By: Patrice Tomcik, National Field Manager, 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, and thank you for the opportunity to give comments today. My name is Patrice Tomcik and I am the mother of two boys living in the town of Gibsonia located in Southwest Pennsylvania on top of the Marcellus Shale. I am a National Field Manager and Oil & Gas Specialist for Moms Clean Air Force – a community of over 1 million moms and dads nationwide united against air pollution and climate change to protect our children’s health. We envision a safe, stable and equitable future where all children breathe clean air. I urge the Environmental Protection Agency to cut oil and gas methane pollution 65% by 2025 (from 2012 levels) to protect children’s health and their futures.
While we are all vulnerable to air pollution and climate change, certain populations are affected more such as children, those with underlying medical conditions, low-income communities, as well as Black, Latino, and Indigenous people. Those who live the closest to polluting sources such as oil and gas operations are impacted the most.
In the US, 12.6 million people live within a half mile of oil and gas operations and 2.9 million children go to school within a half mile of oil and gas operations that puts their health at risk.
My children attend the Mars Area School District where there are six unconventional well pads with multiple gas wells and a vast spider web network of pipelines. The closest gas wells that have been fracked are about a half mile away from my children’s 5-school campus which puts my sons and 3,200 students' health at risk due to the potential exposure to harmful air pollution when they attend school or play outdoor sports.
Oil and gas operations emit climate warming methane and harmful volatile organic compounds such as benzene that can affect lung development in children and increases the risk of cancer, immune system damage, and developmental problems. Every day I send my children to school, I fear for their health, especially my youngest who is a cancer survivor and is now immune compromised. My children need strong and comprehensive pollution protections.
We can reduce methane and the accompanying harmful pollutants by using monthly leak detection and repair inspection programs, reducing flaring and venting, and using zero bleed pneumatic controllers. Quickly and significantly reducing methane pollution is one of the most important opportunities we have to slow the rate of climate change now.
Climate change is a health crisis that many families across the nation are experiencing now with more wildfires and intense heat waves that contribute to respiratory problems, asthma attacks, worsened allergies that leave children gasping for a breath of clean air.
In my state of Pennsylvania, we are seeing climate change contribute to our warmer winters resulting in a drastic increase of the tick populations and increase in Lyme disease cases. I have twelve family members and friends who have been treated for Lyme disease in the past 5 years, including my husband. The sudden explosion of this disease is an indication of what’s to come with insect-borne diseases if we don’t take meaningful action to reduce climate-warming methane pollution.
Prioritizing input to the methane rule-making from environmental justice and frontline communities is imperative as they have historically shouldered an outsized burden from the impacts of air pollution and the climate crisis. We need environmental justice. We need climate justice.
Parents can’t control the air our children breathe; we depend on the people at the EPA do their jobs and protect them. Children all across the country—including my own—are depending on EPA and the Biden administration to move swiftly with a protective rule that could cut methane pollution 65% by 2025. Every child has the right to breathe clean air, and the right to a stable climate.