For Immediate Release:
August 10, 2023
Dylan Plummer, email@example.com, 541.531.1858
Dozens of organizations urge EWEB to take action on climate, affordability
Eugene, Ore – Forty environmental, housing, and justice-focused organizations submitted a public letter to the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) today outlining key actions the utility can take to lead the transition to clean renewable energy while ensuring affordability and energy equity for their customers.
The letter urges EWEB to expand existing electrification subsidies, weatherization programs, and bill assistance programs to ensure that the transition to clean renewable energy in the Eugene community is centered on justice and equity. The letter also urges the utility to take advantage of historic funding through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) for programs to support efficiency and weatherization upgrades for households, and to build publicly owned renewable energy generation and storage projects. This funding—some of which is available and some of which is soon to be available—could be transformative for households within EWEB’s service territory.
“As our city, state, and country take steps to transition away from polluting fossil fuels, we have an opportunity to build a new, publicly owned and operated renewable energy infrastructure in coalition with frontline communities and organized labor,” said Aya Cockram, Coalition Coordinator with the Fossil Free Eugene Coalition. “EWEB already has one of the cleanest grids in the nation and, with the funds now available under the IRA, the utility must collaborate with the community to create union jobs, reduce pollution and invest in public renewables.”
The coalition letter also calls on the utility to provide increased protections for ratepayers, including dramatically expanding the bill assistance program to match the benefits offered by other utilities in the region, and reducing barriers for households to qualify for these programs.
“Eugene residents, and tenants in particular, have been hard hit by an unprecedented housing crisis and mounting inflation. Access to affordable power, heating, and cooling is a human right, and is more important than ever as our community experiences the impacts of the climate crisis. As a publicly owned utility, EWEB needs to continue to lead in the transition to clean renewable energy while simultaneously providing assistance and programs to protect low-income ratepayers from energy burden — the IRA provides an opening for them to do just that,” said Timothy Morris, Executive Director of Springfield Eugene Tenants Association.
This letter comes on the heels of the EWEB Board of Commissioners’ decision to acknowledge EWEB’s 2023 Voluntary Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and associated Action Plan at their August 1 meeting, documents which will guide the utilities investments in the coming years. The utility’s plan has come under fierce community criticism in recent months for its claims that small modular nuclear reactors might be needed to address increasing demand. Yet the IRP itself indicates that such reactors are only one possible on-demand resource under consideration, and that further investments in renewable energy resources could meet the utility’s needs.
“The serious and long-term dangers associated with nuclear waste have long been warned against by physicians and advocates alike,” said Theodora Tsongas, Ph.D., M.S., an environmental health scientist with Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Small-scale nuclear is a dangerous distraction that puts the health and safety of frontline communities at risk. EWEB must employ solutions that are truly sustainable and equitable.”