For Immediate Release
October 24, 2023
Aya Cockram, 541-912-1667, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hundreds of University of Oregon Students and Community Members Rally and Testify for a Fossil Free Campus
Students demand UO transition of boilers off of polluting methane gas at rally and public forum
Eugene, OREGON — On Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of students, faculty, alumni, and community members rallied to urge the University of Oregon to take action on climate change by transitioning off of their methane “natural” gas boiler system. After the rally, participants joined in a forum held by the University’s Thermal Systems Task Force to voice their support for the replacement of gas boilers with high efficiency electric heat pumps, the highest efficiency option with the greatest emissions reductions.
Rachel Withers, a University of Oregon student, Secretary of Sustainability for Associated Students of University of Oregon and member of the Thermal Systems Task Force, said:
“University of Oregon students have made it abundantly clear that they want the University to take bold action to address the climate crisis. The significant turnout to the Thermal Transition forum showed that both students and the greater campus community are invested in this issue and are urging the University to move forward with the strongest option.”
The University’s boiler system currently runs on polluting methane gas and is responsible for over 20,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory, making it the single largest source of climate pollution in the City of Eugene.
Molly Babcock, a University of Oregon student and Climate Justice League co-director, said:
“Our futures are on the line. We are organizing to ensure that the University is protecting our interests and taking action with the urgency that this issue demands.”
After over seven years of calls by a coalition of student groups such as Climate Justice League and faculty for the University to eliminate carbon pollution and transition off of fossil fuels, the University formed the Thermal Systems Task Force in 2022 which is tasked to review the dated and inefficient boiler system and recommend how best to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The City of Eugene has committed to reducing city-wide fossil fuel use by 50% by 2030 in its 2016 Climate Recovery Ordinance, a goal which the City will be unable to achieve if the University continues to burn methane gas in its boilers.
Aya Cockram, coalition coordinator for the Fossil Free Eugene Coalition, said:
“We can’t have a fossil free Eugene without a fossil free University of Oregon. The University must take rapid action to transition off of fossil fuels to protect our community’s climate and air, and to help our city meet its Climate Recovery Ordinance goals.”
After over seven years of calls by a coalition of student groups such as Climate Justice League and faculty for the University to eliminate carbon pollution and transition off of fossil fuels, the University formed the Thermal Systems Task Force in 2022 which is tasked to review the dated and inefficient boiler system and recommend how best to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Last winter, dozens of student and community organizations submitted a letter to the University’s Board of Trustees voicing their support for rapid action, and in the spring of 2024 hundreds of students and community members testified to the Thermal Task Force repeating these calls. The Task Force is expected to make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees in the spring of 2024, with a final decision from the Board of Trustees expected later in the year.
Dylan Plummer, senior field organizer with the Sierra Club and University of Oregon alumni, said:
“Our community is experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis today. It is critical that not only is the University of Oregon taking steps to rapidly transition off of fossil fuels, but that the University is pursuing steps that will reduce emissions, increase efficiency, build resiliency and create good paying union jobs.”
Find free to use photos and video of the rally here. Please attribute all photos to the Climate Justice League.