tv 60 Minutes CBS August 15, 2010 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT
captioning funded by cbs and ford-- built for the road ahead. >> kroft: bradley birkenfeld spent most of the last decade living in switzerland, helping wealthy americans hide their money. tonight, you'll hear how he did it, and how he touched off an investigation that would shake 300 years of banking secrecy to the foundation of its underground vaults. how unusual is it for a swiss banker to come forward and say, "this is how it works"? >> it's never happened before in history. i'm the first one. >> stahl: america gets half its electricity from coal. the problem is that process
creates tens of millions of tons of waste loaded with toxic metal. this muck is called coal ash. never heard of it? neither had most of the people in kingston, tennessee, until a retention pool buckled, shooting a billion gallons of coal ash into the river and engulfing area homes. >> you never heard of coal ash before kingston. >> stahl: never. >> wasn't a problem. >> stahl: well, it was a problem, we just didn't know. now we know, and there are no federal regulations for coal ash disposal, which is dumped in hundreds of sites all over the country. ♪ >> couric: ever since "the godfather," al pacino has been considered one of the biggest stars in film. but we were surprised when pacino told us he thought the studio was going to fire him until this scene. ( gunshot ) now 70 years old, pacino is in an hbo movie where he transforms
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their watches or the quality of their chocolate, it's the secrecy of their banks. the subterranean vaults of geneva and zurich have served as sanctuaries for the wealth of dictators and despots, mobsters and arms dealers, corrupt officials and tax cheats of all kinds. as we first reported earlier this year, it's a world that u.s. law enforcement has rarely been able to penetrate. so the idea that u.b.s., one of switzerland's largest banks, would agree to turn over information on thousands of american tax cheats would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. tonight, you'll hear the twisted tale of how all that changed, from a man some people have called one of the most important whistleblowers ever, who has been rewarded with a federal prison term and the possibility of endless riches. though he was born and raised in the boston area, bradley birkenfeld spent most of the last decade living in switzerland, helping wealthy
americans hide their money. he was based in geneva, where he says there may be more money- counting machines than parking meters in a country that once bragged it had more banks than dentists. >> bradley birkenfeld: it's not swiss money in those banks; it's foreigners'. you have a culture there that has been ingrained in society about managing people's money protected by swiss bank secrecy. >> kroft: and who has a right to that information under swiss law? >> birkenfeld: only the banker and the bank itself. >> kroft: how unusual is it for a swiss banker to come forward and say, "this is how it works"? >> birkenfeld: it's never happened before in history. i'm the first one. >> kroft: when birkenfeld, a mid-level banker with an undistinguished employment history, knocked on the door of the u.s. justice department in the spring of 2007, he touched off an investigation that would threaten one of the world's largest banks with extinction and shake 300 years of swiss banking secrecy to the foundations of its underground vaults.
he did it by providing inside information and documentation that his former employer, banking giant u.b.s., was actively involved in helping its american clients defraud the u.s. treasury out of billions of dollars in unpaid taxes. what do you think was the most valuable thing that you gave to the u.s. government? >> birkenfeld: the amount of clients and the amount of assets managed by u.b.s. in the united states out of switzerland. >> kroft: and that was how much? >> birkenfeld: that was 19,000 clients and around 20 billion swiss francs, which is about $19 billion. >> kroft: of the percentage of american accounts that you represented, how many would you say were trying to evade taxes? >> birkenfeld: my own clients? >> kroft: uh-huh. >> birkenfeld: i would say about 90%. >> kroft: did people tell you this was their intention when they opened an account? >> birkenfeld: it was the unwritten rule. you didn't have to discuss it. people wouldn't fly all the way to switzerland to open accounts just because they wanted to declare their money. >> kroft: and as a private banker for u.b.s., birkenfeld would help his clients invest,
spend and move their money. one example he told us about involved withdrawing cash from a customer's account, buying some diamonds in geneva, and then smuggling them into the u.s. for the client inside a toothpaste tube. birkenfeld claimed it was legal because the diamonds, he said, were worth less than $10,000 and didn't have to be declared at customs. if it was legal, why did you put them in a toothpaste tube? that's why... i'm having trouble with that. >> birkenfeld: oh, it was... it was just a way of carrying them so i wouldn't lose them. where would you put two diamonds? >> kroft: i think i'd put them in a money belt, or i think i'd put them in a case. >> birkenfeld: it was a one-time event, i... that's not my business. i just put them in a toothpaste tube. >> kroft: you weren't trying to hide them from customs? >> birkenfeld: no. not at all. >> kroft: buying diamonds and other valuables is just one way of hiding and transporting assets, and birkenfeld insists that he was just providing a service to his clients, which is what swiss banking is all about. >> birkenfeld: people would ask you to make purchases for them, possibly maybe a car or a
