By: Shaina Oliver, Colorado State Coordinator, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: February 22, 2023
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0072
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Thank you for providing the opportunity for public comment today. I want to remind everyone that we are on ancestral lands of over 574 Indigenous tribes of North America. My name is Shaina Oliver. I live on the ancestral lands of the Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Ute Nations, including the 45 tribes that once occupied the state of Colorado. I am a State Coordinator for Moms Clean Air Force and EcoMadres Colorado. Moms Clean Air Force is united in fighting for all children’s right to a safe and healthy environment supporting justice in every breath. I’m here today to ask EPA to set a more protective standard for soot of 8 micrograms per cubic meter for the annual standard and 25 micrograms per cubic meter for the 24-hour standard. We need soot standards that protect public health and prevent deaths.
I am an Indigenous mother of four. We are the descendants of the genocide known as the “Indian Removal Act,” known to the Diné as “the long walk of the Navajo.” These types of human rights violations have deeply impacted Indigenous peoples’ communities, health, wealth, and environmental well-being. Environmental racism continues to impact not only Native Americans but has also harmed Black Americans of African descent, Hispanic/Latino Americans who lost their Indigenous Identity, and those who are economically challenged and have been vulnerable to exploitation.
Systemic environmental violence and racism is built into our treaties, laws, policies and regulations which has led to Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income workers being segregated and redlined into communities near polluting industries. On the Navajo reservation, coal plants, oil and gas drilling, and uranium mines are our neighbors. Like other children on the reservation, I was born prematurely, at low-birth weight, and 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, diabetes, high-blood pressure, heart disease, cancers, mental illness, adverse birth outcomes, and premature deaths than the general population.
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 soot and other chemicals in the air, like the Suncor refinery in northeast Denver, which is in my area.
According to the American Lung Association, 63 million people in the United States experience unhealthy spikes in daily soot pollution, and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to higher-than-average levels of this dangerous pollutant. This is a serious problem for people like me who have asthma and I am deeply concerned about the quality of the air that my children are breathing. Colorado alone has over 434,000 community members living with asthma. My 11 year old son was diagnosed with asthma last year and stays indoors a lot due to wildfires, soot, and polluting industries.
Children are vulnerable to soot pollution before they are even born: Recent research by the University of Boulder Colorado links prenatal pollution exposure to soot pollution with childhood and brain development challenges. Parents in Colorado are counting on your leadership to enact strengthened rules that will protect our children’s health and protect maternal health against soot pollution, because women and children are most vulnerable to its impacts on our health.
We need the EPA’s leadership to move quickly to finalize the strongest limits on particle pollution, in line with scientific recommendations.. I call on the EPA to follow the science and set a more health protective standard for soot of 8 micrograms per cubic meter for the annual standard and 25 micrograms per cubic meter for the daily standard.