'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, May 3, 2010
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Guests: Lisa Jackson, Sen. Bob Menendez, Josh Bodenheimer, Larry Schweiger.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: And now, joining you live from
Venice, Louisiana, with the latest on the impact of the oil spill there—
ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much for
that. Appreciate it.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us.
We are in Venice, Louisiana, tonight—a place known as the “end of
the world” affectionately so. It‘s at the mouth of the Mississippi River,
just about the closest place in the Continental United States to the oil
spill that‘s currently gushing from the Deep Horizon well, a mile below the
surface of the Gulf of Mexico, just about nine miles off the coast here. A
2,000 square mile oil slick is threatening to devastate these ecologically
fragile coastal wetlands.
An environmental catastrophe so profound it has already prompted one
Republican to change his mind about the benefits of 2008‘s extra simple,
damn the consequences rallying cry, “Drill, baby, drill.” Governor
Schwarzenegger today is taking the dramatic step of withdrawing his support
for expanded offshore oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA: I see on TV the birds
drenched in oil, the fishermen out of work, the massive oil spill, oil
slick destroying our precious ecosystem. It will not happen in California.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Here in the Gulf, high seas and strong winds have seriously
hampered cleanup efforts. Many skimming boats were forced to return ashore
and flights carrying chemical dispersants were suspended today. And even
though 52 miles of containment booms were deployed to protect the Gulf
shoreline, Alabama‘s governor reported today that up to 80 percent of the
booms have failed—thanks to heavy weather. And that other Gulf States
have similar problems.
Having personally seen some of the types of booms that are being
deployed here, I can tell you they do not inspire confidence.
The projected weather forecast for tomorrow is good. Southwest and
north winds will help keep the slick off the shore, but scientists are
concerned that the oil spill will reach what they call the “loop current,”
which would push the slick toward the Florida Keys and up the east coast.
Right now, fishing is suspended in the oil-affected areas, including
some fishing grounds but certainly not all on the coasts of Louisiana,
Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Those suspensions are for the next 10
days, as U.S. officials investigate the impact on seafood.
Scientists also examining the remains of 25 dead sea turtles that
washed up on the Mississippi shore. They have found no sign of oil
contamination as a cause of death for those turtles thus far.
As to the efforts to cap the leak, gushing at least 210,000 gallons of
crude a day, British Petroleum started drilling on a relief well yesterday.
But the Coast Guard says it will take at least 90 days come complete. It
took 90 days to drill the initial well that is blown now. Drilling these
relief wells is expected to be no easier.
Tomorrow, B.P. hopes to roll out the first of three containment domes
to be lowered on top of the three leak sites so the escaping oil can be
funneled to the barges on the surface. They hope to have these containment
domes operating within a week even though they‘ve never been tried on a
leak so big and so deep.
A robotic submarine is pumping out chemical dispersant at the leak
site. But B.P. is waiting for a visual, over (AUDIO BREAK) automatic
submarine to try and install a shutoff valve at the end of one of the leak
points today. No word on the result of that attempt.
Both the CEO and the chairman of British Petroleum met with members of
the Obama administration today. And B.P. and Transocean officials are
slated to brief the House Oversight Committee on the spill tomorrow—
Joining us in Venice, Louisiana, is Brian Williams, of course, the
anchor and managing editor of “Nightly News.”
Brian, thanks very much for your time.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: What can you add to our reporting about the containment
efforts thus far?
WILLIAMS: Well, I can add something I learned from the head of
wildlife and fisheries here in Plaquemines Parish, where we are. They have
decided and they‘ve shared their plans with President Obama, to make a
beachhead, to string together a daisy chain of barges, fishing boats and
booms, however unready those booms, as you properly note may be, to try to
put up a wall.
This official said to me, “We‘re not going to let this oil in our
estuaries. They are quite excited by the kind of slow, eastward movement.
We had kind of a happy coincidence today.
This is—it‘s being held offshore by currents and winds. But as
someone put it—it‘s not like they‘re dodging a bullet, it‘s like the
bullet is getting bigger offshore.
WILLIAMS: This slick is the size of Delaware. There‘s no other way
to put it.
MADDOW: We keep hearing that this deep water drilling itself is
almost the cutting edge of man‘s technological capability. It‘s like—
they talk about it as being similar as the technological feat to getting a
man into space.
Have we created a problem with that amazing technology, though, that
we don‘t know how to solve? Does anybody know what the full impact of this
is going to be? Do we have advanced technology to try to stop it?
WILLIAMS: I think we‘ve, by definition, reached the outer limits of
WILLIAMS: By the way, we have done bugs in Louisiana, the greatest
favor by turning on lights. This is their happiest habitat.
But I think we‘ve reached the edge. You‘re going to drill a mile
down. You have a blowout preventer that has so far been prevented from
stopping this at the wellhead.