chalet, possibly a nice watch. so you would also cater to the client in that regard, and then deliver it to them upon their choosing. >> kroft: and what would be their choosing? >> birkenfeld: it could be in their hotel room. it could be in... maybe another country. could be there in geneva. >> kroft: so, you were sort of not just a banker, but also a personal shopper. >> birkenfeld: if you will, at a concierge level. >> kroft: birkenfeld claims his motives in going to the justice department were mostly altruistic. he offered to wear a wire to gather evidence against high- level u.b.s. executives in exchange for full immunity for his transgressions, but the negotiations broke down. and birkenfeld neglected to tell them about his dealings with this man, california real estate developer igor olenicoff, who was his biggest client. birkenfeld helped olenicoff hide $200 million by introducing him to a consultant who specialized in creating shell companies and sham entities that concealed the
ownership of the u.b.s. accounts. >> birkenfeld: i don't sign people's tax returns, so what they do with their taxes is not my business. i'm a banker. >> kroft: so you would steer them to somebody who would help them hide their money? >> birkenfeld: you would recommend them to the... these service providers, that's correct. >> kroft: you must have known deep down that it was illegal? >> birkenfeld: when you came into the u.s., you felt uncomfortable, that's correct. >> kroft: but as a gesture of good will, birkenfeld did give the justice department, senate investigators, i.r.s. agents, and the s.e.c. lots of information about u.b.s and its secret activities. >> birkenfeld: any transaction that happened on an account was held deep in the vault and sealed until the client came to pick it up personally. then, they would either take it with them, which was generally not the case, or they would tell you to shred it, which we would do on behalf of the client. >> kroft: people didn't have online accounts? >> birkenfeld: it was forbidden. e-banking was forbidden for... >> kroft: and they didn't... >> birkenfeld: ...u.s. clients. >> kroft: ... they didn't get statements in the mail? >> birkenfeld: no. >> kroft: so, if somebody wanted to know how much money they had in the bank and how their investments were doing, they had to go to switzerland? >> birkenfeld: or maybe see their banker when they came to the u.s. >> kroft: it was those visits to
the u.s., which birkenfeld told the government about, that ultimately got u.b.s. in so much trouble. the bank would sponsor lavish events like yacht races in newport and the art basel modern art festival in miami beach to attract wealthy americans. then, it flew in its bankers from switzerland to mingle and to try and drum up new clients, and conduct business with existing ones. because the swiss bankers weren't licensed to conduct business in the united states, it was a clear violation of american banking laws on u.s. soil, and birkenfeld provided internal documents that proved the length that u.b.s. would go to in order to avoid detection. >> birkenfeld: "call it a vacation rather than a business trip," rather than saying, "oh, yes, i'm coming to see my private clients here in the united states. and i'm coming in from zurich, switzerland." >> kroft: did you bring records into the country with you when you came in? >> birkenfeld: generally, no, i did not. my colleagues brought in encrypted laptops. >> kroft: encrypted laptops? >> birkenfeld: yes. so that even if they were discovered, you couldn't see what was inside the computers, which were portfolios of the
clients, and they were product offerings for the clients. >> thomas perrelli: they were going out of their way to cover their tracks. >> kroft: thomas perrelli, the associate attorney general of the united states, says birkenfeld was not the only person who provided valuable information to the investigation, but he says his evidence that u.b.s. executives encouraged illegal behavior was the bank's achilles heel. >> perrelli: they would bring checks, or sometimes they would actually carry money from one client to the next, all with the purpose of disguising and avoiding detection of large transfers of money. >> kroft: what did that information tell you? >> perrelli: it was certainly surprising that there would be a unit within a major bank that would be behaving in that way. >> kroft: and there was? >> perrelli: and there was. and we subsequently learned that senior officials knew about this. they knew it was wrong. they called it "toxic waste." but it was very profitable and they didn't stop doing it. >> kroft: based on information provided by birkenfeld, the justice department and the i.r.s. obtained a court order demanding that u.b.s. turn over records on the 19,000 americans believed to have secret swiss
