Press Release: Eugene City Council Hears Overwhelming Support for Healthy Homes Policy

November 22, 2002

Bethany Cotton, Cascadia Wildlands, 503-327-4923
Noah Rott, Sierra Club

Eugene, OR — Over 100 community members rallied ahead of a Eugene City Council hearing last night to support the city’s proposed policy to phase out gas in new homes over climate and health concerns. At the rally, 63 people testified in support of the proposed ordinance, providing hours of testimony to the council about the benefits of electrification. 

“The broad participation and turnout from all corners of the community makes us optimistic that leaders will seriously consider the concerns of residents and pass a first-of-its kind policy in Oregon,” said Paige Hopkins, Climate Justice Organizer with Beyond Toxics. “Eugene won’t be able to achieve its climate goals without addressing the use of gas, and in the process we can lower energy costs and address air pollution in our communities.” 

If approved, Eugene will become the first city in Oregon to require all-electric new buildings in residential construction, with the goal of transitioning existing residential and commercial buildings from gas by 2035. The hearing was the last opportunity for the public to provide comments before the city council votes on a final policy early next year — and the culmination of years of organizing by Fossil Free Eugene, a coalition of environmental justice, racial justice, and housing advocates. 

“The intersection of climate change and housing justice is clear. Tenants rely on our local government to protect us, plan for our future well-being, and to make decisions that help keep us safe, housed, and healthy,” Tim Morris, Executive Director of the Springfield Eugene Tenants Association testified. “We rely on your choice — your choice to not be swayed by misinformation campaigns and instead to invest in the future of your constituents.”

In a letter to the Eugene City Council, a group of over 40 building and architectural firms and individual building professionals endorsed the policy, highlighting the imperative to transition the building sector away from fossil fuels as it is considered one of the fastest growing sources of emissions in the city. The group also emphasized the role of all-electric, efficient appliances such as heat pumps, which have been shown to significantly reduce household energy costs and cut climate pollution. 

The Active Bethel Community (ABC) neighborhood association, which represents an already pollution-overburdened working class neighborhood in West Eugene, also submitted a letter in support of the ordinance, highlighting the disproportionate impacts of pollution from gas stoves and industry in predominantly low-income and communities of color. In their letter, they also affirmed their opposition to NW Natural’s recently withdrawn hydrogen blending pilot project, citing the significant health and safety risks.

Earlier this month, the Multnomah County Health Department released a report recommending a transition away from gas appliances in homes due to health risks, citing evidence that homes with gas stoves have significantly higher levels of indoor nitrogen oxide pollution, which increases a person’s susceptibility to respiratory infections, and evidence that children living in homes with gas stoves are 42 percent more likely to develop asthma symptoms. 

“Using Eugene Water and Electricity Board’s 2021 published emissions intensity, an RMI analysis found that the emissions reduction for an all-electric home was 74 percent compared to a mixed fuel home, a reduction of 30 metric tons of CO2 over a 15-year period,” said Jonny Kocher, Senior Associate with RMI. “The analysis also found that all-electric homes built with Energy Star-rated heat pumps cost $3,446 less than a mixed fuel home in the City of Eugene. These savings are because heat pumps can both heat and cool, avoiding the need for both an air conditioner and furnace.”

Across the nation, more than 90 cities and counties have voted to phase out gas in new construction. Just this month Washington State became the first in the nation to require highly efficient heat pumps for new commercial and residential buildings.