Moms Fight for Climate Safety, Clean Air, and Environmental Justice
Moms Clean Air Force has played an instrumental role in catalyzing historic climate change policy advances in 2022.
Thanks to the continued support of our donors, Moms Clean Air Force has sustained critical advocacy efforts that helped drive several major legislative and regulatory victories in 2022. In August 2022, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, the single largest government investment in clean air and clean energy in US history. By leading effective advocacy and communications campaigns and mobilizing our network of more than 1.4 million members, Moms played a key role in securing this historic win for the climate, the economy, and our families in the US. Moms has also helped push for strong, updated federal rulemakings on methane from oil and gas operations that will provide urgently needed protections for children and families across the nation. We continue to expand our engagement with diverse communities via our EcoMadres program and work with Indigenous groups.
We are grateful for your commitment to ensuring the health of all communities, and we are pleased to share highlights of our progress in 2022 that you helped make possible.
2022 BY THE NUMBERS
- Moms’ online advocacy generated more than 80,000 messages to Congress and regulatory agencies on key climate and human health issues.
- Moms made 193 legislative visits advocating for commonsense climate investments, protections from plastic incineration pollution, electric school bus funding, and more.
- Moms’ advocacy for clean air and climate solutions has been featured in more than 1,000 news stories in media outlets nationwide.
Legislative and Regulatory Campaigns for Change
Moms Clean Air Force mobilizes and helps elevate the voices of caregivers who are committed to protecting children’s health. We organize our members to meet with elected officials, participate in public hearings, submit comments to public dockets, make phone calls to lawmaker offices at strategic moments, and call for the action we need through traditional media outlets and social media channels. Moms made progress on a range of pressing issues during 2022.
Supporting the Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act
In August, Moms celebrated the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)—the largest government investment in clean air and clean energy in US history. For 18 months, Moms worked tirelessly to help build sufficient congressional and community support for this urgently needed climate change legislation. Between March 2021 and August 2022, Moms members sent more than 80,000 emails to members of Congress, urging them to support the bill.
Moms organizers and volunteers held more than 300 meetings with congressional offices, and we planned and participated in more than 100 events to raise awareness about the IRA and how it would benefit communities and help stabilize the climate. Moms sent more than 50 education emails to our members, produced 75 blog posts, and created dozens of educational resources to engage members and voters.
In the two weeks leading up to the bill’s passage, Moms members and organizers made dozens of phone calls to members of Congress, urging for them to vote for a safer, healthier, and more resilient future for our children and communities. Our efforts to build a bipartisan groundswell of support for the IRA were noticed at all levels of Congress.
Moving forward, we will work to ensure the bill is implemented in the most equitable and effective way possible, delivering climate and clean air protections to the communities that need them most.
Limiting Methane Emissions
Moms deepened our important work to put an end to methane and other toxic air pollution from the oil and gas industry. In November 2021, EPA proposed new performance standards to limit methane emissions and other harmful pollutants from new and existing oil and gas operations. By the end of the EPA comment period in January 2022, Moms had submitted more than 20,500 comments—accounting for nearly 5% of total comments collected—in favor of the strong methane protections that our children and communities need and deserve.
Following the EPA public hearing on methane, Senior National Field Manager Patrice Tomcik was invited by Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-FL) to give comments at the Congressional Select Committee on Climate Change’s methane hearing in June. Patrice spoke from the perspective of a mom whose family lives in an area surrounded by the oil and gas industry. She underscored the need for strong and comprehensive EPA methane standards to protect the health of our children and ensure they have safe environments in which to live, learn, and play.
In November 2022, thanks in part to advocacy by Moms Clean Air Force, EPA released an updated draft rule to cut methane and other harmful pollutants from new and existing oil and gas operation across the US. Moms was pleased to see the updated draft includes standards that are stronger than those proposed in the initial draft rule (in November 2021). These new standards will reduce methane emissions from covered sources by 87% below 2005 levels. Updates to the rule reflect many of the concerns raised by the hundreds of thousands of people who submitted public comments urging EPA to strengthen its methane protections, as well as the thousands of people from across the country who signed a petition to President Biden urging his administration to move swiftly to propose updated methane rules.
In the lead-up to the release of the updated rule, Moms ran petitions, held and participated in events across the country, and released educational fact sheets and articles to increase public support for swift and strong EPA action on oil and gas methane emissions. Our efforts paid off as the updated draft includes mandates for:
- Strengthening leak detection and repair (LDAR) requirements, including requiring inspections at small wells with leak-prone equipment, which are responsible for roughly half of all the oil and gas methane emissions nationwide;
- Maintaining zero-emitting pneumatic equipment requirements;
- Taking steps toward addressing highly polluting incidents with a new Super-Emitter Response Program;
- Requiring abandoned wells to be subject to inspections until closure; and
- Requiring flares to be properly operated to reduce emissions.