accounts. u.b.s. then enlisted the help of the swiss government to try and negotiate a settlement, finally agreeing to pay a $780 million fine, cease its offshore banking activities with americans, and for the first time in history, turn over the names of more than 4,000 u.s. citizens suspected of tax fraud. >> perrelli: i think they knew we had a very strong case. >> kroft: u.b.s. realized that the justice department was holding all the cards. it had a major presence in the u.s. and 30,000 employees here, and it could not survive as a global banking power without access to the u.s. market. if you had such a strong case, why didn't you get the names and numbers of every american account holder in switzerland? >> perrelli: we got the accounts that really are the core of the fraud, the... the largest accounts, the accounts that had the... that are most clearly, likely to be associated with fraud. >> kroft: after the scandal broke, nervous clients withdrew $160 billion from u.b.s.' wealth management operation. and 14,700 americans have
notified the i.r.s. that they had offshore bank accounts, taking advantage of a program that allows them to pay back taxes and penalties and escape prosecution, which should provide a windfall for the u.s. treasury. how much in tax revenue do you think you will have gained from this? >> perrelli: i've heard, certainly, the commissioner of the i.r.s. say in the billions of dollars. >> kroft: with the government claiming victory, and u.b.s. breathing a sigh of relief, the only person with grounds to be really unhappy is bradley birkenfeld, who, the last time we saw him, was wearing an electronic ankle bracelet, and the federal government had restricted his movements to the commonwealth of massachusetts. >> birkenfeld: i gave them the biggest tax fraud case in the world. i exposed 19,000 international criminals. and i'm going to jail for that? >> kroft: as it turns out, while the u.s. government was using birkenfeld's information to go after u.b.s., the justice department was closing in on his biggest client, igor olenicoff, for tax evasion. olenicoff cooperated with the
investigation and paid $52 million in fines and back taxes, and got off with no jail time. but because birkenfeld hadn't told prosecutors about his relationship with olenicoff, birkenfeld was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit tax fraud. he pled guilty and was sentenced to 40 months in prison. and he was not happy about it. and you think that you should not be going to jail? >> birkenfeld: i think i shouldn't. >> kroft: even though you violated the law and you were an enabler. i mean, you were the person who were implementing these policies. >> birkenfeld: and i'm the only one going to prison, out of 19,000 accounts, and no swiss bankers. >> perrelli: if he had come forward and told us everything that he knew, a complete and accurate picture in the summer of 2007, we think it's likely he wouldn't have been prosecuted. >> kroft: mr. birkenfeld says that the federal government admits that the prosecution would not have been successful without his participation in this. and yet, he is the only one that is going to jail. is that fair? >> perrelli: it is not uncommon for someone to engage in criminal activity and to provide
us information, but to also go to jail. >> stephen kohn: the day he walks into prison is the day you will lose a generation of tax whistleblowers. >> kroft: why do you say that? >> kohn: because no one will blow the whistle. >> kroft: stephen kohn is one of birkenfeld's civil attorneys and the head of the national whistleblower center. he believes there may be one final twist in the case that could give his client the last laugh. that's because birkenfeld may well be entitled to collect tens of millions of dollars under a federal law that rewards whistleblowers with up to 30% of the money that's recovered as a result of the information they provide, even if they end up going to jail. >> kohn: mr. birkenfeld has saved the taxpayers billions of dollars, brought thousands of people to justice. they should blow up his check. the attorney general should shake his hand and look into the camera. and he should say, "i want a message to every international banker that works to money-
launder against america: you come here to america; you'll be protected and you'll be rewarded." get 20, get 30 birkenfelds. let's fix this problem. let's lower everybody's taxes. >> kroft: the i.r.s. will ultimately decide whether birkenfeld qualifies for the reward. if he does, they may have to mail the check to federal prison, where birkenfeld is serving time. but it couldn't be worse than returning to switzerland, where he is regarded as a criminal and a traitor. do you think you'll ever go back to switzerland again? >> birkenfeld: i don't believe i will. >> kroft: so far, ten u.b.s. clients have been convicted of filing false tax reports. most were fined and sentenced to probation or home arrest. none have received more prison time than bradley birkenfeld, who has petitioned president obama, asking for clemency.
