Local Coalition Calls on City to Stop Franchise Agreement with NW Natural

They urge the city to move away from fracked gas and to stop fossil fuel construction

Fracked gas has been a significant contributor to Eugene’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new alliance of local leaders involved in housing, climate recovery and civil rights.

The alliance sent a letter to the Eugene City Council and Mayor Lucy Vinis  Nov. 18, urging them to put them to put a moratorium on new natural gas and fossil fuel driven infrastructure.

The letter, signed by Cascadia Wildlands, NAACP, Springfield Eugene Tenants Association, 350 Eugene and more is the beginning of a campaign to hold the city accountable to uphold its Climate Action Plan, which the letter alleges the city is not on track to meet.

Meanwhile, Eugene city staff has been negotiating a franchise agreement with local natural gas provider Northwest Natural for months, and just approved a third six-month extension, the letter says.

Since no agreement has yet been reached, the coalition is asking elected leaders to refuse to continue with the contract, unless NW Natural agrees to abide by the city’s climate plan.

Dylan Plummer, grassroots organizer for Cascadia Wildlands, says most of the city’s Climate Action Plan has been entirely symbolic, but that entering in another 20-year franchise agreement without any modification of the previous one would be “really damning” for climate action.

“Now is the time to make meaningful reforms,” he says.

Another concern the letter mentions is the new Downtown Riverfront site. The letter says that if new lines are constructed in that area, it will “surely be used to deliver fracked gas for many decades at the expense of our climate and community.”

Though the coalition is pushing for change within Eugene, Plummer says he hopes that as the alliance solidifies its platform, it can highlight ways to eliminate the usage of natural gas statewide. He says though NW Natural is not involved in projects like the Jordan Cove Pipeline, which is still in dispute, change in Eugene could have a rippling affect on other NWN proposed projects.

“Most people think it’s an innocent utility, but it’s a fossil fuel corporation,” Plummer says.

He adds that alliance members also want to advocate for removal of natural gas because of negative health effects it can cause. Plummer explains that this has an impact especially on low income and historically marginalized communities that may not be able to pay the extra dollar to move away from natural gas.

In 2019, Eugene’s Sustainability Commission proposed policy recommendations  for the city to include in its negotiating of the franchise agreements with NW Natural.

The commission recommended that the city should limit construction of new gas infrastructure and that NW Natural should be prohibited from offering financial incentives in an attempt to get customers to switch to gas from other energy sources.

The letter sent by the new coalition requests that the city make a wise decision in meeting its climate recovery goals.

“The letter is going to serve as a warning shot,” Plummer says. He adds later “We are trying to show the city that we are serious about this campaign and moving the city in a direction towards being completely off natural gas.”

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