There is more to be done to ensure the strongest possible methane safeguards are finalized as soon as possible. Moms Clean Air Force’s staff, state coordinators, and volunteers are prepared to turn out in full force to give testimony during the EPA’s methane public hearings on January 10–12, 2023. Moms has also launched a petition to collect signatures during the ongoing public comment period that ends February 13, 2023. The weeks ahead are an important opportunity for Moms members across the country to make their voices heard and demand that EPA adopts strong and comprehensive methane safeguards as quickly as possible to protect our health and climate.
Electrifying School Buses
Thanks in part to Moms’ advocacy, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (passed in the fall of 2021) allocated $5 billion over five years to help school districts purchase zero- and low-emission school buses, and it established the Clean School Bus Program within EPA. This historic investment is slated to dramatically increase the number of electric school buses transporting students in the US, reduce air and climate pollution, and create new clean energy jobs. When EPA opened its first round of funding—a $500 million rebate program—in May, Moms worked closely with school representatives, elected officials, and parents, encouraging school districts to develop and submit Clean School Bus Program applications.
In October, EPA announced the recipients of this first round of federal rebate awards for clean school buses. Because of the high number of applications, EPA decided to increase the funding in the first round to more than $900 million, with new buses going to all 50 states and Washington, DC. An impressive 95% of buses funded under this first round of the rebate program will be clean, zero-tailpipe-pollution electric buses, signaling a robust demand for electric school buses. EPA is currently developing the parameters for the next round of funding—which officials say will be a grant (rather than a rebate) program—and new funds will be announced in spring 2023.
Throughout 2022, Moms worked to ensure electric school buses reach the communities that need them most. Much of this work was accomplished in partnerships with our allies on the Alliance for Electric School Buses—a coalition dedicated to ensuring the equitable and rapid transition to electric school bus fleets. As a member of its steering committee, Moms is working diligently to advocate for equity-focused funding for electric school buses and provide feedback and input to EPA at every stage of its Clean School Bus Program implementation.
Protecting Communities From Truck Pollution
As the only state allowed to set emissions limits stronger than federal standards—which other states can then adopt—California is seeking EPA approval of its emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks and its targets to accelerate the transition to zero-emissions vehicles. Heavy-duty trucks make up less than 10% of the nation’s vehicle fleet, but they are responsible for more than 25% of the climate pollution from the transportation sector. Despite truck pollution’s undeniable harm to the climate and public health, EPA was reportedly considering denying California’s request. On June 29–30, nine representatives from Moms Clean Air Force testified before EPA, urging the Biden administration to take swift action to approve California’s request, thereby reducing emissions from heavy-duty trucks and encouraging the adoption of cleaner vehicles.
Moms staff and members also participated in full force in an April EPA hearing on the agency’s proposed heavy-duty vehicle tailpipe emissions standards. More than three dozen moms urged EPA to strengthen its trucks proposal for nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide pollution, highlighting the way truck pollution and climate change have affected them personally.
In December, EPA announced its Clean Trucks Plan, outlining a series of actions that the agency will take to reduce pollution from new freight trucks and buses. The plan finalizes important federal protections against nitrogen oxide pollution from new medium- and heavy-duty diesel vehicles—significantly reducing that pollution to save thousands of lives. With the plan, EPA also committed to moving swiftly to recognize California’s separate emission standards for new freight trucks and to adopting new standards in 2023 that will chart the path to zero emissions from the freight trucks and buses in our neighborhoods and on our roadways. By leveraging the extensive investments for deploying zero-emitting vehicles laid out in the Inflation Reduction Act, the Clean Trucks Plan presents a vital modernization of EPA’s approach to protections to public health from truck pollution.
Thanks to our advocacy throughout the year, Moms Clean Air Force Texas coordinator Erandi Treviño and 10-year-old Kids Clean Air Force member Zahra Halakhe were invited to speak at the EPA event announcing the Clean Trucks Plan in December 2022.
Protecting Communities From Petrochemical Pollution
Moms Clean Air Force is leading a campaign to educate, empower, and protect communities—especially young children—from petrochemical pollution. Petrochemical facilities can release a host of extremely toxic pollutants, such as ethylene oxide, formaldehyde, benzene, and PFAS, that put the health of nearby communities at risk. Moms’ state coordinators are leading on-the-ground community organizing efforts in the Ohio River Valley, West Virginia, Texas, and Louisiana, advocating for strong federal action on petrochemical pollution.
In the fall of 2022, Moms and EDF co-authored 38 pages of comments urging EPA to strengthen its proposed Safer Communities and Chemical Accident Prevention Act. The rulemaking was proposed to protect workers, first responders, and frontline communities from chemical leaks, fires, explosions, and other potentially catastrophic events. In addition to submitting technical comments, Moms played an active role in this rulemaking by giving testimony during the public hearing in September and running a petition that garnered more than 1,800 comments. A final rulemaking is expected in August 2023.