>> cbs money watch update. >> mitchell: good evening, trying again to boost tourism after the oil spill, president obama went boating in the gulf today. an apple manager peers in federal court tomorrow charged with taking kickbacks from suppliers of iphone and ipad accessories. and sylvester stallone "the expendables" won the weekend box office. i'm russ mitchell, cbs news. get my hands dirty... and try new things. so i asked my doctor if spiriva could help me breathe better. spiriva is the only once-daily inhaled maintenance treatment for both forms of copd... which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. spiriva keeps my airways open... to help me breathe better for a full 24 hours. and it's not a steroid. spiriva does not replace fast acting inhalers for sudden symptoms. stop taking spiriva and call your doctor right away if your breathing suddenly worsens, your throat or tongue swells, you get hives, have vision changes or eye pain... or have problems passing urine. tell your doctor if you have glaucoma,
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>> stahl: we burn so much coal in this country for electricity that, every year, that process generates-- listen to this number-- 130 million tons of waste. most of it is coal ash, and it contains some nasty stuff. environmental scientists tell us that concentrations of mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxic metals are considerably higher in coal ash than in ordinary soil. when coal ash is disposed of in
dry, lined impoundments, it's said to be safe. but as we first reported last october, it's often dumped into wet ponds-- there are over 500 of them across the country-- and in those cases, the ash can pose health risks to nearby communities. >> jim roewer: we get about 48%, nearly half of the electricity in this country from coal. >> stahl: jim roewer is one of the top lobbyists for the power industry. >> roewer: coal's going to be around for a long time. >> stahl: we really can't get rid of coal. >> roewer: we shouldn't get rid of coal; we've got... >> stahl: well, should or shouldn't, we can't. and coal makes waste. would you say that the industry has done a good job of disposing of the coal ash waste? >> roewer: we can do better. >> stahl: does that mean no? >> roewer: well, we had a kingston spill. that's kingston, tennessee, where, in december 2008, a giant retention pool of coal ash buckled under the weight of five decades of waste. >> now, all the power lines and everything have been knocked out. >> stahl: a billion gallons of
muck shot into the emory river like a black tsunami... >> one person in the house, he's alive. >> stahl: ...engulfing homes, uprooting trees... >> everything's gone. >> stahl: ... and throwing fish out of the water. >> no, don't eat the fish, please. >> stahl: residents woke up to an apocalyptic moonscape of ash- bergs everywhere. >> this stuff is just sitting there, steaming. >> stahl: the spill was 100 times larger than the "exxon valdez," and it was all coal ash. >> roewer: you'd never heard of coal ash before kingston. >> stahl: never. >> roewer: never >> stahl: never. >> roewer: wasn't a problem. >> stahl: well, it was a problem, we just didn't know. the problem is, where do you put all that stuff? here, the tennessee valley authority, t.v.a., dumped up to 1,000 tons of coal ash every day into a wet pond near the plant, slowly amassing a waste-cake 60 feet high. some of the ingredients, according to the e.p.a.:
arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium, cadmium, and other toxic metals. you know, some people say that this is a poisoned meadow. >> leo francendese: i guess that's one way to describe it. it just doesn't belong here. it needs to come out. >> stahl: leo francendese is an environmental "mr. fix-it." he was sent by the e.p.a. to clean up this mess. >> francendese: in the wrong circumstances, coal ash is dangerous. breathing it, that's dangerous. >> stahl: the summer heat can bake the ash into a fine talc- like powder that can wreak havoc on your lungs. and this is all coal ash right along here. so, while the government has never formally labeled coal ash a hazardous waste, it's being treated as such here. is that all coal ash? >> francendese: yeah. >> stahl: as we left the site, we were scrubbed clean, as was our car. oh, my goodness. look at this. is this every car that goes through the site, goes through... >> francendese: every car that come... that goes through the site comes through this. >> stahl: gary topmiller lives right on the river.
he had a front row seat when the spill covered his dock. >> gary topmiller: now, what the doctors did tell me was, "get out of there." and i said, "i don't have anyplace to go." >> stahl: so, how do you live? you don't go out on the water? >> topmiller: no, we don't go out of the house. >> stahl: from the house, he sees scientists collecting samples to analyze just how bad the water is. the river looks clear but, topmiller says, that's deceptive. this came... comes out of right here? >> topmiller: right. it come right off the dock... >> stahl: and i should shake it? >> topmiller: turn it upside down and start shaking it. and this is what the river looks like once it... once that stuff gets suspended in it. >> stahl: oh, my goodness. >> topmiller: and how they're going to get that all out of the river, i don't have an idea. >> stahl: most of his neighbors have packed up and left. go down the river, and you pass home after home that are deserted, the hubbub of children replaced by the hum of heavy machinery. those left behind say the noise is one thing; what really infuriates them is executives from the power plant telling them that coal ash is as safe as dirt.
