By: Molly Rauch, Public Health Policy Director, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: November 30, 2021
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 Molly Rauch, and I am Public Health Policy Director for Moms Clean Air Force, a community of over one million moms and dads fighting air pollution and climate change for the sake of our children’s health. I am from Washington DC, and am the mother of three teenagers.
Moms Clean Air Force supports the proposed EPA methane rules and we urge EPA to finalize the strongest and most comprehensive rules to protect children’s health from all sources of oil and gas methane pollution, including small wells and routine flaring.
The oil and gas industry is one of the nation’s largest sources of methane pollution. Methane is leaking from the oil and gas sector at the rate of more than 16 million metric tons a year—the equivalent of the climate pollution from all of the nation’s passenger vehicles in a year.
In August, the IPCC released an updated report on the state of the world’s climate. The IPCC report, written by hundreds of the world’s leading climate scientists, painted a dire picture of the climate emergency. We have gone so far down the road of polluting our atmosphere through burning fossil fuels that we will reach 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2040, about a decade earlier than predicted in IPCC’s 2018 report, just three years ago.
The new IPCC report paid special attention to methane’s role in the climate emergency. Methane is second only to CO2 in its role in warming our atmosphere. Human-made methane emissions are responsible for about one third of today’s warming.
Moms Clean Air Force and our members feel it is our moral obligation as parents to fight for a livable climate and a stable future, for the sake of our children. Here in Washington DC, as in many cities across the country, sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and crushing heat are poised to increasingly burden our communities with health impacts, property damage, limited recreational opportunities, and damage to cherished cultural and natural resources. Certain populations are at especially high risk of climate change impacts such as children, outdoor workers, older adults, athletes, those with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, and Black and brown communities.
And of course this isn’t simply a future threat. Climate change is a health crisis right now. Record-breaking wildfires, intensified by climate change, are choking people’s lungs. Massive climate-fueled floods are drowning people in their basements. Relentless heat waves are killing outdoor workers. In my family, the climate crisis has hit home in a far more mundane way. Extreme heat here in DC over the summer meant that my teenage son had several football practices canceled in August. This sounds trivial until you realize that his coaches were following protocols that were set up to avoid heat stroke, a life threatening condition.
Here in DC, we have a historic average of 11 dangerously hot days each year. By the 2050s, without rapid and ambitious global climate solutions, heat emergency days are projected to increase to four times that—which will bring us to as many as 45 heat emergencies each year.
Reducing methane emissions as quickly and completely as possible from the oil and gas industry is essential.
Cutting methane emissions also improves air quality and public health. Where there are oil and gas operations, you can find methane leaking alongside other harmful volatile organic compounds such as benzene. These VOCs can worsen asthma, affect lung development in children, and increase the risk of cancer. They are linked to immune system damage, and neurological, reproductive, and developmental problems.
Moreover, the pollution from oil and gas operations can travel hundreds of miles, combining with heat and sunlight in the atmosphere to form ground level ozone, or smog, a powerful lung irritant that triggers asthma attacks and increases the risk of lung infections. In fact, the air pollution created by oil and gas operations is harming the health of millions of people living near and far from oil and gas. Every year, more than 750,000 summertime asthma attacks in children under age 18 are due to the smog formed by oil and gas pollution.
For these reasons, Moms Clean Air Force strongly supports the proposed EPA methane rules. On behalf of our more than one million members, I urge you to finalize the most comprehensive methane rules to protect children’s health from all sources of oil and gas methane pollution.