I said tonight, at the end of our broadcast, people are justifiably
upset that the country that won World War II, sent persons to the moon and
for that matter, you know, came up with the iPod, can‘t—even though it‘s
a mile down—can‘t stop a leak in an oil well. And that‘s justifiable
frustration because there is a huge time bomb off the coast of Louisiana.
MADDOW: Politically and strategically—obviously, the decision made
in the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster, that an oil company that spills
is responsible for the cleanup.
MADDOW: We hear when government officials talk to us about that fact
we‘re going to have the EPA administrator in just a moment. We hear
almost an admission that the oil companies know more than the regulators,
almost an admission that—on the company side of it, there‘s—that‘s
where the real expertise lies. And the government officials that are
supposed to be overseeing the companies when they do this may be at a
Is that something that can ever be remedied? Is that, in fact, the
same problem we‘ve got on Wall Street with the SEC trying to regulate
derivatives they don‘t understand?
WILLIAMS: And we just came out of an administration, and a Republican
friend reminded me today, he said, tell all your Democratic friends, when
we appointed members of industry, former members of industry as regulators
-- in some cases, it‘s because only those who have walked the walk drilled
the wells, been down, know from what it‘s like to drill a mile down under
the surface of the water, can know best how to turn around, know the
industry and trade secrets. A side issue, probably. But this is terribly
And the lessons learned here, this could be, as you‘ve noted, a
disaster exceeding that of the Valdez.
MADDOW: Y spent so much time covering Katrina. When you think about
the same area, Plaquemines Parish so devastated by Katrina, not just New
Orleans but these low-lying parishes as well, can you get a sense, can you
start to estimate—just from being here, talking to people that have been
through both these disasters—about the comparative scale?
WILLIAMS: Well, I‘ll tell you—I keep thinking, after Katrina
people could still work. This may—all these should shrimpers, they
can‘t work. That‘s what they do.
It‘s such a noble and incredible profession. When they go in season,
they go five to seven days out at a time, 24/7. And no one thinks about
them when ordering shrimp cocktail at a New York restaurant. But this is
what makes gulf shrimp. It‘s what makes it the best in the world. These
people are the best in the world at it.
So, this is going to be a slower Katrina. People, by the way, are
already, you know, tiring and moving on, because this is like a—like a
slow moving hurricane taking its time offshore. It‘s getting bigger during
WILLIAMS: So I think this is going to have a colossal effect. If it
hits the tip of one estuary, you‘ve seen already the wildlife around here,
catastrophic. There‘s a reason Teddy Roosevelt used to come town here.
MADDOW: The connectivity of the ecosystem is down here.
MADDOW: We were able to go out today with a sport fisherman who
showed us some of the areas that he fishes and talking about the
connectivity of those estuaries, that you really can‘t isolate one thing
from another down here. It‘s so—it‘s terrifying and incredibly
Brian Williams, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.
WILLIAMS: Thanks for having me. Good luck.
MADDOW: Yes. Well, they‘re all union wages so they‘re making a
WILLIAMS: Yes. OK.
MADDOW: It‘s great.
The disaster started 50 miles out at sea with a deadly explosion. And
then within two days, it got much worse a mile beneath it. It was unclear
at the start exactly how bad this oil spill was going to be, but was and is
the response aggressive enough?
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, joins
us next to try to clarify.
Plus, we went out today to see for ourselves what‘s at risk here and
to talk to some of the folk who make a living on these waters about what
they most want to happen in this response right now. Our special show on
the disaster in the Gulf continues live from Venice, Louisiana.
Please do stay with us.
MADDOW: What has the Obama administration done? How soon did they do
it, and is there more that could still be done right now? These questions
and more next with the Environmental Protection Agency‘s administrator,
Lisa Jackson, who joins us live.
Please do stay with us.
MADDOW: It has now been almost two weeks since the Deepwater Horizon
oil rig exploded off the southern coast of Louisiana—exploded about 52
miles from where I‘m standing now. In the 13 days since that explosion,
the situation here has gone from tragic and shocking with the death of 11
oil rig workers, to terrifying with the sinking of that rig and the
subsequent release of tens of thousands of gallons of oil each day. It‘s
since gone to shocking all over again with revelations that this spill,
this unstaunched flow of crude is more enormous than originally seemed.
How did we get here? How‘s the response been so far?
Well, here‘s the tick-tock of what‘s happened. That deep water oil
drilling rig exploded about 10:00 Central Time on the night of April 20th.
What followed was an all-hands-on-deck search and rescue mission led by the
U.S. Coast Guard.
In the middle of that operation, on April 22nd, the devastated oil rig
sank into the Gulf of Mexico. It was at that point that President Obama
received an Oval Office briefing from the top Coast Guard official as well
as other high ranking administration officials.
The next day, on April 23rd, the Coast Guard called off the search and
rescue mission and announced that no oil was leaking from the underwater
oil well. That was 10 days ago.
