By: Vanessa Lynch, Pennsylvania field organizer, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: August 31, 2020
About: Environmental Protection Agency Review of NAAQS for Ozone Docket ID No. EPA-HQOAR-2018-0279
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Vanessa Lynch, and I am the Pennsylvania field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, a community of over 1 million moms and dads nationwide with over 100,000 members in Pennsylvania united against air pollution to protect our children’s health. The Environmental Protection Agency should protect our families by strengthening national standards for ozone pollution.
I live in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with my husband and two children. I have witnessed firsthand the impacts of the oil and gas industry on my community. A well pad with 8 gas wells and 6 more approved for the future, has been fracked in a medium-density residential area of my local township. And it’s not just well pads in our Pennsylvania communities; it’s compressor stations, gathering pipelines, larger transmission pipelines, pigging operations, and cryogenic plants.
Methane is the primary component of natural gas, and methane along with volatile organic compounds (VOC) are leaked throughout natural gas extraction, transmission, and processing. When methane or VOCs combine with nitrogen oxide in the presence of heat and sunlight, it forms ground-level ozone or smog. A recent analysis finds methane in Pennsylvania is leaked 16 times more than what is reported by the oil and gas industry—an enormous 1.1 million tons per year. In addition, VOC emissions are 21 times higher than what is reported by the oil and gas industry—63,500 tons per year.
For the 1.5 million Pennsylvanians living within a half mile of oil and gas operations, the current EPA ozone pollution standards are tragically inadequate to protect public health. I urge you to strengthen these standards to protect Pennsylvanians whose health is put at risk by breathing ozone resulting from the oil and gas industry’s pollution. I implore you to follow the extensive scientific evidence that exists detailing the serious health impacts of ozone on families—asthma attacks, lower birth weight, and decreased lung function in infants, and premature death, to name a few.
Recently, Administrator Andrew Wheeler used my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as the backdrop for his announcement of the rollback of protective EPA methane regulations. This political move puts in stark clarity the agency’s complete loss of mission, denial of science, and failure of leadership. Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas in the nation and a significant producer of methane and VOC air pollution. It is not surprising then that Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, consistently earns a failing grade for ozone pollution by the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report.
Families like mine who live with oil and gas operations crisscrossing our residential neighborhoods, next to homes, schools, daycare centers, assisted living facilities, and parks, know safeguards to protect our families cannot be optional. This is why I am thankful that Governor Wolf is filling the void of federal leadership and moving forward with state-level methane and VOC protections from the oil and gas industry. This will help to decrease ozone pollution from the oil and gas industry, but there are still many other polluting industrial sources in Pennsylvania—like the power sector—which is why we need strong EPA ozone standards.
Powerful energy companies across America are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to expand their markets and build their businesses—at times ruthlessly attacking individual citizens and small communities that attempt to speak out and protect themselves, pouring millions of dollars into local political campaigns to garner support and influence elections, and in some extreme cases conducting illegal activities, such as the bribery incidents in Ohio, to support their interests.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s job is to protect the health of people across our country and the environment—not corporate polluters. Americans depend on our government to safeguard our health from air pollution and climate change. With over 95 rollbacks of environmental protections over the last three and a half years, the Trump Administration has blatantly disregarded the mission of the EPA. My children deserve better, and so do yours. Administrator Wheeler needs to do his job and follow the science by strengthening national standards for ozone pollution.