By: Lucia Valentine, West Virginia state coordinator, 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 today. My name is Lucia Valentine, and I am the West Virginia organizer for Moms Clean Air Force. I am from Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and have lived in the Mountain State my whole life. Growing up on the banks of the Potomac River, I have experienced exacerbated climate disasters such as flooding due to the negative impacts that greenhouse gasses, such as methane, have on our environment. The oil and gas industry in West Virginia has left behind thousands of orphaned wells that currently leak methane, which is a powerful ingredient in natural gas. I support EPA’s updated rule to cut methane and other harmful pollutants from oil and gas operations across the country. This is an important step towards addressing the climate crisis and protecting the health and safety of children and families.
Federal methane rules are needed to create baseline protections for all children across the nation, especially for states that have failed to enact meaningful oil and gas methane protections. Intentionally-polluting equipment like pneumatic controllers are a big source of pollution. It is good to see EPA moving to phase out these devices and shift to readily-available, zero-polluting options. Hundreds of thousands of low-producing wells across the country generate just a trickle of usable oil or gas but are an outsized source of methane pollution. It is good to see EPA closing the loopholes and requiring frequent inspections of all wells in the final rule. Due to budget cuts in West Virginia, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Oil and Gas (OOG) only has nine inspectors to cover over 70,000 wells. At the state level we are advocating for adequate funding for the OOG so that wells can be properly inspected and regulated. Additionally, some oil and gas companies routinely burn gas as a waste product instead of capturing and selling it. Flaring emits air pollutants that impact the health of nearby communities and contributes to climate change. EPA needs to eliminate pollution from routine flaring at oil and gas sites in the final rule.
Not only is Methane from the oil and gas industry fueling the climate crisis, responsible for 25% of the man-made global warming we are experiencing today, but methane emissions also endanger the health and safety of communities across the country. Cutting methane pollution can also improve air quality and public health. Air pollution from the oil and gas industry can cause respiratory diseases, asthma attacks, increased hospitalizations, reproductive problems, blood disorders, neurological problems, cancer, and contribute to climate change which further harms health. It is also important to consider this issue through the lens of Environmental Justice as 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.
According to a new study that combines locations of active oil and gas wells with census tract data, about 17.3 million people are living within ½ mile of a well and of the 10 million people living within a ½ mile of an oil and gas well:
- 1.5 million live below the poverty line;
- 1.5 million are seniors; and
- 645,400 are young children.
The proposed a rule that will cut methane and other harmful air pollutants from newly built and older existing oil and gas operations is an important step forward and will help protect the health of our children from the impacts of air pollution and climate change. Thank you for your time today.