The following day, B.P. officials acknowledged that, in fact, oil was
leaking from that well at a rate they said of 1,000 barrels per day. In
the ensuing days, 1,000 federal, state and private personnel will mobilize
in an effort to contain the leak. Tens of thousands of fleet of—tens of
thousands of feet of inflatable boom were assigned to the area. Robot-
controlled submarines were used to try to stop the leak and administration
officials, including Valerie Jarrett and Janet Napolitano, were put into
essentially constant communication with B.P. executives.
Then four days later, on April 28th, the situation got worse. Coast
Guard officials announced that instead of 1,000 barrels of oil leaking per
day, it‘s more like 5,000 barrels per day. Five times more than had
previously been estimated. That was also when they initiated a controlled
burn strategy for surface oil.
The next day, President Obama gave his first public comments on the
disaster, a week after the rig sunk and a day after the scope of the
disaster became clear.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared the incident “a
spill of national significance,” and that‘s when the federal response
kicked into higher gear; the Department of Interior dispatching teams to
the region to inspect other platforms and rigs. Defense Secretary Robert
Gates announcing he‘s mobilizing the Louisiana National Guard to help
communities respond to the spill. The Navy sent skimming systems and
contractors to the area. The Air Force deployed two C-130 aircraft
outfitted with aerial spraying systems.
On Saturday, President Obama named U.S. Coast Guard commandant, Thad
Allen, to direct the oil spill response. Yesterday, Mr. Obama personally
traveled right here to Louisiana, to where I am now to get a firsthand look
at the situation.
Thirteen days, B.P. is in charge of this cleanup. The federal
government is in charge of overseeing it. The ramp up of the government‘s
response to this disaster is zero to 60 in what either feels like a very
quick amount of time or an eternity, depending on the clarity of your
Regardless, this is not over. This is an ongoing, unchecked disaster
against which mitigating measures have been taken. But that leak is not
Joining us now is the administrator of the Environmental Protection
Agency, Lisa Jackson. She is a native of Louisiana. She traveled here
over the weekend.
Administrator Jackson, thank you very much for your time tonight.
LISA JACKSON, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Hi, Rachel. How are you?
MADDOW: I‘m good. Thank you.
I know you‘ve been in constant communication with those leading the
rescue effort tonight. Is there anything that you can add to what we
understand about the latest on this response?
JACKSON: Well, I think your timeline is a good one. I just spent
three days down there, as you said, and met with community members and
leaders from the Coast Guard and my own staff—of course, staff from the
state and the parish and county governments in Mississippi. And I think
that, you know, this ramping up, as you describe it, is an accurate way to
talk about what‘s been happening on the ground there.
MADDOW: I know that it is B.P.‘s responsibility to pay for this
disaster—the president himself has repeatedly reiterated that. But
frankly, while they have been in charge of stopping it these past 13 days,
it‘s been going on for 13 days and not getting fixed. Has B.P. been given
too much control over the response? I know you met with their CEO earlier
JACKSON: Yes. You know, I think that one of the things we have to
remember is that there are some things that B.P. has some expertise on and
oil companies have expertise on. In your earlier segment, you talked about
the fact that this is cutting edge technology. I would agree with all of
There are other things that the government‘s pretty good at. For
instance, the estimates of the spill—the original knowledge that we had
too low an estimate coming from B.P. came from the government. The air
monitoring that the EPA is doing, the work that we‘re doing to get
mobilized for shoreline response through the Coast Guard—I think there
the government can and must take the lead to give some assurances to
MADDOW: How can any company get government approval to drill in water
that is deeper than they know how to clean up? I mean, that sort of seems
like the fundamental government issue here—the approval for this type of
drilling in the first place. We know that what‘s happened here in the Gulf
has exceeded even what B.P. said was their worst case scenario for this.
Should they have not been given approval to do this in the first
JACKSON: You know, Rachel, I think that is but one of many questions
that we‘re all going to look for time to answer with facts—facts we‘re
getting now, facts we‘ll continue to get.
I think one thing is clear, that is that there was supposed to be a
fail-safe here, this blowout prevention valve. It‘s not safe at all. It
hasn‘t worked. And sadly, there isn‘t much redundancy in that system.
So, what we‘re finding out is that B.P. now has to turn to innovative
techniques to try to stem this ongoing release of oil.
MADDOW: At an event earlier today, Governor Rick Perry of Texas said
that this disaster, talking about this disaster, he said, “From time to
time, there are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that
cannot be prevented.”
My sense to that is that this wasn‘t an act of God. It was an act of
B.P. in the sense that they‘re responsible for this not happening, given
that they were responsible for the oil coming out of this sea bed.
