By: Vanessa Lynch, Pennsylvania field organizer, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: December 1, 2021
About: Environmental Protection Agency Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2021-0317
To: Environmental Protection Agency
My name is Vanessa Lynch, and I am a Field Organizer for Moms Clean Air Force. I live in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on top of the Marcellus shale, with my husband and two children—where my extended family has lived for the last four generations. I support the proposed EPA methane rules and urge you to finalize the strongest, most comprehensive methane safeguards to protect children’s health from all sources of oil and gas methane pollution, including small wells and routine flaring.
Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of fracked gas and thus a significant producer of methane pollution. I have witnessed firsthand the impacts the oil and gas industry has had on my community. A well pad has been fracked in a medium-density residential area of my local township, which 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 a half mile of an active oil or gas facility. Three hundred thousand students attend schools and daycares within a half mile of an oil and gas facility. And as the oil and gas industry continues to add well pads in neighborhoods all around me, those numbers continue to grow.
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. Oil and gas infrastructure crisscrosses southwestern Pennsylvania through suburban and rural landscapes alike. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas contributing to the climate crisis we are facing today. Quickly and significantly reducing methane pollution is one of the best levers we have to slow the rate of climate change now and help clean up the air to protect children’s health.
Of particular importance in Pennsylvania is fixing leaks from the oil and gas industry, including small wells, through regular leak detection and repair. Small wells emit over half of the methane emissions and represent a very small percentage of the nation’s oil and gas production. Most of these wells are owned by larger companies with profits that dwarf the compliance costs of even the most stringent regulations.
A strong methane rule would protect frontline communities like mine. We know families who live near oil and gas operations are more likely to experience adverse birth outcomes, heart disease, 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 Department of Environmental Protection 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. Tick checks after enjoying nature, going to an outdoor event, or pulling weeds in your yard, have become a continual necessity for families in Pennsylvania as I watch friends and neighbors deal with the impacts of Lyme disease.
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. 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 also 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 safeguards. We deserve your best.