Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 13, 2019

Lisa Deville 'Native Americans Deserve Strong Air Pollution Standards'

Native Americans Deserve Strong Air Pollution Standards

By Lisa DeVille

Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara
Censored News

Last month, I joined citizens from across the country in Dallas, Texas to testify against Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s proposal to eliminate direct regulation of methane from the EPA’s New Source Performance Standards, a proposal which would remove pollution standards for the oil and gas industry and put communities like mine in danger. If the proposal is finalized, the production, transmission, and storage of gas in North Dakota would have no methane emissions standards. As a proud member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation, whose ancestors are buried in Mandaree and Fort Berthold, I feel a powerful connection to this land, and I am deeply disturbed by the EPA’s efforts to undermine the pollution standards that keep my community safe.

The oil and gas industry emits more than 13 million metric tons of methane and associated gasses such as volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants into the air each year, and long-term exposure to this pollution can lead to a number of serious health complications including respiratory damage, cancer, birth defects, and nervous system damage. Those of us near oil and gas operations are more likely to suffer from an illness associated with breathing heavily polluted air. Unfortunately, this is something my family knows all too well.

I live less than a mile away from facilities which produce, store, and transport natural gas, and in August of 2017, my husband and I became ill with debilitating respiratory infections. We went to the McKenzie County Clinic, where a physician told us that we had the same symptoms as oil field workers they had treated at the clinic, known as the “Bakken Cough.” I was prescribed more medication, and my husband received a steroid injection, but it took another eight weeks for us to fully recover. We were miserable during those eight weeks, and we live in constant fear of the next devastating illness caused by exposure to heavily polluted air. Recently we learned of increased nosebleeds and illness at the Mandaree Public School where my children go to school. The EPA has a responsibility to defend the health and safety of American families like mine, and that means strengthening protections against methane pollution, not rolling them back.

Administrator Wheeler’s proposed roll back of methane safeguards threatens the health and wellbeing of millions of people across this country, especially Native communities like Fort Berthold. We choose to live on our ancestral lands, but we cannot choose whether or not to breathe air polluted by oil and gas companies developing on our sacred land. While the Dallas hearing may be over, we can still make a difference. Every American is entitled to make their voices heard and submit a comment to the Trump administration by the November 25th deadline, letting them know that we oppose this blatant assault on our health. The time to speak out is now: the health of our families is on the line.

Lisa Deville is an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes on Fort Berthold Reservation. She has lived her whole life in Mandaree, ND with her husband, five children, and five grandbabies. Lisa assisted in creating grassroots group Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights (POWER) and is a member of the Dakota Resource Council (DRC). In 2015, Lisa was awarded the North Dakota Human Rights Award.

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