The Oil Spill’s Surprise Endings

From left: Alex Wong / Getty Images; Andy Levin / Polaris; Polaris

One year after the Deepwater Horizon disaster sent 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the region is still struggling. Who’s recovering, and who’s stuck in the muck?

Tony Hayward: May Finally Pay

The BP chief executive, once America’s most-hated man, whined “I want my life back”—and seemed to get it. But now it looks like the feds are eyeing Hayward for possible manslaughter charges related to the 11 deaths caused by the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Still, the gaffe-prone Brit might skate by. Lately, Hayward’s been reported to be in talks to create an investment fund with financier Nathaniel Rothschild.

Oil Workers: New Headaches

The moratorium on deepwater drilling was lifted in October, but for the oilmen who need the work, the return has been too little and too late. A Louisiana State University economist says the local oil business has shed 13,000 jobs. But the White House says oil workers have their bosses to blame for their being out of work; it recently released a report claiming that two thirds of the Gulf of Mexico’s oil and gas leases are sitting idle. More oil rigs are pumping nationwide than were running during the Bush years.

Fish: Still Belly-Up

It’s shrimp season again in the gulf, and the FDA says people should have no fear of grabbing a po’ boy or sitting down to a bowl of gumbo. But nearly 85 percent of oyster reefs were lost. Catches of grouper and red snapper remain small. Government scientists have tracked three spikes in dolphin deaths since the gusher. On average, more than one dolphin a day has washed up on the shores of the gulf in 2011. Whale and dolphin deaths could be 50 times the number of carcasses actually discovered, researchers say.

Fishermen: Worse Than Ever

Oceanographers worry that the spill has harmed marine life’s ability to reproduce, endangering the livelihood of generations of fishermen on the Gulf Coast. Many fishermen believe BP has been negligent in paying restitution. Some claim that Bourbon Street strippers, New Orleans cabdrivers, and Hooters girls are getting restitution from BP while seafarers are being stiffed. In addition to the $20 billion pledged to the region, BP has promised $500 million for research and to boost local fishing.

Republican Governors: Seized the Day

Unlike Hurricane Katrina, which was a disaster for Louisiana politicians, the oil spill gave the gulf’s leaders a chance to shine. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour played his “aw shucks” part to the hilt. “Come on down here and play golf,” he beckoned. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, always a comer, took a more alarmist tone, giving constant and detailed updates on his state’s distress. Florida’s Charlie Crist didn’t fare so well: after losing his Senate race, he fled the GOP and is now out of office.

Barack Obama: Gets Out Unscathed

Remember when the spill was going to be Obama’s Katrina? Back then, Peggy Noonan said, “I don’t see how you politically survive this.” But the spill proved just a small detour, and now it barely ranks on the list of issues threatening his approval ratings. With skyrocketing oil prices, a looming battle over the debt ceiling, and turmoil in the Middle East, the spill is the least of Obama’s headaches.


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