For Immediate Release
November 3, 2023
Aya Cockram, 541-912-1667, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elected officials, unions, and organizations call for the University of Oregon to transition its facilities to run on clean, renewable electricity
Eugene, OREGON — Today, over thirty organizations, along with unions, and local elected leaders, submitted a letter to the University of Oregon urging the school to transition the University’s facilities off of dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable electricity. The letter specifically calls on the University to replace its gas boiler system, which runs on “natural” methane gas and accounts for 72.1% of the school’s total emissions, with high-efficiency electric heat pumps and heat recovery chillers, as described in Option Four of the “Options Under Consideration” in front of the Task Force.
Molly Babcock, a University of Oregon student and Climate Justice League co-director, said:
“Students are very passionate about our right to a safe, healthy future. It is UO’s responsibility to invest in and protect that right. We want a fossil free University.”
The letter emphasizes how transitioning the boiler system to run on clean, renewable energy is critical to achieving both the City and University’s climate goals. The University’s 2021 GHG Inventory shows that the majority of the institution’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the use of methane gas in buildings – which amounts to over 22,000 metric tons of GHG annually. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s GHG inventory, the University’s boiler system is now the single largest source of climate polluting emissions in the City of Eugene.
Caitlin Howard, University of Oregon graduate and content strategist at Breach Collective said:
“On its Climate Action Plan webpage, the University of Oregon acknowledges that ‘its leadership and example are an important contribution to a global effort…to reduce greenhouse gas emissions [and] transition away from fossil fuels.’ Yet its boiler system is the single largest source of climate pollution in the City of Eugene. The University has the opportunity to walk the walk and actually reduce emissions and transition to clean electricity, and it must do so rapidly and immediately to live up to its claims of being a leader in the global effort to address climate change.”
The letter also provided data underscoring the health impacts of gas in buildings and highlighted the disproportionate effect of these harms on low-income and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. When burned, methane emits a number of pollutants including nitrogen oxides (NOx), which have been linked to respiratory issues, including asthma. The University of Oregon is responsible for over 226 tons of NOx annually, the equivalent NOx emissions of approximately 75,052 cars.
Alyssa Rueda, Climate Justice Organizer for Beyond Toxics and University of Oregon graduate said:
“Burning gas in buildings has grave and well documented health consequences. From extraction to end use, historically marginalized communities bear the greatest burden of our dependency on fossil fuels. Choosing to transition the University to clean renewable energy would show an important investment in the future, but also a commitment to justice and equity.”
This letter follows more than seven years of advocacy on this issue and a recent rally where hundreds of students and allies were in attendance. Student organizers are calling for an investment in their future and believe that the University has a moral obligation to take rapid action to transition off of fossil fuels, reduce polluting emissions, protect public health, and do its part to mitigate the climate crisis. This letter demonstrates the broad support for their call.