Breaking: Eugene becomes first Oregon city to phase out gas in new construction
The City of Eugene voted five to three tonight to phase out fossil fuels like gas in new homes and buildings, a historic step that will cut climate pollution, improve air quality, and lower utility bills for households. The vote from the City Council delivered a major victory to the dozens of climate, environmental justice, health, housing and racial justice groups who organized for more than two years in favor of the policy. Read the press release here.
New Report Shows the Danger of Gas Stoves for Children
In a new report conducted by RMI, Sydney School of Public Health, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that 12.7% of current childhood asthma in the US is attributable to gas stove use. Read the full article here.
Sign On Letters
Gas industry misinformation and science denial around health risks of gas appliances
This letter outlines common talking-points that NW Natural and the wider gas industry have used to spread misinformation around the scientific evidence of gas stove impacts to public health. Read it here.
Building Industry Professional Letter For a Just Transition
This letter by architects, builders, designers, engineers, and other building industry professionals outlines the urgency of adopting policies to transition homes and buildings in Eugene from polluting fossil fuels to renewable electricity as a proactive measure to address the climate crisis. It was signed by 31 firms, organizations, or businesses and 19 individuals. Read the letter here
Active Bethel Community Letter
Members of the Active Bethel Community state their support of Council to moving forward with common sense climate policies to require that newly constructed residential and commercial buildings in our city be built all electric, and that the City set a formal goal to transition existing residential and, where feasible, commercial buildings to 100% electric, by 2035. Read the letter here
NW Natural False Advertising Letter to the Oregon Attorney General
Supported by 38 organizations and elected officials, this letter strongly encourages Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to investigate the misleading advertising and anti-democratic activities of the state-regulated methane gas utility NW Natural including misinformation regarding the climate and health impacts of fracked gas, the viability of so-called renewable natural gas, and advertising to children. Read the letter here read the press release here.
Fossil Free Eugene Webinar Series
- Eugene Weekly – Going Natural? Eugene City Council’s forum on possible natural gas ban brings out large crowd
- Guest View Point (Eugene Weekly) — A Bridge to Sell You: NW Natural’s “Destination Zero” is a bridge to nowhere
- Register Gaurd — Eugene officials hear feedback about electric-only infrastructure for new homes
- Oregon Public Broadcasting – Oregon lawmakers, groups demand investigation over NW Natural’s gas claims
- Press Release — Oregon Lawmakers, Organizations Call for Department of Justice to Investigate NW Natural for False Advertising
- Cascadia Wildlands –Press Release: Eugene City Council Advances Policy to Transition New Construction to All-Electric, Sets Ambitious Targets for Decarbonizing Existing Buildings
- Register Guard –Activists promote electrification benefits ahead of plans to decarbonize Eugene
- Sierra Club – Eugene City Council votes unanimously to further explore new building electrification policy
- Register Guard Op-Ed – Eugene must act now to address climate change
- SP Global – Eugene, Ore., lays foundation for state’s 1st ban on gas use in new buildings
- DeSmog Blog – This City in Oregon is Making Moves to Ban Natural Gas in New Homes and Buildings
- Portland Business Journal – Eugene council votes to explore banning natural gas in new buildings
- Eugene Weekly – Eugene Can Lead the State On Climate Action
- Register Guard – What to do as Eugene City Council votes to rethink natural gas
- Eugene Weekly – Do Cities Dream of Electric Stoves?
- Register Guard – Young climate activists examine race, wealth and immediacy while finding their voice in the movement
- High Country News – Has Eugene, Oregon, found a ‘superpower’ for climate action?
- Register Guard – Environmental youth groups lead bike protest to Northwest Natural
- Daily Emerald – Eugene puts natural gas contract on hold
- KLCC – Negotiations Between NW Natural & City of Eugene Remain Ongoing
- Register Guard Op-Ed – Eugene can reshape NW Natural contract talks
- Register Guard Op-Ed by Former Mayor Kitty Piercy – Eugene City Council right to fight fracked gas
- Register Guard – Eugene, NW Natural disagree on whether to link franchise agreement, climate goals
- Eugene Weekly – The City Doesn’t Pas Gas (Contract)
- Eugene Weekly Op-Ed – People Over Profits
- Register Guard Op-Ed – A bridge fuel to nowhere
- Sierra Club – City of Eugene Hits Brakes on NW Natural Contract Renewal, Citing Climate Goals
- Eugene Weekly – Northwest Not-so Natural
- Double Sided Media – News You Might Have Missed: Week of January 17
- Register Guard Op-Ed – Hope for action beyond climate deferral
- Double Sided Media – Activists Urge City to Reconsider Fracking Franchise
- Eugene Weekly – Local Coalition Calls on City to Stop Franchise Agreement with NW Natural
- OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting) — Gas stoves leak climate-warming methane even when they’re off
- Utility Dive – Building electrification momentum grew in US cities in 2021
- Vox – A TikTok food star on why gas stoves are overrated
City of Eugene Climate Recovery Ordinance:
In order to meet the goals of the Climate Recovery Ordinance (CRO) the City of Eugene must:
- Ban gas infrastructure or gas hook ups in new construction in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings
- Incentivize electric appliances and fuel switch from gas appliances
- Require NW Gas not be allowed to incentivize gas hook ups or appliances
- Require NW Gas incentivize customer reduce use of gas or purchase emission offsets provided by NW Gas Smart Energy Program
- Regulate purchases and installation of gas fueled appliances in Eugene
- Require NW Gas to fuel switch to biogas and renewable hydrogen with penalties for not meeting annual incremental goals of 5% per year
- Increase franchise fee and dedicate funds to implement programs that provide incentives to fuel switch from gas to electric
- Increase franchise fees to NW Gas and require carbon reduction fees that cannot be passed on to the consumer
- Require franchise agreement be 5-10 years with a review at 3 years
“Natural” fracked gas as a “transition fuel”:
- Fracked gas is often referred to as a “transition fuel” or “bridge fuel” to fill the gap as we transition towards renewable energy. Fracked gas does produce significantly less CO2 emissions than coal or oil, however the production of fracked gas produces a lot of methane – which is 86 times more potent than CO2 in a 20-year period (UCSUSA).
