On July 10, several Pennsylvania religious leaders traveled to Washington DC to offer in-person testimony to the EPA regarding delay of implementation of New Source Performance Standards for Methane emissions from oil and gas operations. EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0505
Good afternoon. I am Rev. Douglas Hunt, Vice President of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light. I am here today representing the Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Action Network. I completed my Master of Divinity degree at Howard University and was ordained in the United Church of Christ, and a member of Main Line Unitarian Church in Devon, PA.
My passion for justice moves me to action and a framework for justice decision making used widely — called see – judge – act. A simple rubric which helps us to stop, stand back from a situation and reflect on it before we take action. I also have degrees in Physics & Engineering.
In Pennsylvania, fossil fuel industries provided decades of employment, sustaining families and communities, . . . . as well as the state treasury. Now, however, our science and our medicine show that in addition to the everyday stress and danger of working in this industry, our families and communities here in Pennsylvania, our nation and around our planet now face grave threats to their health and well being from the methane and other gases and chemicals released by the mining, extraction and transportation of natural gas and oil.
What we see now is intense pollution and METHANE SMOG damaging health and fueling the climate changes that increasingly disrupt and threaten lives now and in the future across Pennsylvania, our country and around the world. Children miss 500,000 days of school nationally each year due to ozone smog resulting from oil and gas pollution and oil and gas industrial plants emit at least 9.8 million metric tons of methane pollution a year. This has the same climate impact as burning almost 225 coal-fired power plants for a year, or driving 2/3 of all of the cars in the U.S. for a year (over 175 million cars).
This overwhelming evidence showing that release of methane, accidently or intentionally, into the air causes and exacerbates major respiratory and other health problems, and spurs climate change with 86x the heat trapping potential of CO2.
And so, my justice impulse says –
We see, that oil and gas companies release millions of metric tons of methane into the air every year. At least 110,000 tons of methane were released in Pennsylvania last year. The latest industry self-reported data for 2014 and 2015 show that methane emissions at natural gas industry sites are increasing at a rate greater than gas production.
We see, self-reported by the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania, data for the years 2014 and 2015, emissions of methane and the other volatile organic chemicals VOCs that combine to form smog which leads to respiratory illness, are increasing at natural gas industry sites in Pennsylvania at a rate greater than gas production and that fixes at many of these sites are as simple as sealing a seam or tightening a valve.
Finally, we see, that in addition to the elderly and all of those without sufficient resources to avoid exposure, our children are at the greatest health risk from air pollution because they are more likely to be active outdoors and their lungs are still developing. Asthma strikes nearly one out of every 10 school children in the United States and is the number one health issue that causes kids to miss school. On “bad-air days” or “air alert days,” particularly during the warmer months, kids with asthma are forced to stay indoors to avoid aggravating their condition.
We judge, that by virtually any measure that values life over profit, evidence that demonstrates that there were and are staggering and growing costs to people and all life on earth if we continue to produce and use natural gas and oil as we are, that outweigh any possible benefit.
So it is time for YOU to Act. I am here today urging you to release the New Source Rule immediately.
On a personal note, I have a 15 month old great grandson whose future I want to help ensure is both healthy and beautiful. I have a wife who carries an inhaler and uses a nebulizer for her asthma whenever the air aggravates it. I have a responsibility as clergy, parent, grandparent, great grandparent and citizen of the earth, to demand implementation of this rule that will significantly increase their chances for a long and healthy life.
The New Source Rule, covering 836 wells in Pennsylvania and thousands more of the over 1,5 million active wells across the country – about the the same number of Pennsylvanians that live within a half-mile of gas and oil operations with about 1300 schools in the same radius – will dramatically improve the chances for all of us to live happy and healthy lives.
I urge you to take ACTION for the health of our and all future generations and release the New Source Rule for implementation without further delay.