By: Almeta E. Cooper, Georgia Field Organizer, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: June 17, 2021
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2021-0295
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Thank you to the panel for listening to testimony the past three days and for the opportunity to testify this evening.
My name is Almeta Cooper, and I am a member of and Georgia field coordinator for Moms Clean Air Force. We are 26,645 members strong in Georgia and more than 1 million parents nationally. We fight for Justice in Every Breath and recognition of the importance of equitable solutions in addressing air pollution and climate change.
I live in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, and have lived here for seven years. My home county, Fulton County, Georgia, was again flagged with a failing grade by the American Lung Association in its 2021 State of the Air report.
During this listening session, you have heard from multiple Moms Clean Air Force members, supporters, and staff from across the country.
We have a common message: We urge the EPA to cut oil and gas methane pollution 65% from 2012 levels by the year 2025 to protect children’s health and their future.
The specific reason that I am here today is that as a mom, an African American woman, and a member of my community, I care deeply about environmental justice, especially the connection between climate change and health equity for our most vulnerable populations. I appreciate that the EPA is working toward comprehensive rules for methane pollution and including input from historically marginalized communities ahead of the rulemaking process. I encourage you to frequently consult frontline communities and environmental justice leaders to provide their input into decisions related to the design and implementation of the EPA methane rule. As a Georgian, I am witnessing my own state government trying to suppress the voice and votes of many Georgians with rules that will have a disparate, adverse impact on communities of color.
I also see the inequity of African American communities being disproportionately exposed to dirty air, including harmful pollution, because of where we live, learn, work, and play. In the US, African American people are three times more likely to die from air pollution than white people.
Climate change is an environmental justice issue and a major contributor to the health crisis in African American communities. This reality is happening right now as severe heat waves regularly threaten public health, preying especially on older adults, pregnant women, and low-income communities in Georgia and elsewhere. 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 two to three 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. We need strong and comprehensive standards to reduce dangerous climate-warming methane pollution.
Methane pollution not only exacerbates climate change, but 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%.
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.
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.
Protecting public health means keeping everyone's air clean and safe to breathe, and cutting methane pollution.
In closing, I repeat that I support cutting oil and gas methane pollution 65% from the 2012 levels by 2025 to protect children’s health and their future. I appreciate the EPA and its staff for inviting public comment and permitting digital and remote testimony to allow for increased participation in these public hearings.