By: Patrice Tomcik, Senior National Field Manager, 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 speak 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 Senior National Field Manager for Moms Clean Air Force—a community of over 1.4 million parents united nationwide to protect our children’s health from air pollution and climate change. I support the updated EPA methane rule and urge the finalization of the strongest and most comprehensive rules to protect children’s health from all sources of oil and gas methane pollution.
While we are all vulnerable to air pollution and climate change, certain populations are impacted more, such as children and frontline communities located the closest to oil and gas operations. In the US, more than 3 million children go to school within a half mile of oil and gas operations that put their health at risk.
My children attend the Mars Area School District, where there are fracked unconventional gas wells located about a half mile away from my children’s school campus that puts 3,200 students' health at risk. Every day I send my children to school, I fear for their health, especially my youngest, who is a leukemia cancer survivor and is at a greater risk of having cancer again.
Oil and gas operations emit climate-warming methane and harmful volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, that increase the risk of immune system damage and cancers, such as childhood leukemia. I am very concerned about what my children may be breathing in their still developing lungs.
There is a growing body of scientific studies indicating an increased risk of health impacts associated with being located in close proximity to oil and gas operations. In a study published in 2022, researchers from Yale found that Pennsylvania children living near unconventional oil and gas wells are up to three times more likely to be diagnosed with leukemia between the ages of 2 to 7 than those who did not live near wells. My son, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 3, may have been among the hundreds of children included in the study. The two homes he has lived in all his life on top of the Marcellus shale are surrounded by the very same gas wells that were analyzed in the study. My children and all children across the nation need a strong and comprehensive methane rule to protect their health.
People who live with oil and gas operations in their communities need access to monitoring technologies because they are often the first to detect leaks through sight, smell, and sound. I urge you to provide a clear pathway for community members to participate in the Super-Emitter Response Program by ensuring that approved monitoring technologies and data are accessible to all. Addressing large pollution leaks from the oil and gas operations in a timely manner can help to protect our children’s health and the climate.
In summary, quickly and significantly reducing methane pollution and other harmful air pollutants from new and existing oil and gas operations is one of the best levers we have to slow the rate of climate change now and help clean up the air to protect children’s health. This is why I support the updated EPA rule and urge you to strengthen it by limiting flaring only for safety reasons and expanding standards to cover more storage tanks.
Every child has the right to breathe clean air, and the right to a stable climate.