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Administrator Jackson: Dispatches from the Gulf Coast

2010 May 3

Blog from Administrator Lisa P. Jackson at 7:17 p.m. Saturday, May 1.

Administrator Jackson thanks volunteers

Administrator Jackson thanks volunteers

Steel toe boots.

Fishermen, shrimpers and other men and women of the Gulf community turned out in droves. I met them at community centers, churches and city hall. They all had one question: how can I help?

The fishermen at Shell Beach said they’d do anything to head out and lay boom. They wanted to help right now. Their way of life was on the line. But, some said they hit a peculiar roadblock: their shoes. Yes. You read correctly.

Fishermen were told they could not take part in efforts to lay boom unless they wore steel toe boots. That is absurd.

These men and women have spent their lives on these waters. They know them better than anyone and don’t need anybody’s steel toe boots to sail them now. Especially when so much is at stake.

A simple phone call to BP fixed this problem. Footwear should absolutely not impede the thousands of Gulf Coast residents who want to save their way of life.

Workplace safety is terribly important. But it’s unacceptable to tell men and women, who know these seas like the back of their hands, that they can’t help lay boom because of their footwear.

This seems to be an easy fix. Other problems in this complex situation won’t be so simple. But it shows that a desire to put problem solving above process is critical as we address this environmental challenge of the highest order.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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15 Responses leave one →
  1. barneyzeb permalink
    May 3, 2010

    Hi, i congradulate the huge effort these people are puting in their hope to save this very important ecological area. Unless they are working on snow crab fishing vessels as i have there is absoluteltly no need for steel toed boot. Would you tell a baseball player he can’t play ball because he doesn’t have a glove? I’m telling them that player will use his cap ,jock or just his bare hands in an effort for his team to win. I understand rules but this an extremely dangerous situation and people will get hurt. This is what humanity and community are all about. I wish you all good fortune
    a concerned Canuck.

  2. Ted permalink
    May 3, 2010

    You know, the EPA and Administrator Jackson were MIA for days immediately following this disaster – participating in celebratory Earth Day festivals. You need to get down to earth and respond when called upon. The lackluster response by Ms. Jackson and her team highlights a lack of know-how and education. She is an amateur called to do a professional’s job.

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    May 3, 2010

    The local fishermen know the waters best and they know the kind of footware that works on shipboard. Many shipping interests want thecrews to wear deck shoes. While they may not be as safe as steel toed boots, deck shoes are what a number of seamen wear.
    We should not be promoting oil. It is an old, dirty technology from the 20th Century. And we have seen again how dangerous oil exploration can be. We are seeing it now in the Gulf of Mexico,; we saw it in Alaska with the Exxon Valdez; and we saw it off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969. Instead of oil, we should be looking toward new technologies like hydrogen and all-electric power. Hydrogen can be manufactured using solar power and solar power can be used to recharge the batteries on all-electric powered vehicles. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. youcandobetr permalink
    May 4, 2010

    Can you say INCOMPETENT?? That’s what our president is!
    It took him days to address the spill. He was too busy partying
    to address the oil spill! And, when he does show up, he takes credit for the Coast Guard’s arrival at the scene!? lol.
    It’s the Coast Guard’s JOB to show up at emergencies.
    Thanks, in part, to NoshowObama, we’ll have the biggest oil
    disaster in history! With over 100 different environmental
    organizations, this is all weve got? What a damn joke. You
    should all pack up and close down shop.

  5. Richard Greene permalink
    May 4, 2010

    “Our incredible regional staff has been hard at work for days, showing
    amazing strength in the face of overwhelming demands.” ~Adm. Lisa
    Jackson, Facebook, May 3, 2010.

    She got this right! None better anywhere. I wonder how they got to be
    so good at this?

  6. William H permalink
    May 4, 2010

    So government regulations don’t always help when trying to accomplish something? Amazing!!! I had no idea our government would erect barriers.

  7. Brian Doyle permalink
    May 4, 2010

    Why have we not incorporated this Dutch Skimmer Method , landfall sets us back on clean-up for a long time.

  8. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    May 4, 2010

    Thanks for the suggestion! i’ve forwarded it to the team reviewing technology recommendations. If you’re aware of others, please send them to us using the form at

  9. May 4, 2010

    I understand some folks will never be happy, but EPA was there in the days after the spill. Check out the latest at In fact greenversations had an article about EPA’s Aspect Aircraft back in January of 09… I’m pretty darn happy with an Ivy-League Chemical Engineer who originally hails from New Orleans leading EPA’s effort as part of a broad team including USCG, NOAA, and others. Thanks again Mrs. Jackson.

  10. William H permalink
    May 5, 2010

    Responding to my own comment…. there is a reason for the reg to
    wear steel stoed shoes. When something falls on a foot and the
    person in question sues, can they sue the Administrator b/c she
    prompted the waiver?

  11. jsmith01 permalink
    May 6, 2010

    Good day sir! I’ve been reading this blog post,.it is very useful for me because i got some info’s which regards to Dispatching from the Gulf Coast…sweet thanks man!!

  12. Frustrated permalink
    May 6, 2010

    Steel toe [sic] boots are no less absurd in this situation than many of the EPA’s own requirements. RCRA prevents me from using certain wastes as fuels when they are equally or more suited to be fuels than the materials they would replace. To get a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit I have to sample effluent for constituents that simply cannot be present; unnecessarily costly. NSPS Subpart NNN would have me install a flow monitor on every potential control device bypass rather than just having me to keep potential bypasses closed and report any time they’re open. And now EPA wants to regulate greenhouse gas equivalents under the prevention of significant deterioration program. It just doesn’t fit. In fact, it is more absurd than having a deckhand wear steel toed boots to lay booms to contain an oil spill. Nevertheless, it’s a good thing these fine people who make their livings from the sea can assist in the clean up now. Final word … “Those who live in glass houses…”

  13. Harry McShane permalink
    May 7, 2010

    Thank you, thank you, Lisa for protecting us all from the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act! Prior to your insightful intervention, BP was responsible for foot injuries incurred during this cleanup. Nice work!

  14. Burt permalink
    May 8, 2010

    Holy spontaneous generation, JR! EPA was suddenly ready for this in January of 2009?

    Can you explain further how EPA and Ms. Jackson used this aircraft to protect beaches and estuaries from oil washing ashore?

  15. Lefty permalink
    May 12, 2010

    Thanks for lending a hand, Lisa!

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