BP Cover Up? Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser Says Oil Giant Lies About Oil Spill Cleanup

Where's the oil? Nungesser says his crews are still vacuuing it up from marshes.

August 2, 2010— -- Oil is still hitting the Louisiana shore, and BP is trying to cover it up, aided by the federal government.

So says Louisiana leader Billy Nungesser, the Republican president of Plaquemines Parish, in an explosive interview today with ABC's Diane Sawyer.

Watch Diane Sawyer's conversation with Billy Nungesser tonight on "ABC World News."

After a week of news suggesting that much of the oil has been skimmed up or begun to break up, Nungesser pushed back against those claims. He said his cleanup crews were busy vacuuming crude out of marshes over the weekend, finding thousands of dead fiddler crabs, as well as dead fish and oiled birds.

"Make no mistake, there's large areas that are totally destroyed, and the greenery is completely dead," Nungesser said.

Sawyer pressed Nungesser, asking him if he was accusing BP of a deliberate cover-up.

"Absolutely," he responded. "It's obvious, and until they sit around the table and put all the cards on the table, nobody trusts them. Take a poll -- does anybody trust them? Nobody down here."

"Who's controlling who here? It looks like BP's controlling the federal government," he said.

Oil Continues to Hit Marshland

"Saturday, this oil that I'm holding was in Barataria Bay at St. Mary's Point," Nungesser said, holding a jar full of thick black crude. "It's shameful that we have to keep proving ourself. I wish there was no oil -- I'd rather get my life back, too. But every day, oil is appearing somewhere."

Nunguesser said that BP has vastly understated the area of marshland affected by the spill, and he now has his own helicopters out searching for oil, feeding in information on the location of crude.

"We used to get that information from BP, but it's obvious now that their job is to fly out there and say there's no oil," he said. "The local people are having to go out and look for it ourself."

Where Did the BP Oil Go? Nungesser Says Look in the Marshes

Government and independent scientists have suggested in recent days that much of the oil has been broken down by deep-sea bacteria. The size of the slick has shrunk dramatically in the last month, and skimmers have picked up just a fraction of the amount of oily water that they were at the height of the spill.

"We're finding hydrocarbons around the well, but as we move away from the well, they move to almost background traces in the water column," National Incident Cmdr. Adm. Thad Allen told ABC News last week.

Even environmentalist Philippe Cousteau couldn't find oil or deep-sea plumes when he went diving over the weekend.

"We went offshore looking for oil and then made about four or five jumps in different spots outside off shore and didn't see anything," Cousteau said.

But Nungesser says that plenty of oil remains in the water, and it comes out whenever the sea is roiled.

"When the storm kicks up, any kind of wind, the oil mixes up. Early in the morning, late in the evening, it's on the surface. You've got to skim it then, or it ends up in the marsh," he said.

Nungesser has called on BP to provide more skimmers, but he says the company has been riding the wave of positive news to pull assets out.

"They waste more money on ridiculous stuff than on actually going out there and fighting the oil, and that's a crime," he said.

Federal Government: Dispersant Was Safe and Effective

Over the weekend, BP faced accusations by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) that it had "carpet-bombed" the Gulf with dispersants, chemicals that some continue to question. But today, the EPA released the results of a second round of testing, suggesting that the use of the dispersant Corexit was safe and smart.

The tests showed that Corexit was no more toxic than the oil itself, and that it helped oil to degrade 50 percent faster. EPA Assistant Administrator Dr. Paul Anastas expressed confidence in the use of the dispersant, calling it a "wise decision" and saying there's no evidence that wildlife has been killed or sickened by the chemical.

To that, Nungesser expressed indignation.

Nungesser: EPA on the Side of BP

"We're still fighting for survival, and now it appears the federal government is on the side of BP, with the EPA jumping ship. And that's a crime. It's an embarrassment for this country," he said.

Nungesser said he wants the federal government to "quit covering up," calling for extensive testing of the dispersants, both below the surface and down on the ocean floor. He also called for long-term plans to test seafood, despite the fact that no contaminated seafood has been found in over 15,000 state tests since the start of the spill.

"We continue to see the wildlife affected where that oil comes shore," Nungesser said.

Static Kill Could Kill the Well for Good

Still, Nungesser did express optimism that BP will soon plug the well for good.

"We see light at the end of the tunnel, and we know that the end is coming near."

BP is preparing a static kill procedure, pumping mud and cement down the busted well to secure it permanently. Crews will conduct testing tonight to determine whether to continue with that plan.

If it works, the static kill could now take the place of the relief wells, though the company would still use them to monitor the success of the plug. The company could also continue with a cement plug through the relief wells.

"I would say the chances of this working are pretty much up around 95 to 99 percent," said Don Van Niewenhuise, director of petroleum geosciences at the University of Houston.

No matter what, "We want to end up with cement in the bottom of the hole," said BP executive Kent Wells in a press conference today.

Plug Could be Complete This Week

Depending on the technique used, the permanent plug could come as soon as this week, and late August at the latest.

But Nungesser said that even then, the crisis will not be over.

"The big question is, how much oil is out there beneath the surface? And how long will we have to fight before all the oil is gone from the Gulf?"

ABC's Jeffrey Kofman, Lisa Chinn and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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