By: Almeta Cooper, Field Manager, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: December 1, 2021
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2021-0317
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Good Evening. My name is Almeta Cooper, and I am a Field Manager for Moms Clean Air Force. Moms Clean Air Force consists of about 1.5 million moms, dads, friends, and supporters nationally.
I live in Fulton County in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, and have lived here for seven years. Fulton County was again flagged with a failing grade by the American Lung Association in its 2021 State of the Air Report, and therefore, I understand the importance of clean air.
During this public hearing, you have been hearing from multiple Moms Clean Air Force members, supporters, and staff from across the country. We have a common message: We support the proposed EPA methane rules and urge the EPA to finalize the strongest and most comprehensive methane rules to protect children’s health from all sources of oil and gas methane pollution, including routine flaring and small wells.
The specific reason that I am here today is that as a mom and member of my community, I care deeply about environmental justice, especially the connection between climate change and health equity for our most vulnerable populations. Climate change is an environmental justice issue and a major contributor to the health crisis in African American communities—not in some distant future, but right now when severe heat waves regularly threaten public health, preying especially on older adults, pregnant women, and low-income communities in Georgia and elsewhere. It is clear there is an uneven distribution of both benefits and harms from the activities that lead to climate change. African Americans contribute 23% less to climate change but bear 21% more of the harms when compared to other racial groups. We need strong standards in place now, to reduce dangerous climate pollutants, especially methane. Cutting methane pollution will help reduce the impacts of climate change and can also improve air quality and public health.
Methane pollution not only exacerbates climate change, it also can combine with sunlight and heat in the atmosphere to form ground-level ozone, or smog. Smog is a powerful lung irritant and asthma trigger. Across the nation, African American children have a higher rate of asthma at 11.6% compared to the asthma rates of white children at 8.3%. And methane pollution makes it worse. Oil and gas operations are the leading industrial source of smog-forming volatile organic compounds.
As a potent climate pollutant, methane is accelerating climate change, and it’s leaking from the oil and gas sector at the rate of more than 16 million metric tons a year—the equivalent of the climate pollution from all of the nation’s passenger vehicles in a year. Climate change is even threatening our state symbol—the Georgia peach. Georgia is the third largest producer of our nation’s peaches. Unfortunately, our warming climate threatens the temperatures required to grow peaches.
Across the country, African American communities face more dangerously hot days (temperatures above 105 degrees Fahrenheit) than other communities. A study estimated that on average, counties with higher numbers of African Americans living in them had 2 to 3 more days of dangerous heat per year. That number could increase by 10 times by the year 2050. African Americans are twice as likely to die from dangerous heat compared to other groups.
During this EPA listening session, you have heard the testimony from experts who offered technical advice about why methane is dangerous. Although I am not an expert, I am aware that real people’s lives are being affected now. Also, I must emphasize that we are all under one sky. Whether the source of methane emissions is in one’s immediate backyard or another state, we have to unite to take action because of its significant adverse impact on climate change, which affects us all—whether we live and work in suburban, rural, or urban areas.
Stronger national methane standards are a win-win: they will make the air cleaner, and they will reduce dangerous climate pollution.
In closing, I reiterate my support of the proposed EPA methane rules and urge the EPA to finalize the strongest and most comprehensive methane rules to protect children’s health from all sources of oil and gas methane pollution, including routine flaring and small wells.
Thank you to the EPA and its staff for inviting public comment and permitting digital and remote testimony to allow for increased participation in these public hearings.