By: Michelle Uberuaga, Montana state coordinator, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: January 12, 2023
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2021-0317
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Thank you for your time today. My name is Michelle Uberuaga, and I am a mother of three and a member of Moms Clean Air Force. I live on the unceded lands of the Apsaalooke and Shoshone people in Livingston, Montana.
I am testifying today because I am concerned about the impacts of climate change that are already impacting our lives and will continue to impact my children’s future. We need EPA to take swift action to help protect the health and safety of my children and future generations by working to reduce methane pollution, a potent greenhouse gas responsible for 25% of man made climate change.
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 demonstration of EPA’s commitment to the mission of protecting human health and the environment. Thank you.
My youngest, Mario, is two years old, and among the many things he needs everyday, like all children, he needs clean air and a safe future. He’ll turn 30 in 2050, the year scientists say we should reach net zero carbon emissions. I worry that we are not acting quickly enough and about the hardships his generation will face as a result of our decisions today that will irretrievably influence his future.
Livingston is a small town in a rural county on the northern edge of Yellowstone National Park. You might imagine that we have pretty good air quality, well we do, but we also have oil and gas leasing across Montana and around small towns, communities and schools, etc.
And like almost every other community in this country, we are seeing the impacts of climate change firsthand. This past summer our community faced devastating floods after the Yellowstone River reached unprecedented levels. The river’s rising waters took out bridges, roads, caused billions of dollars in damage to Yellowstone and surrounding communities, and devastated our community. Many families had to evacuate their homes and many lost everything. We are still recovering and will be for a very long time.
Ironically, we are still in the midst of drought here and across Montana, and are living in constant fear of wildfires. This summer a dust fire at a nearby lumber yard sent black smoke hurling through our windows as we slept in the early morning hours. I was home alone with my kids and terrified. Thanks to the quick response of local firefighters, many of whom are volunteers, the fire was out within a few hours and no other structures were impacted. This is just one example of why I spend many restless nights thinking about how I would evacuate with my children, carefully considering whether it will be safe to get in the car or whether I should run to the river. This is the current reality of our climate crisis and we already know that it’s only going to get worse.
We need your help.
We are anticipating an increase in oil and gas development in Montana as neighboring states already impacted by oil and gas development are working hard to protect their communities.
Our communities have been faced with potential oil and gas development, and we are worried. When oil and gas leases were up for an auction on the outskirts of our little town, folks turned out by the hundreds and asked our local officials to help us say no. We realized we have very little power to protect our communities at the local level. And we are a relatively privileged community on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park. That’s why your job is so important to set the rules that everyone has to follow. Rules that protect the communities living in and around oil and gas development.
Unfortunately, the communities living adjacent to oil and gas development are oftentimes communities that don’t have the same resources to fight that development. Often it is poor communities and communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by methane pollution.
Again, this is why EPA exists—to set the rules to safeguard and protect everyone equally from pollution.
If we are faced with oil and gas development in and around our communities, we want to be sure that EPA has set standards that will reduce pollution and the most harmful impacts to our community.
Additionally, cutting methane pollution will help reduce the impacts of climate change across the country and help curb the looming climate crisis that we are all living in right now.
I respectfully request that EPA adopt the most stringent methane rules to protect children’s health and their futures. And to protect the thousands of vulnerable children that are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution every day.
This is a simple step, and we can and must continue to do more to protect vulnerable communities from air pollution and climate change. I want my kids to know that we did everything we could to protect their future.
Thank you again for your time and your consideration.