By: Julie Kimmel, Manager, Member Cultivation, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: January 10, 2023
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2021-0317
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. My name is Julie Kimmel, and I am the manager of member cultivation for Moms Clean Air Force. I live in Reston, Virginia, with my husband and seven-year-old daughter.
I support EPA’s updated rule to cut methane and other harmful pollutants from oil and gas operations. This is an important step toward protecting the health and safety of children and families across the country and addressing the climate crisis.
My family is currently looking for a new home—still in Reston, but something with a garage where we can plug in an electric car and a backyard for our daughter to play in. My husband sent me a listing the other day for a house in a neighborhood that is bisected by a natural gas pipeline. I’ve lived in Reston for most of my life, and I know this neighborhood well. Whenever I go there, there seems to be a faint smell of gas in the air. Who knows if there is an actual leak or it’s just my imagination. Either way, I told him, “No thanks.”
“No thanks” because I know that when methane leaks, it is often accompanied by toxic air pollutants that can cause respiratory diseases, asthma attacks, increased hospitalizations, reproductive problems, blood disorders, neurological problems, and cancer. Why put our child at risk?
These toxins are released in much greater quantities near active oil and gas production operations, versus this transmission pipeline. The 17.3 million people, including 3.9 million children under 18, who reside within a half mile of active oil and gas operations in the US face a serious risk of exposure to industry’s harmful air pollution and attendant health harms.
What’s more, the oil and gas industry is also contributing to the climate crisis. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas with more than 80 times the climate-warming power of carbon dioxide over its first 20 years in the atmosphere. Quickly and significantly reducing methane pollution is one of the best levers we have to slow the rate of climate change now.
Climate change is already impacting our families and communities in Virginia, including my community in Reston. Over the last decade, we’ve seen multiple so-called 100-year rainstorms, along with considerable flooding. And the annual number of days when temperatures soar past 90 degrees is growing.
We are looking for a home with a protected outdoor play space because, as any parent knows, outdoor play is so important for children. On the playground in my current neighborhood, my daughter has learned to be cooperative, to be a leader, to care for other kids, and to self-regulate stress and intense emotions. My heart breaks when I have to keep her indoors because of extreme weather, especially on those beautiful, sunny, high heat and humidity days in the summer.
And it’s not just me and my child and my neighbors. Families across the country are losing valuable play and school time to extreme storms, extreme heat, and wildfires—thanks to climate change. Those millions of families living near oil and gas operations are also losing outdoor play time to dangerous air quality. And this on top of the learning loss we’re still trying to address post-pandemic.
Federal methane rules are needed to create baseline protections for all children across the country, especially in states, like mine, that have not enacted meaningful oil and gas methane protections. I support the proposed EPA methane rules and urge you to finalize the strongest and most comprehensive rules to protect children’s health from all sources of oil and gas methane pollution.