This was written by Vanessa Lynch, Moms Clean Air Force Pennsylvania Field Organizer:
In the spring of 2017, I attended a local information session about the natural gas well pad that had been permitted in a residential area near my suburban Pittsburgh home. I listened to experts discuss the serious air and water pollution problems related to the oil and gas industry, then parents shared the reality of the health impacts to their children by living with this industrial neighbor. I remember vividly how stunned I was trying to understand how this could happen to my community and what it meant for my children’s health.
As a mother of two children, I had immersed myself for years in the direct care of my family and like many in my community did not know the oil and gas industry had quite stealthily invaded my neighborhood. But, when I went home, my fierce instincts to protect my children and their friends moved me to action. I joined a group of concerned residents working with local government officials to enact protective changes for our community.
Although we were successful in getting more protective local oil and gas ordinances, unfortunately, it was too late for the eight gas wells that have been fracked in my populated residential area near where there are children, houses, parks, daycare centers, assisted living facilities, and schools. And the reality for many families throughout Pennsylvania is similar. Oil and gas companies barrel into communities placing wells, compressor stations, processing plants and pipelines near where children live, learn, and play. These industrial operations emit harmful methane and volatile organic compounds throughout the entire process of oil and gas development. As a result, the health of families like mine are at risk of asthma, cancer, respiratory problems, premature birth, and other health impacts linked to these harmful pollutants.
There is another major health risk from the oil and gas operations in my state: Climate change. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas responsible for 25% of the man made global warming we are experiencing today, and it leaks into the air throughout the oil and gas extraction process. We are already experiencing climate change in Pennsylvania with increased flooding, extreme weather, and ticks that carry Lyme disease. Pennsylvania is now the state with the highest number of cases of Lyme disease in the nation.
As the second largest producer of natural gas in the nation, Pennsylvania has a 1.1 million ton methane pollution problem. This is more than 16 times what is self-reported by the oil and gas industry to the state and has double the climate change impact of tailpipe emissions from all the cars in Pennsylvania combined. Thus, it is no surprise that Pennsylvania is the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the country.
This is why I was so outraged last month when Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Wheeler came to my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to announce the elimination of the methane rules at the federal level. The Trump Administration’s rollback of methane protections is a denial of science and failure of leadership to protect public health and our climate. Announcing these rollbacks in Pennsylvania was clearly a political campaign move and moms are outraged that the Trump Administration is playing politics with our children’s health.
The EPA should be following the lead of states like Pennsylvania under Governor Tom Wolf who is stepping up to enact the state’s first ever methane rule. Yet these rules currently include loopholes that would allow 50% of methane pollution from the oil and gas industry to be emitted. Pennsylvania moms want these loopholes closed so that we can better protect our children’s health and safety.
There has never been a more important time to clean up our air than right now. That’s why, here in Pennsylvania, we are letting Governor Wolf know that parents want the most comprehensive oil and gas rule to protect children’s health and the climate. Join us to help solve the climate crisis and protect our children’s future.