by Dylan Plummer, CW Grassroots Organizer
Originally published in The Register-Guard, Feb. 27, 2021.
NW Natural is gaslighting the city of Eugene and holding our climate goals hostage in the process. The fracked gas corporation is petulantly demanding that it — an industry fundamentally wedded to the continued use of fossil fuels — knows what’s best for our community and our climate.
We aren’t falling for it.
In his Feb. 20 opinion, fossil fuel executive David Anderson waxed poetic about NW Natural’s commitment to collaborating with local governments to reduce carbon emissions, yet he failed to mention the role that so-called “natural” gas is playing in driving the climate crisis and contributing to hazardous indoor air pollution. Nor did he admit to the concerted anti-environmental lobbying campaign NW Natural and other fracked gas corporations are waging in cities and statehouses across the country. Far from collaborating with local governments, NW Natural has been holding them hostage with misinformation campaigns and threats of litigation.
Our very own City Councilor Claire Syrett described the corporation as “working the tobacco industry playbook” in Eugene’s prolonged negotiations with the utility over its cooperation with our climate goals.
“Two years ago, we gave NW Natural an opportunity to step up and join us in demonstrating leadership on addressing climate change, and to create a model of an agreement that other communities could follow,” Councilor Syrett stated at a recent public meeting. “As we’ve gone through this process, I have seen NW Natural dragging their feet and engaging in a public relations campaign that spreads lies … .”
Recent reporting from Mother Jones and NPR shows that in the face of a growing wave of communities working to transition to renewable energy, the fracked gas industry is resorting to the same devious and deceitful public relations tactics employed by the tobacco industry, while shamelessly lobbying against climate policy at the city, state and federal levels. From attempting to cast doubt on the growing body of scientific research (Science.com) demonstrating the significant health impacts of burning gas in homes (Slate.com), to making demonstrably false promises about the potential of “renewable natural gas” (Vox.com), industry has employed every trick in the book to protect its profit margins.
Despite the fracked gas industry’s dirty tricks, cities across the country are taking action to regulate the industry and transition energy grids to climate-friendly renewable sources. In a Sierra Club story, more than 40 cities in California have taken action to regulate gas in new construction. And according to Place Tech.com, Denver, New York City and Seattle have announced plans to join them.
Now is the time for Eugene to take action to achieve our climate goals by standing up to the climate-polluting gas corporations that have controlled the discourse around our energy future for far too long.
Our small city is far from insignificant. Eugene has the opportunity to lead the state and implement action to avert the worst impacts of climate change, while forging a path forward for cities throughout Oregon. Let’s build our local economy, create good paying union jobs and protect our community’s health and safety and our planet’s climate.
Dylan Plummer, Grassroots Organizer for Cascadia Wildlands.
His column appears in the Register-Guard on the fourth Saturday of the month.