May 21, 2010

As CNN's Ed Henry pointed out, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs got a bit testy when asked if the government has been complicit in a cover up by BP in the severity of the oil spill. When we're looking at three weeks into this thing with very few answers or solutions to this disaster and where it looks like BP is indeed running the show, Robert Gibbs had better suck it up and get used to it because he's got a lot tougher questions coming than just what Ed Henry asked him in this clip.

COOPER: White House correspondent Ed Henry joins us now. He spent the day looking for accountability as well.

Ed, we have been hearing a lot from the administration about this boot-to-the-neck approach, which, I mean, it sounds good on paper, but, you know, they write this letter. It's not exactly a boot to the neck.

HENRY: Right.

And you had a Democratic senator, Barbara Boxer, today saying, look, she believes for the first time there's a cover-up here by BP and that the government could be complicit in that. And when White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked about the cover-up charge, he said, any charge like that is ridiculous.

So, I pressed him on, how could you say it's ridiculous for BP, when they have had so many competing claims and different statements? Here's how I pressed him.


HENRY: This morning, a spokesman for BP, Mark Proegler, said that he now believes that it's actually spilling more than 5,000 barrels a day, but he couldn't say exactly how much.

ROBERT GIBBS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

HENRY: And I think this gets back to the point these oceanographers were on the Hill testifying yesterday, saying that this government -- the Obama administration should be doing more to demand of the company this data and how much is really spilling...

GIBBS: Well, that's...


HENRY: ... out and how...


HENRY: ... four weeks later, we do not know.


GIBBS: That's why the letter -- that's -- that's one of the reasons the letter is going, is to find out more information. Ed, I...

HENRY: Do you really think a letter is going to force the company -- I mean...


GIBBS: Ed, Ed, listen, let me -- well, do you have a better idea?


COOPER: Well, you know, there is actually a better idea. And -- and, I mean, I'm not an expert, but what's incredible is that, for -- for three weeks now, the EPA, the Interior Department, NOAA have been going along with this 5,000-barrel-a-day figure.

It wasn't until a guy from Purdue analyzed the -- the 30-second clip that -- that BP reluctantly put out after 23 days, and came up with a figure of 70,000 barrels that -- that people started to ask questions. I mean, it's completely disingenuous for -- for Gibbs, for Robert Gibbs there to ask you if you have any better idea.

I mean, the -- the White House could have been -- I mean, the government could have been, and the White House and the EPA and NOAA could have been trying to measure this thing or demanding the video be released so scientists could measure it. There are scientists who can look at these images and, with accuracy, measure the velocity of -- of things coming out of a pipe.

HENRY: And NOAA, the chief agency here that you mentioned, one of their ships that can measure this data was in -- off the coast of Africa when the spill first occurred. And there were reports on Capitol Hill yesterday in some of this testimony from the scientists that it took two or three weeks for the ship to actually be called to the Gulf.

So, there are all kinds of questions about the government response, of course, but also the company and how the government can be believing what the company is saying, when -- when the story has shifted.

A CNN reported here, one of them is going to be why did it take this long for the EPA to finally demand that BP quit using Corexit when there were less toxic dispersants available, one of which BP still has stockpiled in Houston.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, and, again, it has been four weeks now.

Ed "Keeping Them Honest" today at the White House -- Ed, thanks. We talked earlier about how the EPA today ordered BP to use a different, less potentially toxic chemical dispersant on the spill. After watching them use this dispersant for, you know, three weeks now, four weeks, experts have been questioning BP's initial choice for a long time now.

As Ed Lavandera discovered, BP had an alternative bought and paid for, ready to go, just sitting on shore since early this month. Again, the question is why.

Ed Henry -- Ed Lavandera tonight "Keeping Them Honest."


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hundreds of containers are just sitting here in the Houston sun. To some, it's just another example of the mismanagement of the oil spill. The containers are full of a chemical dispersant calls Sea Brat 4. Why is it sitting here, and not in the ocean instead? No one really knows, especially since BP's on record as saying it would use the stuff.

DOUG SUTTLES, COO, GLOBAL EXPLORATION, BP: We also have a second product now identified to use called Sea Brat 4, which we will begin introducing into the -- the process as well.

LAVANDERA (on camera): That's what BP said almost a week ago. But we found the Sea Brat 4 just sitting here in an industrial park outside of Houston, Texas. You're looking at it, almost 100,000 gallons of the less toxic dispersant. Guess who ordered it? BP did, on May 4, almost three weeks ago.

JOHN SHEFFIELD, PRESIDENT, ALABASTER CORPORATION: This is Sea Brat. It's in totes ready for delivery.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): John Sheffield is president of the company that makes Sea Brat 4.

(on camera): Do you think it's weird that stuff's just sitting here in the Houston area?

SHEFFIELD: It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. You know, I think something's intentionally trying to stop us from getting our product in the water.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): EPA and Coast Guard officials say there's nothing stopping BP from using Sea Brat 4. Sheffield says that, by now, he could be making 50,000 to 100,000 gallons of dispersant a day.

But a BP spokesman will only say the company had to use what was readily available and stockpiled, and it has been asked to find alternatives to the current dispersant, Corexit, and that's what they're in the process of doing.

Getting a direct answer is even hard for Congress to get, as they grilled Lamar McKay this week about the issue.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Who decided which dispersant to use? BP?


NADLER: You don't know?

MCKAY: I don't know the individual who decided which...

NADLER: I didn't ask the individual.

MCKAY: I don't...

NADLER: Was it the -- BP who decided, or was it the national -- the government who decided, or the national incident command?


MCKAY: I don't know. I don't know.

NADLER: You don't know. Could you find out for us, please?


LAVANDERA: Easier said than done. There's still no word on who's making that call, while 100,000 gallons of potential help sits hundreds of miles away.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Houston.


COOPER: So, I -- again, I'm no expert. I spent about five hours yesterday just reading all about dispersants and other stuff related to the spill.

And what's interesting, EPA has -- apparently lists about 18 dispersants which they have approved, 12 of which are actually less toxic, and some of those 12 are actually even more effective on Louisiana crude than the Corexit, the two types of Corexit that are being used by BP.

So, the EPA has known about the stuff that BP has been using now for -- for four weeks. And they know that there are ones that are less toxic and, in some cases, even more effective, and yet they haven't demanded, until today, that BP change the dispersants that they have been using.

BP, the administration and the EPA have a lot of questions they'd better start answering and yesterday would not be soon enough. You can't let the corporate crooks with a history of covering up the damage from their oil spills be running the show.

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