>> anda ray: we have broken the trust... >> stahl: anda ray oversees environmental policy at the tennessee valley authority, which is responsible for the spill. i asked her how toxic she thinks coal ash is. >> ray: i'd say that the constituents, the things that are in the coal ash, are the same things that are naturally occurring in soil and rock. >> stahl: so, is it like dirt? would you say that? would you say that sentence? "that stuff is like dirt." >> ray: that's... that ash material is higher than dirt in two areas, and that is arsenic and thallium. >> stahl: i then asked about company reports that repeatedly questioned the stability of the ash ponds. should the t.v.a. have seen this coming? >> ray: you know... >> stahl: you were warned repeatedly. >> ray: lesley, there were red flags that have been noticed all through the years. and we recognize that those red flags should've been addressed. but yes, we missed them, and we don't ever want to miss them again. >> stahl: the spilled ash is now being loaded onto trains and sent off to a dry landfill in
alabama. right now, coal ash disposal is regulated by the states, some of which have strict rules, some hardly any at all. >> lisa jackson: e.p.a. can be a force for good. >> stahl: lisa jackson heads the e.p.a.. she's been reviewing whether the federal government should get involved by labeling coal ash a hazardous waste, which would mean much tighter regulations and oversight. why wouldn't you, right now, this minute, on "60 minutes" declare that coal ash is a hazardous waste? >> jackson: e.p.a., in making a regulatory determination, has to look at a number of factors, including the toxicity of the material and how it's currently managed, but that's done according to law. >> stahl: the industry opposes calling coal ash hazardous waste. they're pushing for another solution: recycling. >> ted yoakam: that hill over there might be 40 feet of coal ash. >> stahl: ted yoakam, a lawyer in virginia, says recycling can
breed its own disaster. he says that in 2002, the state's power company, dominion, got rid of some of its excess coal ash by giving it to this golf course in chesapeake. >> stahl: wow. how many tons of coal ash, do you know, did they use to build this golf course? >> yoakam: we know that they put at least 1.5 million tons. >> stahl: million tons? >> yoakam: yes. >> ...for conditional use permit to construct and operate a golf course... >> stahl: in this city council meeting, a consultant hired by the company that built the golf course assured the mayor that coal ash was safe for reuse. >> it, in every aspect, is... the same as dirt, as it's been explained to me. i'm not aware of any negative aspects of it at all. >> stahl: the mayor then turned to a dominion executive. >> is there any environmental concerns we should be aware of? >> no, sir. we at dominion power are fully in compliance with all the federal and state regulations.
>> stahl: two years later, this internal company study about handling the ash for the golf course recommended that workers use "impervious gloves" and "particulate-filtering respirators" due to "potential health risks." robyn pierce and her neighbor, stacy moorman, live across the street from the golf course. >> robyn pierce: it was said that they were told they should wear respirators and body suits. nobody came up and down either one of these two streets and handed out wardrobe for us. our children were out there playing in the yard, breathing this stuff. how does this happen? >> stahl: also, dominion's internal risk assessment warned of the dangers of coal ash leaching into the water supply. to prevent that, the contractor who built the golf course was supposed to build a two-foot barrier under the coal ash, and one 18 inches on top. the contractor's engineer certified this was done. but attorney yoakam, who represents townspeople who are suing dominion, suspects it wasn't.
>> yoakam: as you can see right here, it's right at the surface. >> stahl: oh, my god, that... >> yoakam: insects... >> stahl: ... that's coal ash? of course it is, yeah. >> yoakam: insects have pulled it up. you can see how it flies away. >> stahl: the city dug into the golf course in 2008, did a test, and found elevated levels of toxic metals in the water. >> yoakam: with all the knowledge that dominion had about the coal ash and the lead and the arsenic and beryllium and all the poison, to put it in this environment, it's just an outrage. >> stahl: that water test was just for the golf course; dominion told us-- and the e.p.a. confirms-- that e.p.a. testing "shows no harm to residential wells" nearby. >> moorman: i invite anybody from the companies who have put it over there to come to my house and have dinner. and i will use that tap water. >> stahl: stacy and her neighbors think it's too risky to drink the water. so, after dominion refused to
provide them with bottled water, they began trudging to a local church where the city pipes in guaranteed clean water. is that how you get your drinking water? >> yeah. we use it to brush our teeth and to take baths. >> stahl: dominion declined to give us an interview, but most power companies rely on recycling because it cuts the 130 million tons of coal waste every year in half. the industry calls recycling "beneficial use." >> pierce: don't even... beneficial for who? the only people it was beneficial for were for those utility companies that had to get that stuff off their hands because they were already in violation with stockpiling too much. that is what "beneficial use" meant. >> stahl: but the e.p.a. in the bush administration endorsed beneficial use, and now coal ash is recycled in dozens of ways: as cement substitute, for instance.
