By: Shaina Oliver, Colorado Field Organizer, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: June 17, 2021
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2021-0295
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Moms Clean Air Force's Colorado Chapter acknowledges the stolen lands of over 574 Tribal nations, and that we sit directly on the lands of the Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Ute Nations, and 45 other tribes that once occupied Colorado.
My name is Shaina Oliver, and I am a field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force living in Colorado, representing our more than 38,000 members in the state. But most importantly, I am a mother of four children. My children and I are Tribal affiliates of the Navajo Nation, descendants of the genocide known as the Indian Removal Act, known to the Dineh people as the Long Walk of the Navajo. I was born at Shiprock, New Mexico, on the Navajo Reservation. I currently live in Denver, Colorado, with my children and husband.
Tribal communities have been a prime target for government exploitation and abuse inflicted on Indigenous people and communities throughout history. Treaties and bad deals forced on Indigenous people have been a detriment to our health, environment, and economic wealth. Our Indigenous Tribal members still rely on centuries-old economic resilience through food sovereignty, native plant medicines, ranching, and adaptation.
Historically, policy violations have ravaged Indigenous communities’ health, wealth, and environmental well-being. As a Tribal affiliate of the Navajo Nation, I have seen the devastating land and health impacts contributed by coal, uranium, oil, and gas extraction. Because of these disparities, Indigenous people now have the highest rates of asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, leukemia, adverse birth outcomes, and premature deaths than the general population. I myself was born prematurely, low birth weight, diagnosed with asthma as an infant, and later in life diagnosed with a birth defect. My uncle, who lives near an oil and gas site, has suffered a heart attack and has undergone heart surgery. In addition, my grandfather suffered from asthma continuously before passing away from leukemia. According to Physicians for Social Responsibility, the burdens of health impacts from oil and gas pollution exposures can continue to affect three generations in the future.
Because of systemic environmental violence and racism built into our treaties, laws, policies, and regulations, Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income people have been segregated and redlined into communities near polluting industries. We are seeing this reality play out once again as oil and gas permits are being proposed near Black and Brown communities already disproportionately impacted by pollution.
When Indigenous families leave the reservation, we are systemically segregated and redlined into communities that have been set aside for affordable housing areas. Often the only option is to live next to highly polluting industries that spew toxic chemicals in the air and contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog. I live near Suncor refinery in nearby Commerce City, which has a long history of violations and is the second largest polluter of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the state, which can contribute to forming more ozone and affect health. Compounding the ozone air pollution problem is all the oil and gas development in the state.
Scientists have known for decades that air pollution is harmful to health, and this is especially true for vulnerable populations such as older adults, people with underlying health conditions, communities of color, pregnant women, and children.
Air pollution from the oil and gas industry can cause respiratory diseases, asthma attacks, increased hospitalizations, reproductive problems, blood disorders, neurological problems, cancer, and contribute to climate change, which further harms health.
One in three people in the US lives in a county with oil and gas production, and over 17 million live within a mile of active oil and gas wells, putting their health at risk. But the risk is not evenly distributed. Black, Indigenous, Latino, low-income, and rural communities are disproportionately exposed to dirty air, including harmful pollution from oil and gas operations, because of where they live, learn, work, and play.
Cutting methane pollution will have the benefit of reducing associated harmful VOCs, such as benzene. Benzene can worsen asthma, affect lung development in children, and increase the risk of cancer, immune system damage, and neurological, reproductive, and developmental problems.
Once again, I support cutting oil and gas methane pollution 65% by 2025, protecting all children’s right to a safe environment and protection of public health. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.