By: Brooke Petry, Pennsylvania 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
Good Evening. Thank you for the opportunity to give these comments today. My name is Brooke Petry, and I’m a Pennsylvania field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, a nationwide organization of moms and dads united to fight air pollution and climate change to protect the health and future of our kids. I’m speaking today on behalf of our nearly 100,000 members in Pennsylvania, and also on behalf of myself and my family.
I am a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I live with my partner and our 12-year-old daughter. I urge this administration to cut oil and gas methane pollution 65% by 2025 (from 2012 levels) to protect children’s health and their future.
Like so many people across the commonwealth and the nation, my family faces the daily challenge of living with asthma. My own asthma became significantly worse after moving to Philadelphia 20 years ago, and my daughter was diagnosed at the age of 2.
In Philadelphia, the childhood asthma rate is more than double the national average, and we have the dubious distinction of being one of the top 10 asthma capitals in the US. As I am sharing these comments, our air quality forecast for the entire week is rated “poor,” and the main culprit for this week's dangerous air quality is a familiar foe: ground-level ozone. We know that where there are oil and gas operations, you can find methane leaking along with toxic pollutants such as benzene. This pollution is harming the health of millions of people living near those operations, but also those who live all across the state as pollution travels hundreds of miles. With ever-rising temperatures, these dangerous pollutants mix with heat and sunlight, forming ground-level ozone at levels that are unsafe for many people to breathe and which can cause asthma attacks.
By choice, my family does not own a car, and we walk everywhere. With these frequent poor air quality alerts and failing grades for ground-level ozone, we are faced with difficult choices. Can we safely walk to the store and back for groceries without having trouble breathing? Should I let my daughter go outside to spend time with friends, despite the risk to her health? These are the types of questions that people across Philadelphia, and the state, are asking themselves every day. Those that live near oil and gas operations face an even more appalling set of choices, knowing that children who live, learn, or play near oil and gas operations face a higher risk of exposure to the industry’s harmful air pollution. This air pollution from the oil and gas industry can cause respiratory problems, asthma attacks, neurological problems, cancer, and can increase the risk of adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight, preterm birth, and birth defects.
While my choice not to own a car can make a difference, when facing an existential threat like climate change, we need solutions at scale. Methane is 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 and without swift federal action, this pollution will continue to skyrocket. The EPA has an opportunity to set us on the path toward an achievable target—reducing dangerous methane pollution 65% from new and existing oil and gas operations with a strong and comprehensive methane rule.
Further, Black, Latino, Indigenous, and low-income communities are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, and many are already experiencing severe weather events like dangerous storms, wildfires, flooding, droughts, and oppressive heat waves. These groups also tend to have higher exposure to air pollution, and worse health outcomes. Black and brown children experience the majority of the more than 12,000 asthma attacks that occur in Philadelphia each year, and asthma-related hospitalizations are five times higher among Black children in Philadelphia than their white peers.
For this reason, impacted communities and environmental justice leaders should be consulted regarding the design and implementation of the EPA methane rule. These communities have too long shouldered an unfair burden, and their voices must be prioritized.
I urge the EPA to move swiftly with a strong and comprehensive methane rule in order to protect the health and future of our children.