Utilities Should Break Up with the American Gas Association

Valentine’s Day is known as a day to celebrate love, but statistics show that it is also a holiday when many relationships end. Here at the Sierra Club, we’re hoping to see the end of one toxic relationship in particular on this Hallmark holiday – the one between your energy utility and American Gas Association (AGA). 

The AGA is a trade organization representing more than 200 energy companies that provide gas service throughout the United States. The organization’s main goal is to keep the country hooked on gas, and it does so through lobbying and disinformation campaigns. These tactics reflect many of the same dirty tricks employed by the tobacco industry, and we’re not willing to put up with it any longer. 

Here are the top three reasons your utility should break up with the AGA:

1) The AGA doesn’t care about your health.

We all know a good relationship relies on unconditional love and care in sickness and in health. Well, the truth is the AGA doesn't care one bit about your health. If the AGA truly cared about public health, the industry wouldn’t be working so hard to keep people hooked on dirty equipment like gas stoves that are known to increase a child’s risk of experiencing asthma symptoms by 42%.  

Instead, since the 1970’s the AGA has deployed a clear strategy to stop the public from connecting the dots between health concerns, like asthma, and the gas appliances in our homes. Talk about gas lighting… 

Research from the Climate Investigations Center reveals how the AGA has buried evidence for many decades showing that gas appliances, like gas stoves, release nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and contribute to asthma and other serious health problems. In fact, the fossil fuel industry has been paying Big Tobacco’s laboratories, consultants, statisticians, and scientists to cast doubt on the link between gas stove pollution and asthma. The AGA has even gone so far as to secretly fund its own “research” to cast doubt on the growing body of evidence demonstrating these serious public health concerns.

2) The AGA is working to block progress on climate change.

Valentine's Day is about melting hearts but the AGA is just melting glaciers. As the industry association for methane gas, the AGA relies entirely on keeping utilities and their ratepayers hooked on dirty and expensive gas in order to continue reaping in profits from members staying hooked on gas, all at the expense of our climate. Methane is a gas with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, making it an incredibly dangerous greenhouse gas. But burning methane gas inside a home or building is just one part of the climate pollution problem. Methane gas is also prone to leaks, meaning that climate-warming pollution occurs at every step of the cycle of gas: from fracking and processing, to transport in pipelines, to end use at a power plant or in our homes and businesses.

As a result, the AGA is one of the leading opponents to clean energy and climate action, and even energy efficiency. The industry actively works to pass policies to slow the transition to clean energy and electrification that Americans are pushing their utilities to pursue in order to combat climate change, and they are using your money to pay for it. 

3) The AGA and its member utilities are using your money to promote their pro-gas agenda.

We all show our love in different ways, but the AGA's only love language is taking money out of your pocket. If your utility is a member of the AGA, it's possible that the hard-earned dollars that you use to pay your monthly energy bill are being used by your utility to pay membership dues to the AGA. That's because in most states today, there are no laws protecting ratepayers from being on the hook for a utility's membership association fees. 

Without policies to protect ratepayers from non-energy related charges on their monthly bills, in many states our hard-earned dollars are also being used by utilities and the AGA to pay people, from politicians to contractors and social media influencers, to keep us hooked on less reliable, more expensive gas as an energy source. Talk about a red flag! When we pay our energy bills, we shouldn’t have to worry that our money could be used to lobby for fossil fuel-friendly policies that block the widespread adoption of cleaner, cheaper wind and solar or to run misleading advertisements designed to make people believe methane gas is clean.

Thankfully, states such as Colorado and Oregon have disallowed some utilities from recovering these non-energy costs from customers, but the vast majority of people are likely still paying for gas industry membership dues and pro-gas marketing for their utility while shareholders rake in millions in profits. 

Minnesota valentines
"Break up with AGA" valentine cards. Photo by: Sierra Club's Patty O'Keefe

 

Clearly, the relationship our utilities have with the AGA is incredibly toxic for our financial and physical health and for the climate. So, like any good friend, it’s our responsibility to tell our utilities it's time to break things off. That's why environmental, public health, and consumer protection organizations in several states sent letters to their utilities last fall asking them to leave the AGA. Xcel EnergyPG&EPuget Sound Energy, and ConEdison were among the utilities that received such letters, but none have taken action just yet. Leaving the AGA isn't unheard of. Last year, Eversource made headlines when it became the first utility to part ways with the AGA. This Valentine’s Day, it’s time for more utilities to follow Eversource’s lead and break up with the AGA.


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