- It is unclear exactly how much methane is being leaked, but based on current evidence, it is likely that the total leakage exceeds the 3.2% threshold, beyond which gas becomes worse for the climate than coal for at least some period of time (PNAS).
- There is no need to adding fracked gas infrastructure in Eugene when we have access to almost 100% renewable electricity (EWEB).
Fossil fuels and air pollution deaths:
- Fossil fuels are responsible for 40% of all global deaths from air pollution according to a new peer-reviewed study. “These numbers are staggering,” noted a Forbes piece about the study. 10,000 people die per day, or 3.6 million per year, from fossil fuel pollution, rivaling deaths from tobacco smoking.
- In California alone, air pollution from fossil fuels causes an estimated 12,000 deaths every year.
- Studies have linked fine pollution particles called PM2.5 to many other detrimental health effects, including aggravated asthma and decreased lung function, according to the U.S. EPA. Fossil fuel refining and automobile exhaust are major sources of PM2.5
Air pollution and Covid-19:
- Research at Harvard University shows a strong relationship between exposure to air pollution and mortality from COVID-19. For every slight increase in the pollutant PM2.5 there is an 8% increase in the death rate from COVID-19, and communities of color are more likely to be exposed to this pollutant long term.
- Black and Latino people are especially vulnerable to COVID, and are more likely to live in communities with higher air pollution. Articles from the Guardian and the New York Times show the much higher death rate from COVID-19 for Black people across the nation and for Black and Latino people in New York City. The Environmental Working Group says: “Studies have clearly established that communities of color are disproportionately exposed to sharply higher levels of long-term air pollution because they are closer to congested streets and highways, as well as refineries and power plants. A 2011 study by researchers at the University of Southern California and the RAND Corporation found that African Americans in California were 2.5 times more likely to go to the hospital as a result of air pollution. That may help explain why African Americans make up a disproportionate share of COVID-19 deaths in many areas.”
Gas threatens indoor air quality and community safety:
- Gas appliances lead to toxic indoor air. A UCLA study commissioned by the Sierra Club showed that exhaust from gas appliances produces carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide exposures that exceed national and California standards in 90% of the homes modeled.
- The impact from gas appliances is worse in smaller households, especially smaller apartments, disproportionately harming low-income people. As the Sierra Club put it, “the air quality inside nearly every apartment was so bad that it would be illegal if measured outside.”
- Gas infrastructure increases health and safety risks to communities. Storage wells, operating pipelines, and cut pipelines threaten community health and safety in California and across the country, and gas leaks and explosions threaten first responders as well as occupants.
From the Oregon Global Warming Commission 2020 Biennial Report:
With fewer options regarding where to live and work, and how to commute, lower-income and other disadvantaged Oregonians face greater exposure to environmental and climate-related risks. For example, several toxic air pollutants are produced when greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere—from sources such as fossil-fueled power plants, industrial facilities, and fuel-combusting motor vehicles. Studies show that communities of color and low-income households are more likely to be exposed to these air pollutants, which have been shown to cause and amplify respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. Oregonians with household incomes less than $20,000 are nearly three times as likely to have a heart attack as those with incomes above $50,000, and Black and Indigenous people have a higher prevalence of heart attacks than other racial and ethnic groups in the state (citation).
Low-income and disadvantaged households also have fewer resources to plan for, and recover from, climate impacts. For example, as the 2020 fire season showed, many vulnerable populations have housing that is less resilient to wildfire smoke and jobs that require them to work/commute outdoors during wildfire events, outbreaks of which are becoming more prevalent as the number and severity of wildfires grow. Wildfire smoke poses serious health threats, including asthma attacks, breathing problems, eye/lung/throat irritation, heart disease, and premature death. These health risks are particularly dangerous for Oregonians with preexisting respiratory and cardiovascular conditions and vulnerable groups, such as children and elderly, pregnant, and disabled residents. As greenhouse gases continue to be emitted, amplifying a wide range of climate hazards—from wildfires to floods, heatwaves, and droughts—, vulnerable and disadvantaged communities face unequal damages on multiple fronts.
- Gas cooktops and gas stoves create toxic indoor air quality levels 2-100 times greater than outdoor levels because they are the only gas appliances not required to be vented
- These appliances emit formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, and PM 2.5
- Malfunctioning gas appliances release carbon monoxide, an invisible, odorless gas that can cause death
- Research shows these two gas appliances produce twice as much PM 2.5 particulates as electric cooking
- These indoor air toxin emissions lead to cardio pulmonary diseases, asthma, diabetes, and respiratory illnesses that affect children acutely
- One study found children in homes with gas stoves have a 42% higher chance of having asthma symptoms
- An Australian study attributed 12% of all childhood asthma burden to gas stoves
- Renters have little control over appliances they use and many homeowners cannot afford to upgrade to new efficient electric induction stoves
- Exhaust hoods are regularly installed but not mandated and most are inefficient
- Costs of proper ventilation means low income communities bare the brunt of gas stove pollution where these households have less space, more occupants, and poorer ventilation sometimes using gas stoves for heat in the winter when furnaces malfunction