What is your reaction to that, this idea that this was somehow
JACKSON: I just don‘t understand this rush to try to determine what
happened and more importantly, what it means. I absolutely applaud the
idea that we all need to be thoughtful about thinking about later, what
this means. But right now—right now, our focus has to be on the people
who are affected—certainly, originally, it was on the people who were
lost and missing. But we have to stop that oil from coming out of the sea
bed. It‘s coming out and it‘s making a bad problem even worse.
So, I don‘t want to speculate about why the governor said what he did.
This is a mechanical failure right now. We may find out some other things
caused it. But right now, there is a fundamental failure of the fail-safe
MADDOW: Talking to people down here today in Venice, the
conversations that I had with people kept coming back to the same thing
over and over and over again. Nobody has any confidence that we can
actually cap that well. Nobody has any confidence that at 5,000 feet under
the surface of the sea that we have the capability or that B.P. has the
capability or that any human has the capability to shut down something that
is gushing the way that it is.
Are you confident that it can be capped?
JACKSON: I‘m not confident, but I have to believe that we cannot rest
until it is capped. I mean, the people of the Gulf Coast, when I talked to
them yesterday, there is a certain fatalism. If you live down there on the
Gulf Coast region, if you live that area and you‘re below sea level behind
levees, all that‘s designed to protect you—and we all know that things
go wrong. We have recent examples that they go wrong.
What I keep saying to people is that we have to rely on the resilience
and expertise of people down there. We have to listen as much as we talk
in case there are some ideas. One of the things that‘s clear is that the
technology to control this is probably going to come out of the industry
that developed the technology to drill that deeply. And that‘s something
that I‘m sure we‘ll have lots of conversations about going forward.
MADDOW: Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Lisa Jackson -
thank you for your time tonight. The whole country wants this resolved
and looking to you as part of the administration for leadership on this.
Thank you for your time.
JACKSON: Thanks, Rachel, for being there with those folks. I‘m sure
they‘re glad you‘re there.
MADDOW: Well, I know the bugs are. Thank you, ma‘am. I appreciate
Today, I hitched a ride out into the Gulf with Captain Josh
Bodenheimer on his boat, The Superstrike, in order to try to take a look
for ourselves about what‘s going on. Our special disaster in the Gulf show
continues live from Venice, Louisiana.
Please do stay with us. We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me be clear: B.P.
is responsible for this leak. B.P. will be paying the bill.
KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR SECRETARY: Our job is basically to keep the
boot on the neck of British Petroleum to carry out the responsibilities
that they have.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Both the president and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar making
it clear who will foot the bill for the Deep Horizon oil spill. British
Petroleum, they say, is on the hook for the estimated $14 billion maybe or
more that it may take to clean this up. B.P. said last week it was already
spending $6 million a day on cleanup efforts.
And a fact sheet on the Deepwater Horizon response Web site says they
would pay compensation for, quote, “legitimate and objectively verifiable
claims for losses and damages caused by the spill,” as, quote,
“contemplated by applicable laws and regulations.”
Today began with a P.R. blitz as B.P. CEO, Tony Hayward, hit the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TONY HAYWARD, CEO, BRITISH PETROLEUM: It wasn‘t our accident but we
are absolutely responsible for the oil, for cleaning it up.
This is not our accident but it‘s our responsibility to deal with it.
This wasn‘t our accident, this was a drilling rig operated by another
company. It was their people, their systems, their processes.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Mr. Hayward treading that very thin line, simultaneously
taking responsibility and assigning blame to Transocean, the world‘s
largest offshore, oil well drilling company. The owner of the Deepwater
The rig‘s blowout preventer failed to stop the flow of oil. Facing
dozens of lawsuits, B.P. is doing damage control for its reputation and
maybe its liability, given the environmental damage has been and continues
to be done.
Despite all of this, it is not certain how much B.P. is going to wind
up paying. Besides the containment and cleanup costs under the Oil
Pollution Act of 1990, federal law limits the amount of damages B.P. will
be responsible for to—get this -- $75 million. That‘s it. $75 million.
A drop in the expected bucket.
That limit on liability is the target of the Big Oil Bailout
Prevention Act, which was introduced today. The bill seeks to raise the
cap on liabilities from $75 million to $10 billion.
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey who
was a co-sponsor of the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act.
Senator Menendez, thank you very much for your time. Thank you for
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Good to be with you, Rachel. And
thanks for being in Louisiana.
MADDOW: Your legislation would raise the liability cap from $75
million way up to $10 billion. If it passed, would it—would it take
effect immediately? Would it be retroactive to include this disaster here
MENENDEZ: Yes. You know, we have precedent for that super fund
ultimately is the cleanup of toxic waste site that‘s were, you know, made
toxic by polluters in the past. So, this is basically the provision that a
polluter should pay. And in this case, that‘s B.P. and Transocean.
MADDOW: In exchange for that cap that exists now on liability, that
$75 million cap, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 also imposed a tax on oil
companies. Eight cents for every barrel they produce in this country or
that they import.
