By: Samantha Schmitz, Moms Clean Air Force intern
Date: June 17, 2021
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2021-0295
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Samantha Schmitz, and I’m an intern with Moms Clean Air Force. I’m a senior at Harvard University and I’m originally from Barrington, Illinois, just outside Chicago. I come before you today to urge this Administration to cut oil and gas methane pollution 65% by 2025 (from 2012 levels) to protect public health and put us on the pathway of climate equity.
My passion for this issue comes from both my academic background and my personal experiences. At Harvard, I’m studying Economics with minors in Energy & Environment and Global Health. I was drawn to these fields due to the role that they play in climate justice.
Climate change is undoubtedly the most pressing issue of my generation, and Economics has given me the ability to understand practical avenues for change and progress. If we do not act now, the costs of mitigation will grow exponentially with time, and more importantly, the human impacts will only grow more dire, unjust, and inequitable – hitting communities of color and low-income communities the hardest. Evidence for these inequities have been playing out for too long as Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities have been and continue to be disproportionately exposed to climate change impacts and dirty air, including harmful pollution from oil and gas operations that can cause respiratory diseases and asthma attacks. I understand what it means to gasp for a breath of clean air.
I was diagnosed with asthma when I was two years old. Over the years I have had asthma attacks ending in hospital stays at exorbitant costs to my family, as our health insurance was often inadequate since my parents were self-employed. I am also currently a Division 1 soccer player and have had to step out of competition numerous times due to the breathing complications from asthma. My years as a soccer player formed the person I am today, so having to step out for any reason is always heartbreaking. Having healthcare at all and playing sports, especially as a woman, are incredible privileges that I do not take for granted. I also grew up in a suburb with open space and ongoing conservation initiatives, yet I was still not immune to the health effects of climate change, and I know that I will only continue to be affected if the climate crisis continues unchecked.
As I reflect on all that I’ve learned about the climate crisis through my studies as well as my personal experiences, something I always come back to is my desire to be a mom one day. Air pollution is exacerbated by climate change and will only get worse by the time I want to have kids if we don’t drastically cut methane pollution among other things. How do I justify bringing a child into a world reaped with the growing negative health effects of air pollution and climate change? I know I’m not alone in struggling with this question. Many of my friends, peers, and others my age on social media are grappling with similar questions, as we have seen the climate crisis unfolding before our eyes. A crisis that we did not create.
Action on methane emissions is imperative, not only for the sake of my generation and my own ability to have children, but also for the sake of combating inequities among the most marginalized communities across our country and the globe. Therefore, I urge this Administration to cut oil and gas methane pollution by at least 65% by 2025 (from 2012 levels). Thank you again for the opportunity to speak today.