FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2022
EUGENE, OREGON — In a major step toward a clean energy future, the Eugene City Council voted today to move forward with a suite of measures advancing the transition off of gas in homes and buildings. The motions include one directing staff to draft ordinance language to mandate that all new homes be constructed 100% electric by June 1, 2023; a second advancing conversations to transition new commercial and industrial construction to require all electric; and a third directing the City Manager to formalize Eugene’s goal of electrifying all existing residential and commercial buildings by 2035.
“The first step when you are in a hole is to stop digging. As the consequences of climate change bear down on our state, it has never been more clear that we cannot afford to expand the use of fossil fuels by connecting new homes to the gas system. Eugene’s vote today brings us one step closer to the clean energy future for homes we urgently need,” said Dylan Plummer, senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club.
The votes come as the city of Eugene swelters in triple digit temperatures this week – the latest climate-fueled heat wave to strike the Northwest, where access to cooling in homes remains low. In addition to cutting climate pollution, electrifying homes using highly-efficient electric appliances like heat pumps, which provide affordable cooling, will also boost household resilience in the face of extreme heat.
“The urgency of acting on climate could not be more clear: our communities are experiencing the impacts of climate inaction now: sweltering heat and high wildfire risk, along with the indoor air pollution related health impacts of continued reliance on dirty, dangerous fossil fuels,” said Bethany Cotton, conservation director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Eugene has an ambitious climate plan, but heretofore has not done enough to enliven that document. We applaud the council for moving these resolutions forward and look forward to them finalizing the ordinances this fall.”
In addition to voting to advance ambitious targets for electrifying homes and buildings, the City Council also voted to direct the City Manager to return to the city with a public engagement plan regarding the transition of existing buildings to all electric, focused on social, environmental and economic equity. To effectively serve the low-income communities and communities of color that are most burdened by fossil fuel pollution, high energy bills, and climate crisis, Eugene’s policy framework for transitioning existing homes to run on 100% clean energy must be developed in partnership with local community leaders.
“Transitioning homes in Eugene off of fossil fuels in favor of clean energy can advance public health, racial, and income justice. We look forward to partnering with the city in developing a policy framework that will ensure low-income communities and communities of color are prioritized in the transition to healthier homes, and not left behind,” said Eloise Navarro, environmental climate justice coordinator with the Eugene/Springfield NAACP.
Eugene’s vote directing staff to draft ordinance language phasing out gas in new homes and buildings follows months of community engagement and workshops — during which NW Natural, the gas utility serving the city, sought to derail the policy, despite the health, climate and economic benefits. In recent testimony from the utility in an ongoing rate case surrounding its proposed 11.8% rate hike for residential customers, the utility affirmed its intent to bill utility customers for staff time spent fighting Eugene’s climate policy for new homes.
“The Eugene City Council has been subjected to months of fossil fuel industry manipulation tactics from NW Natural. Today, the Council listened to the hundreds of community members who testified and emailed them supporting a just transition and proved that they will not back down from delivering on healthy and climate-resilient homes for their constituents,” said Aya Cockram, coalition coordinator with Fossil Free Eugene.
“After months of intense lobbying, advertising and other scare tactics by one of Oregon’s largest fossil fuel corporations, it is relieving to see Eugene City Council hold firm and continue on the path towards building electrification. Electrifying new residential buildings is the low-hanging fruit, and we now have a clear timeline for making that happen. But it is encouraging that Council also signaled their commitment to taking on the challenge of electrifying new commercial buildings and our existing building stock,” said Danny Noonan, climate and energy strategist with Breach Collective.