it's also placed under roads and in deserted mines, and it's added to products from carpets to bowling balls to bathroom sinks. while the industry says the uses have been studied, i asked lisa jackson whether the e.p.a. knows if some of the recycled products are safe. schoolroom carpeting. >> jackson: i don't know. i have no data that says that's safe at this point. >> stahl: kitchen counters. >> jackson: the same. >> stahl: 50,000 tons of coal ash by-products have been used in agriculture. now, what's being done through e.p.a. to look at the use of coal ash in agricultural products? anything? are you... is there a study? >> jackson: i'm not sure that there's any study out there right now. >> stahl: how did we get to a place where coal ash is in products without anybody knowing? >> jackson: we're here now because coal ash, at this time, isn't a regulated material by the federal government. >> stahl: if the e.p.a. declares coal ash a hazardous waste,
lobbyist jim roewer says beneficial use would die and the cost of disposal would skyrocket. >> roewer: we look at that and we're looking at something on the order of $12 billion to $13 billion. >> stahl: billion? >> roewer: billion. >> stahl: and who'd pay for that? we know. the customers. >> roewer: environmental protection doesn't come cheap. >> stahl: he says the current state-by-state regulatory system may not be perfect, but it works. could you say right now that the disposal in all the coal ash plants today are safe and that they're all doing a proper job? >> roewer: all i can guarantee is that they're going to do their best to manage coal ash safely so that you don't have a release like kingston. >> stahl: are all these plants safe? >> roewer: that's what the state regulations are all about, to insure the safe management of coal ash. >> stahl: but... but you're not saying they are safe. you're playing word games with
me. you're not saying, "they are safe." >> roewer: you want me to guarantee that... >> stahl: yeah, i do. >> roewer: ...they're absolutely safe. >> stahl: i think everybody... i want... yes, i do. >> roewer: well, i... what i can say is the state regulations and the utility management practices are put in place to ensure... with a goal of safe management of coal ash. >> stahl: i don't think many people really trust the utility industry, i'm sorry to tell you. >> roewer: you're not the first one to tell me that. >> stahl: the e.p.a. has yet to say how it intends to regulate coal ash, but in june, the agency formally announced proposals for two regulatory options: a tough one-- treating coal ash essentially as hazardous waste; and a less stringent one-- treating it more like home garbage. the e.p.a. is currently holding public hearings on both these options. [ barks ] i'm the puppy that ate your backseat.
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>> couric: only a handful of people have won an oscar, an emmy, and a tony award for best actor. the combustible, gritty, larger- than-life al pacino is on that short list. he's 70 years old and has been nominated for another emmy award for his role in an hbo movie playing dr. jack kevorkian, the crusader for assisted suicide. it's one of pacino's meatiest roles in years. though he's made a living in front of the camera, he's notoriously private. but, as he told us last spring, at this point in his life and career, with a movie he's proud of, he decided it was a good time to talk about himself and his most important roles, including the one that made al pacino-- michael corleone in
"the godfather." ♪ when you were on the set of that movie, did you realize, "this is going to be more than a movie; it is going to be a classic"? i mean, did you have any conception of that? >> al pacino: no. "just get me through the day." >> couric: really? >> pacino: oh, yeah. >> couric: were you that miserable? >> pacino: oh, i mean, with diane, and i'll never forget it, we did a scene there, at the table... >> couric: at the wedding? >> pacino: at the wedding, and we went home that night, just got drunk, and we just said, "this movie's going to die." >> couric: not only did al pacino think the movie was going to bomb, he never expected to get the part playing opposite diane keaton. a successful stage actor, he was virtually unknown in hollywood when director francis ford coppola picked him to play the pivotal role in the movie.
