this exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIANNE KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Will BP pick up the full cost?

DAVID NAGEL, EXEC. VP, BP AMERICA: We said we'll pay all legitimate claims.

KEILAR: What does legitimate mean?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What does it mean in the sense that as you know, whether it's the fishing industry or tourism industry or shrimping industry, so many other people will end up in court. Those could take years. Has BP committed up front to pay all of the obvious on-their-face legitimate claims?

LANDRIEU: You'll have to ask those dealing directly with BP.

KING: I assume Louisiana's senior senator pressed has them on it.

LANDRIEU: I have pressed them but I'm not negotiating the details of it. They have told me that they're going to pick up 100 percent of the costs. That they feel not only obligated but mandated by the law to do so. Now, there's some question among some people's minds whether that's the case or not but I can promise you and assure you that both the White House, Congress and as far as I know BP has an understanding that they're going to pick up this cost. So we're going to push forward. What I suggested today when I met with Tony Hayward is people want to have confidence the claims they'll make will be paid quickly and in full. Perhaps we should think about a parallel effort so that some government agency that's appropriate -- whether it's commerce or small business or homeland security -- be there with them so when people call, they have confidence that they're going to get the right decision made. I believe that's what BP wants to do. I'm going to make sure it's done.

KING: People also want to have confidence in public officials when it comes to accountability. You know the narrative that's emerging. Critics of this industry say senators from the Gulf States including senators like Mary Landrieu are too cozy with this industry. Your states get a lot of revenue from this and this industry essentially regulated itself because in Democratic and Republican administrations the enforcement and regulation of the government is not at the level it should be. Is that a fair criticism?

LANDRIEU: That will be examined. I don't believe that's a fair criticism. I think this industry has very tight regulations and good regulations. But you know what John? We learn after every accident. We learn after the three mile accident with nuclear. We shut that whole industry down. That was a mistake. We should have regulated it better and continue to lead the world in nuclear.

KING: When those who say this is a wake-up call, shut this industry down --

LANDRIEU: They're wrong. They're absolutely wrong. I'll tell you why. Because that's not going to do anything to clean our environment. It's not going to do anything to create jobs. We'll lose jobs. And it's not going to do anything to make America safe independently -- energy independent. Those are the three things we need to do. Moving this industry off of our shores on to other shores where they don't have the kind of tight regulations, where they don't have the kind of court system where we do, where they don't have the kind of trains parent government we have would be wrong and it would be a mistake. I want to make this point, two things. We use 20 gallons of -- I mean 20 million barrels of oil a day. We only produce 9. So we've got to produce not less, but more. We have to do it safely. Again, I hope we can do that in a fashion that's respectful, we investigate, we hold people accountable and move forward.

KING: Let me ask you lastly. When something like this has people look back at political relationships. Of the top 20 recipients from the oil and gas industry ever in the Congress, you rank number 14th. In the 2008 campaign you were the number one Congressional candidate in terms of receipts from BP after only President Obama and then candidate for president Senator Obama and Senator McCain. There are some who say if you're going to be the watchdog you should give that money back.

LANDRIEU: I'm not trying to be a watchdog for BP. I'm trying to be a good senator for this country and for Louisiana and to bring a balance to our energy policy, which is protecting our coast, fighting for energy security and a clean environment. I want to say again, John, this is important. We've drilled 1,000 deep-water wells in the gulf successfully. 1,000 except for this one. So the fact that do you it 999 right and then 1 wrong doesn't mean you throw up your hands and run in hysteria. What you do is find out what went wrong --

KING: Even if an ecosystem is destroyed for ten years?

LANDRIEU: It may not be destroyed for ten years. We'll see what happens. I know there will be environmental challenges but we believe we have the technology to clean it up to compensate for people. Look, if New Jersey wants to give up their oil, if Florida wants to give up their oil, fine. But they're going to have a crash in their economy. We've got to transition to cleaner fuels, but we need to have the oil industry safe. Transition, use natural gas as a transition and then transition to wind and solar. Even the secretary of energy, who briefed us today in a speech, said it may take 50 years. It's 50 years, not 5 years or 3 years, not 10. It's 50 for this transition. Revenue sharing which I've been saying the leading advocate of saving our wetlands and saving our coast, this is a perfect example of why I think I've been right and the senators along the gulf coast to say we do receive 100 percent of the risk. Let us share a portion of those revenues to preserve our wetlands, to invest in technology and hold the industry accountable.

KING: Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana here tonight; obviously strongly held views on this issue. We'll keep in touch.

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