If you are going to raise that cap from $75 million to $10 billion,
would we expect that would mean a big new tax on oil, a change in the cost
MENENDEZ: Well, actually, you know, B.P. just posted $5.5 billion in
profits for the last quarter. Not revenues, profits. So, if they can do
$5.5 billion in three months of profits, it seems to me that they and other
companies and a whole host of other companies were somewhere in that range
of $5.5 billion. Exxon had over $6 billion. Some had $2.5 billion.
The bottom line is to create liability to the amount we‘re talking
about of $10 billion is not going to ultimately hurt them that badly, if
they have a spill. And, secondly, you know, oil is really controlled on
the marketplace with OPEC. So, at the end of the day, it‘s not going to
see a spike, necessarily, on oil prices simply because we hold the polluter
to be responsible for their actions. And you know, I heard the BP
executive there, and I know—you know, you can try to shift blame and
just try to be responsible. At the end of the day, it‘s $75 million
liability, yes, you know, we keep hearing the president say BP is
responsible for all the cleanup and all the effort, but at the end of the
day whenever this disaster finishes, and you have those ecosystems and you
have those fishermen, and you have those coastal communities and you have
the estuaries ultimately affected, who are they going to turn to?
And the spill fund, which only has about $1.5 billion right now simply
isn‘t enough and has a limit of a $1 billion limit per incident, you know,
I‘m afraid at the rate that we‘re going with this spill, which I think is
going to exceed, unfortunately, the “Exxon Valdez,” that‘s just simply not
going to help the people of Louisiana and throughout the gulf region.
MADDOW: Senator Menendez, spending the day down here talking today
talking to fishermen thinking about the “Exxon Valdez,” not only how it set
precedent here in terms of the laws that were passed after that, how it
established that the spiller would be responsible for the cleanup, but also
thinking about what happened to the fishermen who paid the most direct
cost, of the most direct human cost of that spill. The “Exxon Valdez” case
spent decades in court.
There was finally a Supreme Court decision in 2008. So many, the
people ultimately got a reduced settlement from Exxon because of the
“Valdez” spill. So many fishermen who had put initial claims had died by
the time that, that settlement finally arrived that it was clear to
everybody who watched that, that something went wrong. Would your
legislation also address the timeliness with which people get compensated
for losing their livelihoods?
MENENDEZ: Well, Rachel, we believe that number one what happened with
the Supreme Court and the “Exxon Valdez” is that they reduced the punitive
damages. My legislation talks about the liability. And therefore, the
liability comes up front right away. Makes a determination, you‘re liable
up to $10 billion. And in doing so, we create the opportunity for
fishermen, coastal communities, businesses and all those who were
legitimately harmed by the spill to have access to compensation within, not
just their lifetime, but a lot more immediately.
MADDOW: Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, thank you very
much for your time tonight, sir. We really appreciate it.
MENENDEZ: Thank you.
MADDOW: I ventured out on the gulf coast waters today with Captain
Josh Bodenheimer, one of five local fishermen that President Obama met with
to discuss the impact of the spill on the whole region. That‘s next. the
Rachel Maddow show is live from Louisiana with a cast of thousands of tiny
flying insects. Stay with us, we‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: This afternoon I met with a local fishing captain, Captain
Josh Bodenheimer, a day after he met with President Obama. Captain
Bodenheimer was one of five fishermen who got to meet the president
yesterday, and today he took us on his boat, “The Super Strike” which he
runs here out of Venice. We‘ll take a look at what‘s at risk and what many
people say is some of the best if not the best sport fishing grounds
anywhere in this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, this is a 32-foot charter vessel. You‘ve been doing this
for seven years. If this spill, if this disaster is as bad as it‘s going
to be, what do you feel like your options are? What are you going to do if
you can‘t do this?
CAPT. JOSH BODENHEIMER, COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN: Try not to even think
about it at this point. I guess I‘m sort of oil cleanup, in the meantime.
But I really don‘t want to or have I ever had to think about doing anything
else. It‘s what I‘ve been doing, this is all I thought I‘d be doing.
BODENHEIMER: Until I wasn‘t doing anything anymore. This is all I
want to be doing. And that‘s a big thing that we‘re all concerned with
this being forced to change our lifestyle and being not able to do the
things that we love to do. And that we‘re lucky enough to call a job.
MADDOW: Yes. In terms of the prospects here, you think about a
landscape like this, which is the type of—this is the type of landscape
that could be inundated with oil if the spill goes the way they think it‘s
going to be. This type of marshland is going to get hit first.
MADDOW: If that happens, I mean, I can‘t imagine being out there
trying to clean that right now if there was oil there. I try to imagine
how long a disaster like this affects the fishery once that stuff comes
ashore. Is there anyway, I mean, is it the sort of thing that can
effectively be cleaned? Does the fishery die indefinitely? How long does
nature take to clean something like that up?