Moms has also been working to pull back the curtain to help the public, Congress, and EPA understand that “advanced recycling” of plastics is, in fact, plastic incineration. Plastic industry lobbyists are promoting a decades-old incineration method as a new solution for the plastic pollution crisis. Though their name suggests otherwise, “advanced recycling” facilities burn plastic trash, spewing harmful air pollution and toxic ash into nearby communities. These facilities are commonly sited in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, adding to existing pollution burdens from other industries.
Moms has had more than 40 congressional meetings to educate lawmakers about the plastic industry’s effort to reclassify incineration as recycling and manufacturing, thereby allowing these facilities to burn plastic without being subject to Clean Air Act requirements. In September, Moms co-authored a letter to the House and Senate on “advanced recycling” that was signed by 200 organizations. In November, Moms testified before EPA senior leadership about the health effects of plastics burning, and we are currently running a petition demanding that EPA protect our communities from plastic incineration pollution.
Expanding the Power of Moms
Climate change and air pollution are a threat to everyone, but communities of color and low-income communities face the greatest risks. They are hit first and worst by climate change, and they are disproportionately exposed to harmful air pollution. Moms has expanded our environmental justice outreach programs to engage more deeply with families that bear the heaviest burdens of air pollution and climate impacts.
Community Health Equity
Moms is dedicated to expanding our environmental justice outreach programming. In 2022, we broadened the work we were doing through our former Community Rx program and replaced it with an umbrella program: Community Health Equity. We are integrating Community Health Equity across all Moms campaigns and partnerships to embrace the intersectional and dynamic nature of environmental and health justice work. This approach is helping us engage more deeply with families that bear the heaviest burdens of air pollution and climate change impacts, particularly in Black and brown communities.
In the spring of 2022, as part of our focus on health equity, Moms launched a national series of webinars on Clean Air, Climate, Health Equity—and Inequity. The goals of this series included (1) supporting environmental heath justice in vulnerable frontline communities, (2) educating the broader community on environmental injustices and their disproportionate impact on communities of color, (3) amplifying the stories and experiences of people living in vulnerable communities, and (4) connecting communities with local elected officials and congressional representatives so they can share their stories and advocate for solutions. We hosted webinars focused on health inequities faced by communities in Georgia and Ohio, Indigenous and Tribal communities, and Latino families dealing with extreme heat.
Because climate change is the greatest public health threat facing the global population, physicians are a key partner in Moms’ health equity work. In 2022, Moms’ National Manager of Health Equity, Almeta Cooper, was selected to serve as a member of the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Center for Health Justice Multi Sector Partnership Group. The Multi Sector Partnership Group comprises a diverse set of national leaders, local leaders from community-based organizations, and community organizers from 10 sectors who regularly convene to determine the priorities and strategy of AAMC’s Center for Health Justice. Group members work together to help the center build cross-sector partnerships that address the complex constellation of social and political factors that contribute to community health and health inequities. The Multi Sector Partnership Group recently added environmental justice as a core focus area, and Moms is particularly well suited to help advise and advance this work.
Moms’ EcoMadres program is educating and mobilizing Latino communities—communities that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution and extreme heat—to fight for clean air, climate change solutions, and protections from toxic chemicals. Our growing network of state-based field teams and allies in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas helps Latino communities have conversations with lawmakers at the state and federal levels about the connection between environmental issues and our children’s health. EcoMadres is becoming increasingly visible and influential, thanks in part to its intentional brand, which reflects the cultural and linguistic perspectives, diversity, and demographics of Latino communities.
In 2022, EcoMadres participated in 66 in-person and virtual events, including a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute conference where we spoke on a panel about the intersection of health and climate change and opportunities for environmental progress to improve the health of Latino communities. EcoMadres had 73 media hits, including features in the largest Spanish-language media networks in the US—Univision and Telemundo. We also launched the EcoMadres Ensemble—a group that is using music to educate listeners about air pollution and climate change while offering hope and inspiring action.
This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month coincided with the lead-up to the midterm elections, and EcoMadres joined forces with Corazón Latino to re-launch the Soy Latino, Sí Voto campaign to inspire and mobilize Latino voters. The campaign reached more than 1.2 million voters with messages of love, hope, and care for Madre Tierra (Mother Earth), and it featured award-wining cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, who published weekly cartoons on the importance of voting and caring for the environment. Additionally, EcoMadres program manager Carolina Peña-Alarcón shared her story as a first-time voter in an op-ed for Newsweek, urging fellow Latinos to join her at the polls.
