By: Erandi Treviño, Texas 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 afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to share my comments with you today. My name is Erandi Treviño, and I am the Texas field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, living in Houston, Texas. We fight for Justice in Every Breath, recognizing the importance of equitable solutions in addressing air pollution and climate change. I urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cut oil and gas methane pollution 65% by 2025 (from 2012 levels) to protect public health and lessen the impacts of climate change.
I live in Houston, which is one of the largest cities in the country and the unofficial oil and gas capital. I appreciate that the EPA is working toward more comprehensive rules for methane pollution and inviting input from historically marginalized communities ahead of the rulemaking process. And as a Spanish speaker, I want to thank you for making available the option to present in Spanish and want to stress the importance of the inclusion of notifications in Spanish.
All of us who live in the Houston metropolitan area know or are related to someone who either works in the oil and gas industry or who lives within a couple of miles of the ship channel that is used to ship oil and gas products around the world and is a large source of air pollution. The fact our communities have for a long time relied on the financial benefits of the oil and gas sector has led to the false narrative that we must make the choice between clean air and jobs. This simply is not true because everyone deserves to breathe clean air. Oftentimes people do not have the financial means and support system to move to a place with better air quality, so we need strong air pollution protections.
The tragic reality is that air pollution from sources such as oil and gas operations is not distributed evenly. Oil and gas air pollution adds to the burden of existing pollution problems in communities of color and low-income communities, exacerbating inequities and putting families at increased risk of serious health issues. Latinos in the US are three times more likely to be negatively affected by air pollution because of where they live and work. 68% of Latinos live in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards compared to 58% of whites. The disturbing fact is that Latino children are 60% more at risk than their white counterparts of having asthma attacks caused by air pollution, and Latinos have a 3% higher cancer risk above the federal standards due to toxic pollution exposure.
According to a study published in 2020, living near oil and gas flares in the Eagle Ford shale located in south Texas was correlated with a 50% higher chances of preterm birth and shorter gestation periods, as compared with mothers who were not exposed to gas flares. These associations were observed almost entirely among Hispanic women. This is an injustice and environmental racism. For the health of all Hispanic mothers and their babies, we must end the practice of routine flaring.
Not only does oil and gas pollution impact health, it also contributes to the climate change impacts we are experiencing in Texas. More frequent hurricanes, powerful winter storms, and extreme heat all further contribute to the public health impacts that have hit hard in Houston. During Hurricane Harvey, my family’s home was flooded. My family could not afford to fix the damage as quickly as more affluent families and therefore had to all live in the same room while the house was fixed one piece at a time. My niece, who saw the water seep into the house, is still terrified of storms. More recently, we lived through another disaster with winter storm Uri. Again, the entire city and a great part of the state was devastated. Our home was damaged, and we had a difficult time accessing basic goods such as drinking water. Some of us spent days without electricity or running water. After roughly a year into the pandemic, during which people found solace in things like their home, their plants, and their animals, people saw the walls of their homes destroyed, and their plants and animals frozen to death. People froze to death.
There is much that we can do to protect our communities. The truth is moving away should not be the only solution or option. It is within our hands to limit methane, the source responsible for 25% of the emissions that contribute to climate change. The EPA has the power and ability to limit oil and gas methane pollution 65% by 2025 from 2012 levels and set the agency on the path toward meeting this climate pollution target. The technology to make this happen already exists, and this change is the low-hanging fruit in our fight toward a better future for our children.
We urge the Environmental Protection Agency to move swiftly with the most comprehensive methane rule to protect Latino children’s health and their future.