BODENHEIMER: Basing off what you can read about the “Exxon Valdez,”
there‘s still thousands of gallons of oil that show up there. And that‘s a
big worry that we all have. How are they going to get all this oil out?
Is there even a chance to get all the oil out? And how much oil will be
left behind if and when it starts getting into our coastline. This isn‘t
going to be one of the areas that‘s first affected by.
BODENHEIMER: You know, but we don‘t have a solid coastline. All of
these coastal marshes that we have are interconnected. So, if we start
getting oil back up in our marshes, there‘s no telling where it‘s going to
turn up. And how and when we would ever find it.
MADDOW: In terms of the options that they‘ve got right for how to
deal with this, I don‘t want to call it a spill because it‘s not like it‘s
a confine thing that‘s spilled.
BODENHEIMER: Right, flood.
MADDOW: Yes. For the Charlie Crist today or yesterday called it an
underwater volcano of oil because it‘s not stopped.
MADDOW: But in terms of the options they‘ve got for stopping it right
now, they‘re talking about trying to cap it and sort of vacuum the oil to
the surface. They‘ve also talked about putting that, the dispersants they
used to use on the surface down under sea by the source of the leak and
dispersing the oil that way. Do you have any sense of what that would mean
for fishing, the fishery and the overall system?
BODENHEIMER: I don‘t necessarily agree with them doing that. They
said, it would be the first time in u.s. history that they would try and
disperse oil underneath the surface. That just kind of gives us a sense of
out of sight, out of mind, as far as what they think they‘re doing with the
oil. What does that potentially do to our fishery, having that much oil
settling on the bottom? Moving around? Ruing the entire shrimp and crab
industry? Now, they‘re going to have shrimp trawlers picking, trawlers
full of big chunks to disperse the oil, that settled on the bottom. And
the big thing is, who‘s going to want to eat that? How these guys are
going to sell their catch?
MADDOW: Seems like the—just driving down here, coming down route
23 and seeing the industry and seeing the businesses and seeing the—you
know, just what‘s painted on people‘s trucks in terms of where they work,
it sort of feels like the oil industry giveth and the oil industry taketh
away. And obviously, it‘s the spine of economy down here, its fishing and
its oil industry.
MADDOW: Even literally, the oil rigs providing a habitat for the fish
that you catch as a charter boat captain. But then there‘s this risk.
What do you feel like is the balance in terms of the good and bad of the
oil industry down here? I mean, what‘s the future for Louisiana down here
BODENHEIMER: This was human error that caused this. It could have
been avoided. The risk shouldn‘t have been as high as it is, due to the
fact that they made the mistake. Had they not made the crucial mistake and
done things differently, we wouldn‘t be being affected by this. And
frankly, we wouldn‘t be having this conversation right now if BP hadn‘t let
MADDOW: When you—when President Obama was here this weekend and
you got to meet with him, what did you—I don‘t know if you want to let
me in on your president‘s fishing captain privilege, but what advice did
you give him or what did you tell him about what you‘re facing down here?
BODENHEIMER: I‘m more about just listened to other guys raise
questions to him that pretty much covered our main concerns. And that was
capping the well, the overall health of our entire ecosystem as far as what
we‘re going to do once the oil stopped and the entire cleanup process. And
then another thing was one of the other guys asked was about us being
reimbursed for the business that we‘re losing.
BODENHEIMER: And President Obama expressed that he‘s going to try and
make that as fast and as easy as possible for that cash flow to be moving.
And he said that that was really important aspect of it, which it is,
because we‘re losing trips day after day. And on top of that, people
aren‘t calling to book trips like they would be if the phone wasn‘t—I
mean, if we weren‘t dealing with this spill, the phone would be ringing off
MADDOW: Yes. As far as I understand it, after that “Exxon Valdez,”
in order to come to an agreement where it would be the oil company‘s
responsibility for the cleanup if something like that happened, they capped
how much the oil companies are liable to pay out to people like you, to
people whose livelihoods are destroyed by a spill like that. They capped
it pretty well, they capped at $75 million. That‘s one of the things that
they‘re thinking about trying to change now in a panic sort of way.
BODENHEIMER: Right. They would have to. I mean, there‘s more than
$75 million at stake with the amount of people that are going to be
directly impacted by this.
BODENHEIMER: You know, $6 billion a year seafood industry down here.
MADDOW: You think they should stop with the deep water drilling until
they‘ve got their safety stuff better under control?
BODENHEIMER: Wouldn‘t necessarily say all of it has to stop because
there are platforms that have been in production out there for years that
haven‘t had issues like that. But I would say that maybe they don‘t need
to expand on other projects until other safety concerns and risks can be
MADDOW: Yes. Captain Josh Bodenheimer on “The Super Strike,” I‘m
very happy to hear that you have a charter tomorrow.
