By: Vanessa Lynch, Pennsylvania Field Organizer, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: June 16, 2021
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2021-0295
To: Environmental Protection Agency
My name is Vanessa Lynch, and I am a field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, a community of over 1 million moms and dads nationwide with over 96,000 members in Pennsylvania united against air pollution to equitably protect our children’s health. I live in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on top of the Marcellus shale with my husband and two young children—where my extended family has lived for the last four generations.
Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas and thus is a significant producer of methane pollution. In October 2019, I traveled to Dallas, Texas, to oppose the work of EPA’s former Administrator Andrew Wheeler to eliminate the 2016 Methane New Source Performance Standards.
I am here today excited by the opportunity to urge the EPA to propose a strong and comprehensive methane rule for new and existing oil and gas operations that limits methane pollution 65% by 2025 from the 2012 levels. A strong methane rule would protect frontline communities like mine, that live, learn, play, and breathe in the pollution from the oil and gas industry every day. The agency has an opportunity to set itself on the path toward meeting this climate pollution target—and this is exactly what it should do.
I have witnessed firsthand the impacts the oil and gas industry has had on my community. A well pad with eight gas wells has been fracked in a medium-density residential area of my local township, which basically means there are houses, children, parks, daycare centers, assisted living facilities, and schools located nearby. Additionally, six more gas wells have been approved to be fracked in the future. We did not ask for fracking to come to our community, but we will suffer the burden of the health and safety risks for years to come. In Pennsylvania, 1.5 million people live within half of a mile of an active oil or gas facility. 300,000 students attend schools and daycares within a half mile of an oil and gas facility.
Wherever oil and gas is being drilled, compressed, processed, and sent through pipelines, you can find methane and volatile organic compounds being leaked, vented, or flared. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas contributing to the climate crisis we are facing today. What we do to rein in greenhouse gases like methane in the next 10 years will have an enormous impact on generations to come.
We know oil and gas industry air pollution can cause adverse birth outcomes, cancers, asthma attacks, and respiratory problems. My son, who struggled with periodic breathing difficulties throughout his childhood, needs protections and so do the more than 200,000 Pennsylvania children who have asthma.
The Pennsylvania DEP reports we have the highest number of cases of Lyme disease in the nation, triple the number from just 10 years ago—a trend we are seeing as a result of climate change due to warmer winters and longer summers that increases the tick population. I will be going on Friday to have my daughter tested for Lyme disease as a result of a tick bite she received while enjoying nature with friends.
Pittsburgh has some of the worst air quality in the nation and received a failing grade from the American Lung Association State of the Air Report for ozone and particle pollution. Air pollution created by oil and gas operations, such as benzene, contributes to ozone smog that can damage lungs, trigger asthma attacks, and cause cancer. It is very concerning that heavily fracked counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania are seeing an increase of rare cancers when Allegheny County (where Pittsburgh is located) is already in the top 2% for cancer rates in the country.
The cumulative impacts of these public health crises combined with oil and gas air pollution is staggering. Now is the time to cut methane pollution, improve public health, and slow climate change in its tracks. Protect my family, my friends, and my community with strong methane pollution regulations. We deserve your best.