By: Shaina Oliver, Colorado Field Organizer, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: October 19, 2021
About: NEPA Phase I Rulemaking CEQ-2021-0002
To: Council on Environmental Quality
I am Shaina Oliver, resident of Denver, Colorado, mother of four, and organizer for Moms Clean Air Force. I am a descendant of the genocide known as the Long Walk of the Navajo. As an Indigenous woman of the Navajo Nation, I demand the protections of our air, water, and lands. Most importantly for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to be restored back to giving Tribes the right to protect Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Restoring NEPA would give communities the protections needed to sustain our environment and our children’s right to public health protections.
The Navajo Nation has endured and continues to feel the impacts of industrial projects on the health of our people. I was born on the Navajo reservation, where many people were exposed to pollution from coal plants, oil drilling, and uranium mines. Like other children on the reservation, I was born with a birth defect and low birth weight, and I was born prematurely. As an infant, I was diagnosed with asthma and struggled to breathe when the air quality was poor. Indigenous people have higher rates of asthma, heart disease, cancers, mental illness, adverse birth outcomes, and premature deaths than the general population.
Already communities that struggle with economic inequities have been insulted and injured by poorly planned polluting projects. NEPA has been a critical tool for public engagement on industrial projects, providing a voice for the community in places where our voices otherwise go ignored.
Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, California, and Alaska have survived the most extreme heat and poor air quality levels in human history just this pass summer. Wyatt Tofte was a 13-year-old Oregon boy who died while holding his dog in the midst of an Oregon wildfire after trying to go back to save his grandmother, according to CNN. Never to experience another summer of extreme heat.
Now is the time to push for key considerations for reducing pollution impacts, because we are in a climate crisis. And it’s irresponsible of the administration to ignore the cumulative and indirect effects of greenhouse gases on the climate. Our children are facing the worst impacts of climate change, while contributing to it the least. Being a parent changes your perspective, and I believe that children are the gateway to heaven. How well we treat our children will be our judgement day.
The proposed Phase 1 rule is a critical step toward restoring critical National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations for major federal decision making and minimizing harmful impacts on people and the environment. This proposed rule will help restore some of the essential NEPA protections that the 2020 NEPA regulations undermined. We need justice in every breath.