By: Liz Hurtado, Field Manager, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: January 12, 2023
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2021-0317
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Good afternoon. My name is Liz Hurtado, and I am a field manager for Moms Clean Air Force and its Latino engagement program, EcoMadres. I am a mother of four living in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
As a mother, I made a commitment to always keep my children safe, which is why I am here today to voice my support for EPA’s updated rule to cut methane and other harmful pollutants from oil and gas operations. This is an important step towards addressing the climate crisis and protecting the health and safety of children and families across the country.
The facts about methane are clear—methane can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time by accelerating climate change. Additionally, it’s polluting the air that our children breathe and threatening the health of families across the country. Closing loopholes for leak detection and repair and increasing the types of wells that get routine inspections is an important step forward, but we must do more if we are going to act with the urgency of the moment.
In Virginia Beach, we are already dealing with the profound effects of climate change in our rising sea levels, intensifying hurricanes and recurring flooding. We should not have to face the added layer of worrying about the dirty air our children breathe.
We must listen to the evidence. Methane contributes to ground-level ozone, which triggers asthma attacks and interferes with children’s lung development. Rates of asthma are often higher in Latino communities, with Latino children experiencing 153,000 asthma attacks and 112,000 missed school days each year due to seasonal increases in ozone related to oil and gas air pollution.
We must protect the most vulnerable. Prioritizing environmental justice and frontline communities is imperative as they have historically shouldered an outsize burden from the impacts of air pollution and the climate crisis. 1.6 million Latinos in the US live within a half-mile of an oil and gas facility. Oil and gas air pollution adds to the burden of existing pollution problems in underserved, low-income communities, exacerbating inequities and putting families at increased risk of serious health issues. Third party monitoring is an important tool for frontline communities and I am glad to see it incorporated in this new proposal, but EPA must provide a clear pathway for communities and individuals to participate and engage in the Super-Emitter Response Program, by ensuring that approved monitoring technologies and data are accessible to all.
Impacted communities, environmental justice leaders, and the general public should be frequently consulted and provide input to influence decisions related to the development of the EPA methane rule and to ensure an equitable implementation.
We cannot continue to sacrifice public health. Protecting public health means keeping everyone's air clean and safe to breathe and cutting methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is essential to this effort.
I am hopeful for a future in which my kids breathe clean air, so I once again urge EPA to swiftly finalize the strongest possible methane safeguards to protect the health of our children and create stronger protection for families across the country.