A look at Gulf oil disaster a year later

21:17, Apr 18 2011
Help written on beach
OIL SPILL: The word Help is written in the sand on the beach at Gulf Shores, Alabama as workers battle to stop thousands of gallons of oil from a spill from hitting beaches.
Gulf oil spill
OIL SPILL: Workers gather stormwater runoff and decayed organic matter on the beach in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Gulf oil spill
GULF OIL SLICK: The crew of a Basler BT-67 fixed wing aircraft release oil dispersant over an oil discharge from the mobile offshore drilling unit, Deepwater Horizon, off the shore of Louisiana.
Gulf oil spill
OIL SLICK: A band of oil from the BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana floats in the water near Freemason Island.
Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill
An oil soaked bird struggles against the side of the HOS an Iron Horse supply vessel at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Oil spill
OIL SPILL: Oil is seen on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico in an aerial view of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Mobile, Alabama.
Oil from the Gulf
OIL SLICK: A man holds a plastic bag with oil from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill south of Freemason Island, Louisiana.
Protesters
OIL SPILL: Demonstrators hold placards during a rally in New Orleans to demand the cleaning of coasts as oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead continues to spread in the Gulf of Mexico.
Protective wall
OIL SPILL: A wall constructed to protect the northern shore of Dauphin Island, from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is shown in this aerial photograph.
Oil in waves
OIL SLICK: Thick black waves of oil and brown whitecaps are seen off the side of the supply vessel Joe Griffin at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill containment efforts.
Oil-stained bird
OIL STAINED: A cattle egret stained by oil rests on the deck of the supply vessel Joe Griffin, at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.
Oil
Greenpeace senior campaigner Lindsey Allen walks through a patch of oil from the Deepwater Horizon on the breakwater in the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Oil2
Dispersed oil caught in the wake of a transport boat floats on the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 15 miles northwest of site of the BP oil spill.
Oil3
Dispersed oil floats on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico waters close to the site of the BP oil spill.
Oil4
Oil drips from the rubber gloves of Greenpeace Marine Biologist Paul Horsman.
Oil5
Gas from the damaged Deepwater Horizon wellhead is burned by the drillship Discoverer Enterprise.
Oil6
Greenpeace marine biologist Paul Horsman surveys oil pooled between reeds and brush.
Oil7
Veterinarians working for US Fish and Wildlife Services bathe a brown pelican at Fort Jackson Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
Oil spill
OIL SPILL: A worker shovels oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off Fourchon Beach in Port Fourchon.
Oil spill
GULF OIL SPILL: Oil fouls the water near nesting pelicans on an island in Barataria Bay just off the the coast of Louisiana.
Pelican covered in oil
PELICAN COVERED IN OIL: An oiled bird on an island in Barataria Bay just off the the coast of Louisiana.
Oil spill
CONTAMINATION: CNN reporter Anderson Cooper lays down on the bow of an air boat to take a picture as Governor Bobby Jindal, right, removes a fishing net from the oil contaminated water in Pass A Loutre near Venice, Louisiana.
Oil spill
OIL SLICK: Workers clean up oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Pass a Loutre, Louisiana.
Oil spill in perspective
From a www.beowulfe.com program using Google maps to provide local perspective on the impact of the Gulf oil spill.
BP oil spill
A Nasa satellite image of the Gulf of Mexico shows the extent of the oil released from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
BP oil spill
BP CEO Hayward takes a first hand look at the recovery operations aboard the Discover Enterprise drill ship in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP oil spill
US President Obama walks along the Louisiana coastline while touring damage caused by oil spill.
Oiled pelican
SPILL VICTIM: A brown pelican covered in oil sits on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast.
Oiled bird
OILED: A bird is mired in oil on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast.
Pelican
GULF PELICAN: A brown pelican is seen on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon has affected wildlife throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil bird
A Pelican sits on the beach covered in oil at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast.
Pelicans
SPILL VICTIMS: Brown Pelicans, covered in oil from BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill, huddle together in a cage at the International Bird Rescue Research Centre in Buras, Louisiana.
Pelican sits in oil
OIL VICTIM: An exhausted oil-covered brown pelican sits in a pool of oil along Queen Bess Island Pelican Rookery, 4.8km northeast of Grand Isle, Louisiana.
Gulf oil spill
UNDERWATER VANTAGE: patches of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill are seen from underwater.
Gulf spill
UNDERWATER OIL: Patches of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill are seen from an underwater vantage.
Gulf spill
OIL SPILL: Patches of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill are seen from an underwater vantage.
Journalist Rich Matthews
UNDER THE SEA: AP journalist Rich Matthews takes a closer look at oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill, in the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil
OIL EVERYWHERE: Rich Matthews takes a closer look at oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
oIL
EFFECTS: Marine reef ecologist Scott Porter holds barnacle samples he removed from an oil rig in waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Porter plans to determine the effect of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
sPILL
Marine reef ecologist Scott Porter works to remove oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill off his hands.
Oil in bottles
GULF SPILL: Oil-tainted water from the Gulf of Mexico sits in jars placed before a group of business people and officials called Gulf Voices as they speak of their plight during a visit to Capitol Hill in Washington.
Oil spill
GULF SPILL: Crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill washes ashore in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Oil spill
GULF SPILL: Gas and oil continue to leak at the Deepwater Horizon oil spill site in the Gulf of Mexico, in this image captured from a BP live video feed.
Gulf oil spill
OIL SPILL: The Taiwanese skimmer dubbed "A Whale", left, conducts a test of its oil skimming capabilities in the Gulf of Mexico as part of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response.
Young heron
YOUNG HERON: Young herons impacted by oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are seen at the Fort Jackson Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.
BP STICKS AT IT: Work continues at the site of the BP oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP STICKS AT IT: Work continues at the site of the BP oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
oiled heron
OIL VICTIM: A seriously oiled tri-coloured heron is spotted on Queen Bess Island near Grand Isle, Louisiana.

The Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and resulting oil spill spawned significant changes in the drilling industry, led to hundreds of lawsuits and numerous investigations, and caused economic harm to hundreds of thousands of people along the Gulf Coast.

Here's a look at what has happened to key individuals and activities in the year since the April 20, 2010 disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP EXECUTIVES: Gaffe-prone CEO Tony Hayward was ousted from his job and replaced by American Bob Dudley, who took over the British company October 1. Hayward was transferred to a BP affiliate in Russia. Other top executives also left the company, including Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles, senior vice president Kent Wells and former head of exploration and production Andy Inglis.

RIG KIN: Several families of the 11 men who died aboard the Deepwater Horizon are pressing legal claims against the companies involved. Transocean has settled with at least five families for as yet undisclosed amounts. BP hasn't settled with any, and many of the families say they have heard little to nothing from the company since the disaster.

SPILL CLAIMS: The US$20 billion (NZ$25.2b) fund set up by BP to compensate victims has doled out only about US$3.8 billion (NZ$4.8b) to roughly 176,000 claimants, and oil spill victims complain of a slow, cumbersome process. Claims czar Ken Feinberg has said he only expects about half the fund to be needed to pay everyone. He said he is processing claims as fast as possible.

LITIGATION: More than 300 lawsuits filed against BP and the other companies involved with the rig were consolidated in federal court in New Orleans. A trial set for February 2012 will assign percentages of fault to BP and the other companies. Under the Oil Pollution Act, BP's liability for economic damages such as lost wages would be capped at US$75 million. But BP has waived the cap and has already paid billions. Transocean is seeking to limit its damages. The April 20 anniversary is the deadline for people to file claims against Transocean for damages that may result from the trial.

RESPONDERS: As of last month, BP employees and contractors working the response totalled roughly 2000, according to company spokesman Scott Dean. There were 48,000 responders at the height of the spill. The Coast Guard still participates in the cleanup and recovery, but that's also been significantly reduced along with the amount of protective boom deployed in the water. Thad Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral who was the Obama administration's point-person on the oil spill, is now a senior fellow at the Rand Corp.

GULF DRILLING: A deepwater drilling moratorium imposed after the disaster was lifted October 12, but no permits were approved until February 28. Operators must follow strict new rules and show they have the ability to contain a deepwater blowout.

THE GULF: An Associated Press survey of researchers shows scientists rating the health of the Gulf of Mexico as nearly back to normal a year after the spill. However, muting their optimism are significant declines in key health indicators such as the sea floor, dolphins and oysters. It will likely take years to assess the full environmental effects on the Gulf.

INVESTIGATIONS:
A joint US Coast Guard-Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement investigative panel is expected to release some preliminary findings in the coming days or weeks on the disaster's causes. BP and a presidentially appointed commission have released their own findings pointing to a cascade of technical and managerial failures. A government-sponsored investigation into the failure of the blowout preventer - a key device used to choke off deep sea spills - identified a design flaw that kept it from doing its job.

ANNIVERSARY:
Transocean plans to fly relatives of the 11 dead to the disaster site on April 20. Space is limited to three people per family. The chopper will circle the site a few times and return to shore. Plans call for the families to then be flown from Louisiana to Houston for a private service. BP is not involved in that effort, though a spokesman says it is planning an event to mark the anniversary. Details haven't been released.

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AP