nobody wanted you in the role but him. >> pacino: he was the only one. >> couric: pacino says executives at paramount were adamantly against casting him, and even dismissed him as a "little runt." only after being made to audition four times did the studio reluctantly give him the part. but pacino didn't feel secure in the role and worried he might be dropped even after filming began. >> pacino: and even francis started to lose it a little bit, because i wasn't producing what they expected at the time. and i kept thinking, "well, it's going to come later," you know. >> couric: because you wanted to show how michael evolved, how he became... >> pacino: that's right, i did. >> couric: ... one of them. >> pacino: i had this in my head, i worked on it for a long time before we went to shoot. for months, i mean, i just focused on that character. but what happened was they got to do the sollozzo scene, where michael shoots sollozzo. ( gunshot ) they kept me after that. >> couric: what do you think
they saw in that scene? >> pacino: well, i shot somebody and it worked. ( laughs ) ( gunshots ) >> couric: that scene transformed michael corleone from war hero to mobster, and launched al pacino's career. >> pacino: touch me again. i'll kill you. i want him dead! no! >> couric: his movie career spans four decades, 42 films, and eight oscar nominations. >> pacino: say hello to my little friend. >> couric: his performances are often defined by volcanic moments, so much so that some of his directors wonder where his intensity comes from. >> pacino: you're out of order, you're out of order. "let's make a deal." >> couric: sidney lumet once said of you, "everything stems from some incredible core inside of him that i wouldn't think of trying to get near because it would be like getting somewhere near the center of the earth." >> pacino: whoa! >> couric: but where does sort
of the explosive nature of your performance, where does that come from? >> pacino: we all got that in us. i see it every day. i see it in babies, i see it in animals, i see it in people all the time. >> couric: what, rage? >> pacino: yes. it's right there in everybody. it's just that actors access these things. >> couric: a conversation with al pacino twists and turns, drifts and digresses. his mind goes in so many different directions at once, following him isn't always easy. >> pacino: i keep losing my train... >> couric: that's all right. but it's this kinetic thought process that serves his acting so well. he used to walk from one end of manhattan to another, talking to himself, trying to absorb his character. his latest: the controversial jack kevorkian. >> pacino: you'll fall into a deep coma as the lethal dose of potassium chloride stops your heart. >> couric: you looked eerily and
seemed eerily like jack kevorkian. how did you do it? >> pacino: what i did with jack kevorkian is i worked. i went into my little bunker by the house. a lot of acting is private time. >> couric: you're in your bunker, you're watching... >> pacino: i'm watching the pieces. i'm reading the script. i'm listening to the sound of him. it's like work. it's me, serpico! >> couric: when he took on the role of new york cop frank serpico nearly 40 years ago, he became so immersed in the part, he had trouble getting out of character. >> pacino: i was in a cab once, and i was serpico. i was playing serpico. and there was this truck, and for years, it's been a pet peeve of mine when they blow out that carbon monoxide from the back and it's all black. it pisses me off, really. so i saw that thing and i just rolled down my window and i just-- "pull over! pull over!" i was going to pull him over and put him under a citizen's arrest, i guess. >> couric: pacino was raised on the rough streets of the south
bronx by a single mother and his grandparents. >> pacino: i mean, when i was a kid... >> couric: he dropped out of high school at 16 and eventually headed to greenwich village to act in small plays. his only money came from tips. he was broke and homeless. >> pacino: you learn to go without food. >> couric: but you were sleeping under storefronts and... >> pacino: well, i... i remember. >> couric: ... and stages. >> pacino: i remember, at one point, i would sleep there at night on the stage. they had a lovely couch. it was very comfortable. well, this is it. >> couric: but he got his first break when he was accepted at the actor's studio in midtown manhattan, where marlon brando, james dean and paul newman were trained in method acting, which teaches actors to draw on their own life experiences. do you think you'd be successful if this place hadn't been here in new york? >> pacino: well, it think it had a lot to do with my success, because when i was younger, they weren't hiring people like me to
play in shakespeare, or anything else, or moliere or noel coward. you could do everything here. but you just keep going. >> couric: on the streets of greenwich village today... >> pacino: hi, how are you? >> couric: ...walking with al pacino feels like old home week. >> pacino: hi. sorry for the intrusion. hey, hi, guys. >> couric: does this happen wherever you go? >> pacino: if i go with a big camera and you, i think then it might happen. >> couric: his mother never lived to see moments like these. she died when he was 21. was it hard that she never saw you attain success? >> pacino: yeah, it was. and my grandfather, too, who raised me. those are the two most important people in my life, but they never saw it, no. >> couric: they never saw him win an oscar for his role as the blind lieutenant colonel frank slade in "scent of a woman." >> pacino: here i am. sharp to the hairline, down.
