For The Health Of Latino Families, The EPA Methane Rule Must Stay In Place

For the health of Latino families, the EPA methane rule must stay in place
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Public comments for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed two-year suspension of the Methane Rule are closing today—and the Agency may move ahead in suspending the rule in the coming weeks. If you haven’t been following this issue closely, allow me to catch you up.

From day one, the Trump Administration has worked to roll back or altogether block a number of rules and laws intended to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and to protect the planet we live on for generations to come. Unfortunately, while EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment, the agency’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt, is building a record of prioritizing corporate polluters over American lives. Do not just take my word for it: When Administrator Pruitt proposed this delay, EPA career staff raised concerns acknowledging such a delay would hurt children’s health.

The Hispanic Federation stands behind EPA’s methane rule because it reduces emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, as well as smog and cancer forming pollution. Suspending this rule would put the health and wellbeing of Latino communities at risk, and exacerbate the impacts of climate change.

Last September, a study looked at the impact of air pollution from the oil and gas industry on Latinos. The report found that more than 1.8 million Latinos live within a half mile of oil and gas facilities and their cancer and smog-causing emissions. What’s more, over 1.7 million Latinos live in counties with oil and gas drilling with a reported cancer risk above EPA’s level of concern. Every year, unchecked pollution from oil and gas industry leads to 150,000 more child asthma attacks and 100,000 more lost school days in Latino communities.

That’s no surprise considering the oil and gas industry dumps eight million tons of methane and toxic pollutants into our air each year. In fact, the oil and gas industry is rapidly expanding and there are over 21,000 new and updated oil and gas wells across the country that that would be required to comply with EPA’s pollution standards. Instead, more than 200,000 people, of whom 51,000 are children, and live within a half-mile of these wells will now go unprotected.[iii] Almost half are in Texas, a state that is almost 40 percent Latino. Click here to find out if you live near one of the 21,000 wells.

Research also shows that Latinos in the United States are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than the general population because of where we live and work. More than half of Latinos in the U.S. live in three states that are already experiencing serious effects related to climate change: historic drought in California, record-breaking heat in Texas, and increased sea level rise and flooding in Florida. Latinos are also more likely to work in the industries that are deeply affected by the effects of climate change such as agriculture, manufacturing, and construction.

I suppose none of this should be a surprise considering Administrator Pruitt’s history of cozying up to and receiving political donations from special interests from the oil and gas industry, such as Devon Energy.

As EPA administrator he is now doing their bidding by working to slash EPA’s budget by 31 percent, lay off 25 percent of employees and scrap 56 programs from pesticide safety to climate change protections. In addition to supporting America’s embarrassing exit from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, Pruitt is also eliminating the Clean Power Plan, which limits pollution that contributes to climate change.

Latinos, and all Americans, must demand immediate action for clean air, a safe climate, and a promising future. Pausing EPA’s Methane Rule is bad for our health. It means more smog, more cancer-forming chemicals, and more climate pollution.

EPA, please do not abandon your mission. Protect our health and environment today by keeping the methane rule in place.

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