By: Leah Barbor, West Virginia 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
Hello, my name is Leah Barbor, and I am the West Virginia field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force. I would like to begin by first expressing my gratitude for the opportunity to share a public comment with you today. I am ultimately here to express a strong sense of urgency to this administration to cut oil and gas methane pollution 65%, from 2012 levels, by 2025 in order to protect children’s health and their future.
I am a mother of two children five and under living in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Our family chose to live in West Virginia so that our children can grow up close to and learn from their natural environment.
There are many benefits to this lifestyle, and perhaps one of the most beneficial is what often feels like the purity, or pristine condition of our air and water. In our home, one of our main themes is to cultivate stewardship, and with an abundance of wildlife and natural resources here in the Mountain State, we have countless opportunities to learn about and act in ways that support our environment. And while it’s really important for us to foster a reciprocal relationship with the natural world, we are also keenly aware of the impact the pollution legacy that extractive and chemical industries have left in their wake.
Not only is the oil and gas industry responsible for dumping millions of tons of toxic air pollution into our air each year, but methane, which constitutes the largest component of natural gas, is leaked at unacceptable rates throughout the supply chain—not to mention the tens of thousands of abandoned and orphaned wells coupled with venting and flaring practices. Existing emissions variability significantly complicates this problem. Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas that warms the planet 86 times more than carbon pollution over a 20 year time frame, and is literally fueling the climate crisis.
West Virginians are already interfacing with the impacts of climate change on the daily. I mentioned before how it is important to our family to get outside as much as possible—but lately, we’ve been more cautious about how we engage because of the full-blown tick boon we have been experiencing here in West Virginia over the last few years. Tick-borne illness, especially Lyme disease, is a major threat to our health. We don’t go outside without first dousing ourselves in blends that help repel these pests. A changing climate is the primary reason why we interface with these risks, and significantly reducing methane pollution is one of the most impactful ways we can fight climate change.
My five-year-old is beginning kindergarten in the fall, and while doing some research for my testimony today, it was quite alarming for me to find out that over 890 schools here in West Virginia are within 1/2 mile of oil and gas operations.
Turns out, kids are not alone in this too-close-for-comfort exposure, with oil and gas operations spread well throughout the state, approximately 14% of West Virginia’s population lives within a half-mile threat radius of a methane-emitting facility. More than half of West Virginia’s counties exceed EPA’s cancer-risk level of concern, and nearly half of those counties also have either an EPA respiratory hazard level of concern or a respiratory hazard in the top 2%.
The magnitude of health and climate impacts driven by methane pollution put our families' health and the future climate our children will inherit at unnecessary risk. It would be irresponsible not to act now to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.
And although the choices we make in our daily lives weigh greatly upon the outcome of our life experiences, you are the experts, and there is only so much a mother can do to ensure her children have clean air to breathe and a stable climate to thrive in. I am a believer in when you know better, you do better. This is an opportunity to do better. I urge you to make the responsible choice that will ensure a safe and healthy future for all Americans. Once again, I urge this administration to cut oil and gas methane pollution 65% by 2025. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.