By: Samantha Schmitz, DC Field Events 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 the opportunity to testify today. My name is Samantha Schmitz, and I live in Washington, DC. I’m a part of Moms Clean Air Force, and I’m inspired by the other people here today advocating for strong methane regulation and am hopeful about EPA’s updated rule to cut methane and other harmful pollutants from oil and gas operations across the country. This is an important step forward to protect communities from pollution and the climate crisis, but we must remember it is only a first step.
Growing up, I learned briefly about global warming in middle school and then chose to take an environmental science class in high school. In college, I then took numerous classes across disciplines on climate change. Now working at Moms Clean Air Force, I see the firsthand impacts of the climate crisis in the communities we work with and the most updated research coming out. Over time, I’ve seen the ways that climate research has evolved to prove what an existential threat that the climate crisis really is. We’ve also seen public outcry in favor of climate action grow rapidly in recent years. EPA’s regulations must now progress as well to finalize a comprehensive rule to curb methane and other harmful pollutants from oil and gas operations.
I have my degree in Economics with minors in Energy & Environment and Public Health from Harvard University. I explored the supposed “tension” between economics, climate, and public health, hoping to better understand what was fueling arguments against curbing our emissions. However, the research is clear. Harmful pollutants like methane are costing the economy, government, and communities unfathomable amounts of money in medical bills, climate-related disaster relief, and lives lost. And yet, this fact still doesn’t even begin to account for the traumatic human impacts of living near oil and gas operations or experiencing a climate-related disaster.
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. For that reason, environmental justice—NOT corporate interests—need to be the most forefront consideration in the fight against climate change and air pollution. Curtailing methane emissions is a positive and straight-forward first step, as methane accounts for 25% of manmade global warming.
In addition to disproportionately affecting communities of color and low-income communities, the climate crisis also disproportionately impacts younger generations like mine. The climate crisis will only get worse by the time I want to start a family of my own, and research has found that air pollution from the oil and gas industry can increase the risk of adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight, preterm birth, and birth defects. This issue is so dire already that many in my generation are grappling with whether it's justifiable to have children of our own because of the trauma of watching the climate crisis unfold throughout our lives with minimal government action.
Bold EPA regulation of methane emissions is an imperative first step, not only for the sake of my generation, but also for the economy and for the sake of combating inequities among the most marginalized communities across our country and the globe. I appreciate the proposed EPA methane rules and urge you to finalize the strongest and most comprehensive regulations as soon as possible to begin combatting methane pollution and the climate crisis. Thank you again for the opportunity to speak today.