By Myrelis Díaz Martínez
We do everything we can to protect the children in our lives, so that they can grow into healthy, strong adults. As a doting aunt, I want my nieces to be healthy and safe in their community back in my native Puerto Rico. Yet, despite my efforts – and those of my brother and his wife – to look after my nieces’ well-being, there is an obstacle standing in our way. President Trump and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler are putting our children at risk by gutting regulations that require oil and gas companies to reduce methane emissions.
My nieces may be too young to speak out about pollution in the air they breathe, but I am not. That’s why I traveled to Dallas to testify against a dangerous rollback that imperils children’s health. For them, methane is a double threat: it dirties the air that passes through their tiny lungs, and it contributes to climate change. The methane rollback is a dangerous move that would degrade air quality and fuel extreme weather. It crosses a line for my family and future generations that deserve a livable planet.
As a Latina who has experienced climate disruption in my lifetime, this rollback literally hits home. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria forced me to leave my native Puerto Rico and relocate to Arizona. As a significant driver of climate change which supercharges our storms, methane played a role in my displacement.
Methane has approximately 25 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, but Trump’s EPA is going out of its way to protect methane polluters by rolling back regulations designed to hold them accountable for compromising our air quality and our health. As communities everywhere are in the grips of a climate crisis, Trump’s EPA is attempting to gut the standards that protect us from a potent climate pollutant.
Methane is particularly hazardous to our health, and overexposure can trigger asthma attacks, reduce healthy lung function, and lead to a number of serious health complications including cancer, birth defects, and nervous system damage. Infants and young children are especially vulnerable as their organ systems are rapidly developing, and exposure to heavily polluted air can interfere with healthy development, and cause long-term consequences for the youngest, and most vulnerable members of our communities.
But methane pollution disrupts more than the growth and development of children, it can also derail their education. Approximately three million students attend schools near an oil or gas facility, and every year, American students miss over 500,000 days of school due to illness triggered by air contaminants. No family should face this double-whammy of a burden.
I was proud to stand with other concerned citizens in Dallas who exposed this proposed rollback for what it is: a thinly veiled attempt to shield oil and gas facilities for years to come while ignoring EPA’s core mission to protect public health and the environment. Join me in submitting a comment opposing the Trump administration efforts to gut the EPA’s 2016 New Source Performance Standards by the November 25th deadline. We owe this much to all the children we cherish.
Myrelis Díaz Martínez uses her environmental science and health background to address the needs of fellow Latinos. As an Ecomadres member based in Tucson, Arizona, Myrelis is vocal about how our climate crisis is harming the health and living conditions of millions of people all around the world.