BODENHEIMER: Yes, ma‘am, so am I.
MADDOW: Where are you going to go?
BODENHEIMER: Deep in the gulf.
MADDOW: What are you hoping to catch?
MADDOW: I‘m not only happy that you have that charter business, I‘m
really jealous that I‘m not on it. And I hope it goes well.
BODENHEIMER: You should stay around and come with us.
MADDOW: Well, maybe if I quit my job and don‘t have other
responsibilities, if I show up tomorrow I‘ve been fired but I‘m happy to be
BODENHEIMER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot, Josh.
BODENHEIMER: It‘s been a pleasure.
MADDOW: I‘ll appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The environmental damage being inflicted on the Gulf of
Mexico is not just to the fishing industry, this oil spill could change
everything about the ocean right behind me here.
Larry Schweiger from the National Wildlife Federation joins us next.
We‘re live in Venice, Louisiana. Please do stay with us.
MADDOW: How the oil spill is affecting the wildlife on the Gulf
Coast. Think cute sea turtles, birds and all the seafood we eat. We‘ll
talk to the President of the National Wildlife Federation, coming up, next.
MADDOW: There is breaking news far away from the gulf tonight about
the failed attempt to bomb Times Square in New York City on Saturday night.
NBC‘S Justice Correspondent Pete Williams has been covering the story. He
has late-breaking developments for us. Pete joins us now from Washington.
Pete, thank you for your time. What can you tell us?
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Rachel, New York police and FBI
agents are focused intensely tonight on a Pakistani American, a U.S.
citizen who lives in Connecticut and is believed to have bought the Nissan
Pathfinder that drove into Time Square Saturday night with a bomb that
ended up being a failure. What they know is that his name was on an e-mail
that was sent to the seller of the car last month. That‘s one of the
strong leads they‘re acting on, though they say there is other evidence.
The FBI has checked his records and found repeated contacts overseas but
they can‘t say tonight whether those are innocent or somehow related to the
As to whether the Times Square bombing was home grown or somehow
internationally connected, the senior official says, there is a growing
feeling that it may have some overseas connection, but they can‘t be
certain. And if there is, they don‘t know whether it‘s inspirational or
operational. They doubt it‘s directed by an established group overseas
because the nature of the bomb was so badly assembled. And as for the idea
that more than one person was involved, officials say that‘s largely a
theory, though material found in the car suggests someone else was recently
in that car, whether they had a connection to the bombing is yet to be
MADDOW: NBC Justice Correspondent Pete Williams, Pete, thank you very
much. We‘ll be staying on top of this story, no doubt being led by your
reporting on this. Appreciate it.
WILLIAMS: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Coming up on “Countdown,” Keith asks Richard Clarke for his
assessment on whoever tried to set off that bomb in Time Square over the
weekend. We are back from the Gulf Coast here in Louisiana in just a
moment. Please stick around.
MADDOW: Welcome back to Venice, Louisiana. Not too far from here,
the massive BP oil spill is pumping 5,000 barrels of oil into the gulf
every day, threatening marshes, and wetlands and bird habitats and fishing
grounds from Louisiana to Florida and maybe beyond. Louisiana and
Mississippi asked the government to declare this a fishery‘s disaster,
qualifying the state for Federal disaster aid. If the oil kills off the
marshes grasses along the coast, the soil will essentially erode into the
sea with every passing day, more and more crude flows into the gulf. And
if the leak takes months to plug, as some have predicted, this could be the
worst environmental disaster in our nation‘s history.
Joining us now is Larry Schweiger, he‘s the President and Chief
Executive Officer of the National Wildlife Federation. Larry, it‘s good to
have you here. Thanks for joining us.
LARRY SCHWEIGER, NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION CEO: It‘s great to be
here with you.
MADDOW: What is the long term impact going to be? We obviously don‘t
even know the short-term magnitude of this spill is, but how do you think
about the long-term impact here?
SCHWEIGER: Well, I think, there‘s a lesson to learn from what happen
in “Exxon Valdez.” Last summer, I returned to the Prince Williams sand and
the scientists actually dug in the sand, Prince Williams sand and found oil
in half of the oils they dug. So, the oil is still in Alaska, in the
Prince Williams sand from the “Exxon Valdez.” The scientists have looked
at the wildlife that were impacted, one third have fully recovered, two
thirds are still in recovery 20 years later. So, when you have an oil
spill of this magnitude, if it in fact gets into the wetlands, if it does,
the damage that we fear it will do before it‘s over, it would have long-
term consequences to the resources of this region.
Is there a telltale sign at the National Wildlife Federation when
you‘re trying to assess things like this, is there a telltale sign that you
looked for in terms of the man that—in the environmental impact?
