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Bipartisan Commission Says White House Downplayed Amount Of Oil Gushing From BP Well

I'm wondering what else the commission looking into the BP oil disaster in the Gulf is going to uncover? Color me not surprised by this latest finding since anyone following this knew they were downplaying the amount of oil coming out of that well
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I'm wondering what else the commission looking into the BP oil disaster in the Gulf is going to uncover? Color me not surprised by this latest finding since anyone following this knew they were downplaying the amount of oil coming out of that well pretty early on.

Full transcript below from Anderson Cooper who I'm glad to see giving this some attention again when there is so little coverage in the main stream media. I think the bigger story if it's allowed to be reported is going to be the cover up of the damage from the oil, not how much was released.

COOPER: Harsh criticism for how the White House handled the Gulf oil spill and sharp pushback today from the White House.

Now, a preliminary report from the president's own bipartisan commission says the administration kept the American people in the dark for weeks about how much oil was gushing out of that broken well of BP's.

The report -- actually, it was four working papers in all -- says that, about two weeks after the blast that killed 11 workers, the White House Office of Management and Budget turned down a NOAA request to make public -- make public its worst-case models for the spill.

Now, in fact, the administration stuck to absurdly low flow rates for more than a month. The White House tonight says there was absolutely no cover-up. They say that NOAA's report wasn't even on the flow rate and that officials, including Thad Allen, were talking on CNN about a spill of up to 100,000 barrels a month as early as May 2nd.

Now, earlier today, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs weighed in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did they know about the initial worst-case scenario before they released that kind of information?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Did who know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did NOAA or OMB know about the initial worst-case --

(CROSSTALK)

GIBBS: Well, again, the worst-case scenario -- the worst-case scenario was being discussed on national television. In fact, on CNN, at that very time, that our worst-case scenario was 100,000 barrels of oil leaking a day.

We know that wasn't happening. We know that the response was robust in ensuring that every step possible was taken to protect the coast line and prevent more damage from being done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the report, by the way, also faults the response itself on the federal, but also on the local level.

We're going to talk about it all with Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.

Billy, good to see you tonight.

You know, it's interesting. The White House is basically saying that Thad Allen mentioned a worst-case scenario of 100,000 barrels on television on May 2nd. And that may be true. He certainly may have done that early on in maybe a couple comments on TV.

But correct me if I'm wrong. The administration and certainly BP were publicly using that 1,000 barrel-a-day estimate and then 5,000 barrel-a-day estimate for weeks, long after independent scientists came forward with a lot higher estimates.

BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: Absolutely. There was never an agreement on the higher rate.

And, as we -- of course, we didn't have the preparation we needed anyway from BP early on, when that oil came ashore. But those -- those rates were never discussed that were disclosed. And, you know, it's sad. We're -- we're sitting here wanting to believe in our federal government, wanting to believe. You know, we -- we're counting on NOAA and all the -- the monitoring they're supposed to be doing out there, and as we hear things like this, who are we to believe?

COOPER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, I mean, other questions have been raised now, because, on August 4th, the White House energy adviser, Carol Browner, came out and said 75 percent of the oil is already gone, that it's disappeared.

And that -- a lot of people were, like, just shocked by that. Today, President -- Press Secretary Gibbs said that maybe she misspoke. The report's critical of that statement. And, just last week, an independent scientist from Florida State University said that -- that maybe as much as 50 percent of the oil is still out there, just basically down on -- on -- on the bottom.

Do you have any confidence that we really know how much oil is still out there?

NUNGESSER: Well, I don't think we -- we want to know, honestly.

You know, our crews picked up 13,000 gallons of oil and about 8,000 bags of oily waste last week. Now, they pulled us off the water for another inspection. It's obvious, you know, today that we're going to step down our jack-up boats, the only crews that are out there finding oil.

The contract workers from BP -- I've got to believe that, between the Coast Guard and BP, they don't want to find anything. They want this to be over. And we're still out there picking up oil. And, as we have said, Anderson, from the very beginning, we're fighting more with BP and the Coast Guard -- here we are again -- to leave assets in place to fight this oil.

There's no written operational plan. The only plan they give us is a transition plan. And they keep wanting us to sign off on there's no visible oil, when they continue to pick up oil. I don't understand it. It's mind-boggling to me.

COOPER: So, they're asking you to sign off saying you're not seeing oil, but you're saying you're still seeing oil?

NUNGESSER: They continue to want us to go from step two to step three, which means they can pull out any assets they want in the transition plan that we signed month -- a month or so ago to leave assets in place through hurricane season.

And, every day, they're ratcheting down, pulling stuff out. And, in this thick document, they say it gives them the right to do that when there's no oil on the surface. But our crews, the local fishermen, are the only ones picking up oil. Somehow, their crews seem not to see anything. It still blows my mind that they have got all these people out there on the payroll not finding any oil, but the local fishermen that they keep trying --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Right.

NUNGESSER: -- to downsize keep finding oil.

COOPER: Let me -- let me ask you, this report, in addition to being very critical of the White House, they're also critical of local officials, including yourself.

In a section of the report they call the "Boom Wars", they write -- quote -- "President Nungesser deplored the lack of available boom" and that -- quote -- "directions went out to keep the parishes 'happy'" -- in quotes -- "which resulted in operational decisions that may have been politically motivated."

They go on to say it was a -- quote -- "serious distraction that took time away from responders' ability to focus on the spill."

They were basically saying that, you know, local -- local officials like yourself were calling for more boom. The White House said, you know, keep those parish presidents happy and the parish officials happy, and that they were basically deploying boom in places that it didn't need to go to, and that it was useless and may be causing more damage in some places.

Do you buy that?

NUNGESSER: Well, no, they're damn liars.

And I'm going to tell you this. We never got the first order of ocean boom. The boom they were putting three miles off the island kept washing up every night. We told them from day one it was useless, but they put it out there as a dog-and-pony show.

The ocean boom that we asked for that our Coast Guard guys that we've told was in charge that he said order the boom for President Nungesser, never got our first foot of boom. So that's an absolute lie. That's a dog-and-pony show.

And, as we always said, BP and the Coast Guard are putting their story together to best defend their actions. And once again, we're sitting here tonight, still can't tell you, Anderson, who's in charge, still don't know.

COOPER: Do you still -- how -- how much -- how much water now around Plaquemines Parish is fishable? Is -- I mean, are the oyster beds open? What's going on?

NUNGESSER: Well, the oyster beds, a lot of the freshwater killed those beds. We closed the diversions. We're getting back to where we'll hopefully have a harvest of some oysters this year.

There's a lot of fishing grounds open, but there's a lot of unanswered questions. We have had massive fish kills. And, yes, it's oxygen deplecency (ph), but is that caused by the oil? Because in the areas where the fish kills are, we have a lot of oil; the oil is surrounded with the dead fish.

And it doesn't seem to be getting help from the federal government to test these areas. Only the local Wildlife and Fishery is assisting us in testing these areas.

COOPER: Billy Nungesser, I appreciate it.

You've just been re-elected president of Plaquemines Parish. Congratulations.

NUNGESSER: Thank you.

COOPER: And we'll talk to you again, Billy. Take care.

NUNGESSER: Thank you.

Can you help us out?

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