hah >> couric: while he was preparing for the part, pacino picked up the character's signature phrase. >> pacino: hoo-wah! i had this guy, this sort of lieutenant colonel guy working with me, because he taught me how to assemble and disassemble a .45 blind. and i just practiced with this guy. and then finally, when i would get it, the colonel would say, "right. hoo-wah!" "hoo-wah," he'd say to me. and i thought, "hoo-wah. what the heck is that?" hoo-wah! ( applause ) >> couric: every character is a work in progress, and he's been known to improvise. take the 1975 film "dog day afternoon," where he plays a bumbling bank robber who has a face-off with an army of cops. >> pacino: and we were doing the scene as written. and this great assistant director, burtt harris, comes up to me and he whispers in my ear, he says, "al, say 'attica.'"
i said, "attica?" "just say 'attica.'" >> couric: the attica prison riot that was brutally suppressed by police was emblematic of the anti-authority sentiments of the time. >> pacino: so i tried it. i just said, "attica!" boom! attica! attica! attica! the next thing you knew, the crowd just came alive. attica! remember attica. and this whole scene evolved from this very brilliant assistant director-- just threw it at me. >> couric: pacino says he's never felt comfortable with fame and had trouble dealing with his rise from obscurity to stardom. you started drinking in the '70s. >> pacino: the '70s? mm-mm. >> couric: sorry. the '50s? >> pacino: hmm, now we're talking. >> couric: you had some dark days there, didn't you? >> pacino: i was drinking. that was part of my life.
it's part of the climate. as they asked the great sir laurence olivier, "what is the best thing you like about acting?" and he said, "it was the drink after the show." i was doing it to excess. >> couric: do you drink at all today or ever? >> pacino: no, i don't. no. >> couric: he says he hasn't had a drink in 30 years. he keeps a low profile, but has had a series of leading ladies in his life, which begs the question... why have you never gotten married? >> pacino: ( laughs ) >> couric: whoa. >> pacino: i dream about that question, that someone's going to ask me that question on national television, and i'm going to say, "i don't know." i'm also going to say, "well, maybe i will one day," or, you know, "i'm too... i'm a little young for marriage." >> couric: you have nine-year- old twins right now... >> pacino: i can tell you, i should've. >> couric: what, you should've? >> pacino: now, a couple of times. >> couric: who? >> pacino: i can't say. >> couric: come on. >> pacino: but i should've. i made a mistake not to. >> couric: really? >> pacino: yup. if that means anything.
so, there's hope is what i'm saying. >> couric: much of his free time is spent directing his own quirky independent film projects. >> pacino: so that cut doesn't work. it's not clear. >> couric: for four years, he's been obsessed with his movie about oscar wilde's play, "salome." how much of your own money have you spent on this project, al? >> pacino: how about this? it's... i have to go back to work. ( laughter ) >> couric: this spring, al pacino is back at work in the movie, "you don't know jack." >> pacino: victorious? i never feel victorious. i just go ahead and do what i do. >> couric: in 1998, dr. kevorkian went on "60 minutes" with mike wallace and showed a tape of himself giving a lethal injection to a patient. >> wallace: is he dead now? >> dr. jack kevorkian: he's dying now. >> couric: in the movie, across from mike wallace sits al pacino as jack kevorkian. >> wallace: jack kevorkian, dr. death, is a fanatic?
>> pacino: zealot. okay. it gave me an opportunity to do something i haven't done before. i think that's what is interesting. in all my roles, i don't think there's anyone like that. >> couric: al pacino has been at the center of so many iconic movies. >> pacino: hello. >> couric: but after all these years, he's still most comfortable on the stage, reciting shakespeare, as we discovered with this impromptu parting performance. >> pacino: "arise fair sun, kill the envious moon who is already sick and pale with grief that thou, her maid, art far more fair than she." that's all you're going to get from me. about. >> welcome to the cbs sports update presented by viagra. the day here in wisconsin at the 92nd pga championship at
whistling straights, 25-year-old german star martin kaymer won the wanamaker trophy in a three hole play-off against bubba watson. phil nicholson finished 12th and tiger woods a tie for 28. for more news and scores log on to cbsnews.com. this is jim nance reporting. about the world and yourself. ♪ this is the age of knowing what you're made of. and knowing how to get things done. so, why would you let something like erectile dysfunction get in your way? isn't it time you talked to your doctor about viagra? 20 million men already have. with every age comes responsibility. ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sex. do not take viagra if you take nitrates for chest pain, as it may cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure. side effects may include headache, flushing, upset stomach, and abnormal vision. to avoid long-term injury, seek immediate medical help for an erection lasting more than four hours.
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