Moms Clean Air Force continues to deepen our engagement and environmental advocacy with Indigenous groups. Under the leadership of Shaina Oliver, one of our organizers in Colorado, Moms supported a community-led effort to ensure EPA objected to Colorado’s permit renewal request for the notorious Suncor oil refinery, which has been operating for more than a decade with an expired permit and spewing toxic pollution into Black, Indigenous, Latino, and low-income communities in North Denver.
In the period leading up to the EPA letter of objection, Shaina led a strong and coordinated Moms Clean Air Force campaign to shine a spotlight on the harmful air pollution being emitted by the Suncor refinery, build community awareness around the issue, and put pressure on EPA to take action. Shaina and impacted community member Lucy Molina published a joint op-ed highlighting the environmental justice issues associated with the Suncor refinery’s unlawful operations. Shaina was also featured in a 5280 article about community air monitoring around the Suncor refinery. In early March, Shaina and community members met with members of Congress to demand action, and as a result of this meeting, Representative Diana DeGette (CO-1) issued a press release calling on EPA to audit the permits issued to the Suncor oil refinery, underscoring the risks that nearby communities would face from pollution exposure.
In late March, EPA intervened and sent a letter notifying the Colorado Health Department that it formally objected to parts of the Suncor Refinery’s operating permit renewal because the state may have improperly exempted three flaring systems at the plant. Importantly, in the letter, EPA Regional Administrator KC Becker noted that the location of the Suncor plant “raises significant environmental justice concerns, as illustrated by the severity of pollution and described health impacts facing the communities living in proximity to the Suncor site.”
In November, the National Tribal Air Association released the Status of Tribal Air Report, detailing the successes and challenges of Tribal air programs—which aim to reduce pollution and improve air quality on and near Tribal lands—as well as their funding needs. Moms shared the report with all Senate and congressional offices, and we invited all congressional offices to attend a briefing on its findings. In late November, in honor of Native American Heritage Month, Moms published an article, membership email, and petition asking for full funding of Tribal air programs. Additionally, throughout the fall, Moms released social media content in support of Indigenous Get Out the Vote efforts, Indigenous People’s Day, and Native American Heritage Month.
GET OUT THE VOTE
In September, Moms launched a Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign to mobilize its membership to vote in the critical 2022 midterm election. Our state coordinators distributed an informational fact sheet, collected pledges to vote, and hosted voter postcard parties in 14 key states: Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Montana, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Florida, Iowa, and Nevada.
Studies also show that when it comes to voting, people are more influenced by people they know than other sources of information. For our GOTV postcard campaign, we recruited volunteers to send postcards to their friends and family sharing their top three reasons for voting. In total, we sent more than 1,500 postcards to our volunteers’ personal networks.
In 2022, Moms was published or featured in more than 1,000 news stories in leading media outlets, including the Today Show, the New York Times, Newsweek, and PBS News Hour. In October, an AP article quoted Moms’ Public Health Policy Director Molly Rauch on the public health imperative of switching to zero-emission school buses, and the story ran in 627 news outlets nationwide. Pieces like this are elevating Moms’ unique perspective and drawing local, state, and national attention to priority issues we work on. For a complete list of our media coverage in 2022, please see our press webpage.
We achieved several major wins over the past year—from the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act to the launch of the Clean School Bus Program to EPA’s release of an updated draft federal methane rule. In 2023, Moms Clean Air Force will work diligently to make sure these new programs and rules are implemented in an equitable way, helping drive reductions in harmful pollution in the communities that need them most.
Over the coming year, we will also expand our petrochemical campaign in the Ohio River Valley, Texas, and Louisiana, helping raise community awareness about the health risks associated with petrochemical pollution exposure, and hold the industry and regulators accountable for ensuring communities have the protections they need and deserve. Additionally, Moms has been assessing options for increasing the accessibility of the content we have previously shared via our health equity series. Moving forward, we are collaborating with Our Studios—a Black-owned and financed media company—to reimagine this initiative as an Ask the Experts series. This new Ask the Experts series will feature shorter programs that can be used as standalone segments or shared via a podcast. This format, which is intended to provide the audience with answers to questions they have from an intergenerational group of Moms’ volunteers and friends, will be more interactive and should have a longer shelf life. We have launched an Ask the Experts pilot program, and our next installment in the series is “Moms Clean Air Force Super Kids and Teens Ask the Experts About Extreme Weather.”
The generous support of members like you is critical to the work we do, helping drive lasting positive impacts at the local, state, and federal levels. Thanks to you, parents and caregivers across the country have the tools they need to demand regulatory and legislative action that will protect the health of their communities and ensure a safer future for all children.
With your help over the past few years, we have made meaningful progress on some of the most urgent issues facing our country. This is a time to celebrate our achievements while acknowledging that the work continues, and there is more we must do to ensure new rules, laws, and funding are implemented in the most equitable and effective ways possible. We invite you to continue supporting us to help ensure a healthier and safer future for our children and families—especially those on the frontlines of climate change and toxic air pollution.