By: Brooke Petry, Pennsylvania Field Organizer, 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 morning. Thank you for the opportunity to offer 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 am a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I live with my partner and our 12-year-old daughter. I am speaking today in support of the proposed EPA methane rules and to urge the EPA to finalize the strongest and most comprehensive rules to protect children’s health from all sources of oil and gas methane pollution, including small wells and routine flaring.
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 around 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 ten asthma capitals in the US. 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 this 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 trigger asthma attacks.
By choice, my family does not own a car, and we walk everywhere. Between poor air quality alerts and failing grades for ground-level ozone, we are faced daily with difficult choices. Can we safely walk to the store and back for groceries without having trouble breathing? Should I allow my daughter to go outside to spend time with friends on poor air quality days, despite the risk to her health? These are the types of questions that I ask everyday because poor air quality can be life threatening for people with asthma like my daughter and me. Parents that live near oil and gas operations face an even more appalling set of choices since children who live, learn, or play near oil and gas operations face a higher risk of exposure to 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.
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 among their white peers.
These communities have too long shouldered an unfair burden, and their voices must be prioritized in any dialogue around the final version of this important rule.
We are facing the existential threat of climate change, and we need a robust rule that addresses the urgency of the task at hand. 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. Without the strongest possible federal rule, this pollution will continue to skyrocket. The EPA has an opportunity to set us on the path toward improved health and environmental outcomes by strengthening the proposed rule—requiring frequent inspections for smaller wells and eliminating the practice of routine flaring when the rule is finalized. The addition of frequent inspections and repairs for smaller wells is necessary, especially in Pennsylvania, where there are a significant number of these smaller wells with the potential to emit methane and other harmful pollutants. We need a final rule that will comprehensively protect our communities from air pollution and climate change.
I urge the EPA to move swiftly with a strong and comprehensive methane rule in order to protect the health and futures of our children.