This was written by Patrice Tomcik, National Field Manager for Moms Clean Air Force:
Moms across the nation are thankful that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed rules to cut methane and other harmful air pollutants from new and existing oil and gas operations. This important step forward will help protect the health of our children from the impacts of air pollution and climate change. Federal methane rules are the best way to create baseline protections for all children across the nation, especially for states that have failed to enact meaningful oil and gas methane protections.
While we are all vulnerable to air pollution and climate change, certain populations are affected more such as children, low-income communities, as well as Black, Latino, and Indigenous people. Those frontline communities located the closest to oil and gas operations are impacted the most but this is a problem that affects all of us, because pollution can travel long distances across state borders.
In the US, more than 9 million people live within a half mile of oil and gas operations and 2.9 million children go to school within a half mile of oil and gas operations that puts their health at risk.
My children attend the Mars Area School District where there are six unconventional well pads with multiple gas wells and a vast spider web network of pipelines. The closest gas wells that have been fracked are about a half mile away from my children’s 5-school campus which puts my sons and 3,200 students’ health at risk due to the potential exposure to harmful air pollution when they attend school or play outdoor sports.
Oil and gas operations emit climate warming methane and harmful volatile organic compounds such as benzene that can affect lung development in children and increases the risk of cancer, immune system damage, and developmental problems. Every day I send my children to school, I fear for their health, especially my youngest who is a cancer survivor and is now immune compromised.
Quickly and significantly reducing methane pollution is one of the best levers we have to slow the rate of climate change now and help clean up the air to protect children’s health. This is why it is so important for EPA’s final rule to include frequent inspections for smaller, leak-prone wells – which are an outsized source of methane emissions. You may hear these wells referred to as marginal or low- producing. Across our nation 7 million Americans live within a half mile of an active marginal oil or gas well.
In Pennsylvania, these so-called “marginal” wells account for over half of the state’s oil and gas methane emissions annually, or over 500,000 tons. Where I live in Butler County, there are 21,000 people who live within a half mile of a marginal well. Across the street in nearby Allegheny County, there are 190,000 people that live within a half mile of a marginal well – clearly not a marginal problem.
Parents can’t control the air our children breathe; we depend on the EPA to do its job and protect them. Moms Clean Air Force looks forward to working with the EPA during the rulemaking process to support the strongest and most comprehensive methane rules to protect children’s health from all sources of oil and gas methane pollution including low producing wells, routine flaring, and polluting equipment like pneumatic controllers. Every child has the right to breathe clean air, and the right to a stable climate.