SCHWEIGER: Well, I think for me on Saturday, I overflow much of the
area that was covered with oil. And you could see the water was unhealthy.
You could just see, there was not a shine the way water would normally
have. And the scale of this thing is so large, it‘s hard to describe to
people if you don‘t see it firsthand, but that oil sitting on that water is
also mixing in the water calm, will be taken up by the fish, by the
shellfish, oysters, for example, take up oil 1,000 times on what‘s in the
water calm. So, if there‘s one part per million in the water calm, they‘ll
have 1,000 parts per million from in the oyster. So, these systems are
like vacuum sweepers, they sweep up the pollutants and they hold them in
their tissues and then they bio magnify up the food chain.
MADDOW: Do you think it is possible to effectively clean a spill like
this, a flow like this? We‘ve talked already about accountability, how to
spirited exchange at the Environmental Protection Administrator, Lisa
Jackson tonight about that, talking about how blame is one thing, but
stopping this thing is another. When we think about accountability, one of
the things we want is somebody to pay, but we also want it to effectively
be mitigated. We want this disaster to be stopped and clean. Can it be
SCHWEIGER: Well, I would flip it the other way and say that BP should
have had a plan in place that included the watermen and the fishermen that
are in this community. They should have been under contract to be ready to
deploy booms when this accident first happened. They weren‘t. They were in
a training, they were still training, they were still trying to train them.
You know, this thing was poorly handled. There was not a management plan
put in place long ago to protect these waters. And frankly it was a
failure to act quickly and responsibly that caused this spill to grow to
the size that it has, to spread over the gulf from Mexico the way it has.
MADDOW: The quickness and responsibility of the response in terms of
BP as the responsible party, are you also frustrated with the Federal
SCHWEIGER: Well, I think there‘s a whole system that tilts toward oil
rigs. There are 750 lobbyists in Washington for big oil. These fishermen
have probably one or two any lobbyists in Washington. And the pressure is
on them and not on the oil industry. And that‘s how this has to change.
We need to demand that we not only make oil platforms safer, but we build a
new energy platform for America. It‘s time that we get off the oil barrel.
I know a dirty dipstick when I see one. We need to change our oil future.
We need to go a different direction.
MADDOW: Larry Schweiger, President and Chief Executive Officer of the
National Wildlife Federation, thanks for meeting with us.
SCHWEIGER: Thank you.
MADDOW: We appreciate it.
MADDOW: So, here we are again on America‘s Gulf Coast, the Louisiana
shoreline reporting on an environmental, economic and human catastrophe.
This fragile stretch of our country being ripped apart again just as the
wounds of the last disaster were beginning to heal here, that‘s of course
was hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the bureau islands of the coast here
in leveled much of Venice, Louisiana where I‘m sitting tonight. That was
2005. Here we are again in 2010. If there‘s a unifying truth in this
state, in this region, it is that the wetlands are the only means of
survival. Nobody argues the points. Republicans, democrats, nobody argues
The wetlands are to the Gulf Coast, what bumpers and crumple zones are
to cars. It‘s a buffer against the impact, an absorber of distractive
energy, a giant protector against disasters. Wetlands slow and weaken
hurricanes before they reach places like New Orleans. They support
wildlife, they support human economy. They are incredibly, incredibly
fragile and they have to be preserved if they are going to preserve us.
The marshes were built by nature over thousands of years, built by the
Mississippi river‘s floods which left settlement in fresh water. That
pushed the edge of the continent out into the Gulf of Mexico by as much as
But since, the 1950s, the pursuit of profit has forced 8,000 miles of
marshes to yield to manmade canals. Essentially, to make oil exploration
and shipping easier. It‘s estimated that the State of Louisiana loses 25
square miles of wetlands every year. If we were losing that much land to
another country, we would be at war. America has a choice to make about
the State of Louisiana. Is Louisiana part of our country or it is not?
Because if Louisiana is part of America, then the American people and the
American government have to begin to defend Louisiana against American
greed, and multinational greed. Because yes, legally it‘s the job of BP,
the oil company to clean up this disaster that looms over this wetlands
behind me right now.
But who among us believes that any company really wants to defend
America, as much as we as a nation want to defend us? The gains sucked out
of the sea bed here is private, it‘s profit, it‘s supersedes to these pesky
little regulatory bodies called countries, but the risk here, again, the
risk here as always isn‘t private. It‘s public, it‘s national, it‘s
American. It‘s borne by Louisiana again, literally borne by land here and
by the people here. The incentives are line up neatly for the companies
who profit up a natural resources here to take what they can and damn the
For us as a country, if we believe in Louisiana, somebody‘s got to
stand up against those companies on behalf of the public, the land, the
people, the country. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again
tomorrow night. Updates are available on this story and others at our blog
which is Maddowblog.msnbc.com. “Countdown” will keep over, and it starts
right now. Goodnight from Venice, Louisiana.
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