Dozens of Moms Clean Air Force staff, organizers, and members started the new year off strong by testifying before EPA last week in support of protective, comprehensive standards that would safeguard families from methane and other health-harming pollutants that are released by oil and gas operations. Exposure to these types of pollution puts people at higher risk for asthma attacks and makes preterm birth and adverse birth outcomes more likely. The oil and gas industry poses an outsize threat to children, who face a higher risk of developing leukemia if they grow up near oil and gas wells.
Methane is also a powerful climate pollutant, measuring 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years in the atmosphere. This means that cutting methane is one of the best levers we have to slow down climate change. There’s no time to wait—rising temperatures and extreme weather are putting our families in danger. Keeping worst-case climate scenarios at bay by cutting methane is key to protecting our children and their future.
Our Pennsylvania organizer Brooke Petry (above) is one of the more than 60 Moms who stood up for clean air and a livable climate at last week’s EPA hearing, but she also advocates bold climate action at the state level. And while the oil and gas industry remains a significant threat to families in Pennsylvania, so do other industrial sources of pollution.
As Brooke writes in a Patriot News op-ed, Pennsylvania has one of the dirtiest power sectors in the nation, but she is hopeful that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) could help her state change that. Back in April, Pennsylvania became the newest member of this initiative, a multistate program that limits climate pollution from power plants. While the program only caps one type of climate pollution—carbon dioxide—Brooke points out that it also reduces other dangerous air pollutants incidentally.
Cleaner air benefits everyone, but it’s especially important to people like Brooke and her daughter, who suffer from asthma. Brooke writes: “On very hot days, and on days with poor air quality, people with asthma are left weighing the real danger of an asthma attack against the need to walk to the store for groceries or worrying that the air quality makes it unsafe for asthmatic kids to walk to school.”
Brooke explains that, unfortunately, “polluters and their supporters in our state legislature have used the court system to delay full implementation” of RGGI. She urges leaders to course correct: “As parents, we teach our children to leave a place better than they found it. What I appreciate about RGGI is that it is a clear opportunity for us to practice what we preach.”
CLIMATE CHANGE & KIDS
At Moms, we talk a lot about how climate change impacts children’s physical health. Kids are especially vulnerable to heat and tend to suffer most from the health impacts of certain types of pollution, but the climate crisis can take a significant toll on their mental health too.
Talking about climate change with your kids may feel scary, but our Senior Policy Analyst, Elizabeth Bechard, tells Vermont-based TV station WCAX that it’s a really important thing to do: “[Kids are] going to hear about climate change at some point from schools or from the news.” Elizabeth recommends that parents listen to their children’s concerns and validate their fears and anxieties, while also making sure that conversations are age-appropriate. She suggests that parents view these conversations as “chances for families to brainstorm together about ways that they can take action as a family… It’s really powerful when parents and children can engage in climate action together.”
But it’s essential that parents also find ways to cope with their own climate anxiety—preferably before having these conversations with their kids. Elizabeth tells US News: “Parents need to think about how they’re going to support themselves before they go into these topics, both because parents deserve that support, but also because no parent wants to dump their emotional baggage onto their kid.” This article also ran in WTOP News.
Find more resources for coping with climate anxiety on our new Climate Change and Mental Health resource.
THE COST OF POLLUTION
EcoMadres member Karina G. Martinez Molina lives in Tucson, Arizona, where many families are facing a rate increase from Southwest Gas—their area’s natural gas provider. Karina wrote an op-ed in opposition of the rate increase that ran in the Arizona Daily Star, outlining the reasons that the proposed increase should not move forward.
Karina stresses that raising rates is an issue of energy injustice: “Southwest Gas has sought two large rate increases in two years—this latest at a time where 1 in 5 people living in the US are already struggling to pay their high energy bills.” Low-income communities are among those who would disproportionately suffer from the rate increase.
The proposal also comes at a time when climate change demands we quickly and significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Karina writes: “A rate increase only props up a dying, polluting industry.” Coupled with climate concerns are the threats that natural gas poses to our health. From the toxic pollution that’s released during fracking to the significant health risks of gas stoves, there’s no shortage of reasons to leave gas in 2022. Karina writes: “We seek lasting change that ensures a livable climate for our children and grandchildren. This means moving away from fossil fuels swiftly, including natural gas.”
Ozone pollution is also a major, and growing, threat to Arizonans’ wallets. Arizona PBS and AZ Big Media report that ozone pollution in Maricopa County is getting worse and threatening to cost the area billions of dollars. But ozone is also a significant threat to Arizonans’ health. Ground-level ozone is linked to myriad health issues, including asthma, heart failure, long-term lung damage, and premature mortality. The articles quote our former Public Health Policy Director Molly Rauch, who explains: “Ozone is a lung irritant. It’s really nice high in the atmosphere and really irritating for people who have to breathe it lower in the atmosphere.”
- Moms Clean Air Force is included in Remodelista’s list of “favorite organizations doing good in the world.”
- One Green Planet quotes Moms Clean Air Force’s 2018 interview with Illinois’s new Congressman Eric Sorenson.
- The Well News reports on the Climate Action Campaign’s (CAC) outreach to members of Congress returning to DC on January 3. The article includes an image of Moms, who were also on Capitol Hill that day to welcome members back, as reported in the Washington Post’s “The Climate 202.”