Eugene City Council Votes Unanimously to Further Explore New Building Electrification Policy

Conversations continue to pass first-in-state ordinance to transition Eugene off of methane gas

Noah Rott, Associate Press Secretary, Sierra Club,, 406-214-1990

EUGENE, OR - Yesterday, the Eugene City Council voted unanimously to move forward conversations regarding their efforts to regulate methane “natural” gas in the city in what would be a first-in-the-state ordinance. A clear majority of council members expressed support for an ordinance to electrify all new construction in the city with limited exemptions, creating a precedent for cities across the state.

Yesterday’s work session followed on the heels of Monday’s city council meeting during which public testimony overwhelmingly supported electrification.

During the council work session:

Council Member Jennifer Yeh said:

“My biggest concern today is the cost of inaction. Just as we have transitioned away from lead paint, asbestos tiles, and arsenic wallpaper, we can transition away from fossil fuels too. People in our community are ready to be part of the solution.”

Council President Claire Syrett said:

“Numerous cities and counties in California have already taken similar action since 2019 and continuing to today without major negative consequences. I feel like we’re late to the party on this one.”

Eloise Navarro, Environmental Climate Justice Coordinator with the Eugene/ Springfield NAACP, said:

“Now is the best and only time to create concrete policies that ameliorate the state of our climate and work towards public health, racial, and income justice. We, the community members of Eugene, deserve to have our health, safety, and livelihoods prioritized above the profits of a fossil fuel corporation.”

The vote followed a public hearing on Monday evening during which approximately 80 community members signed up to testify. The significant majority of those who were able to give testimony -- representing youth, racial justice, and climate advocacy organizations, as well as individuals -- spoke in support of these ordinances. The vote will require council to schedule another work session no later than July 31, 2022 and directs staff to provide resources to answer questions raised and further explore the economic and climate benefits associated with electrification. 

Bethany Cotton, Conservation Director with Cascadia Wildlands, said:

“We encourage city leaders to treat this issue with the urgency that all the science on climate change and indoor air pollution impacts of fracked gas proves it deserves. No additional research is needed to understand that making our communities more climate resilient is essential for ensuring a liveable future.”

Nick Caleb, Energy and Climate Attorney with Breach Collective, said:

“NW Natural, a state regulated gas monopoly and Oregon's biggest fossil fuel company, has consistently utilized big money ads and lobbyists to undermine the democratic process in Eugene. Despite their undue influence and heavy handed tactics, the council remains on track to adopt strong policy to phase gas out of Eugene’s buildings.”

Dylan Plummer, Senior Campaign Representative with the Sierra Club, said: 

“It is not a matter of if, but rather of when our city passes the bold climate action that we need to transition our buildings off of polluting fracked gas to clean, renewable electricity. In the face of a concerted misinformation campaign from NW Natural, the largest fossil fuel company in our state, our council is forging ahead with concrete policies to protect our health and public safety and our climate.”

At the Monday public forum, in response to NW Natural’s coordinated misinformation campaign, Council President Claire Syrett said:

“It is disappointing but not surprising that NW Natural is taking out ads and sending flyers to customers that misrepresent their efforts and ability to achieve the decarbonization of their products, as well as the proposals that we will be considering regarding electrification…They are not an honest actor in this arena and their words should not be trusted.”

Greer Ryan, Clean Buildings Policy Manager with Climate Solutions, said: 

“Communities across Oregon must do all we can to ensure our homes and buildings — which are both a significant source of climate emissions and our first line of defense from climate harms — are resilient, safe, and energy efficient. It is a shame that gas companies and other industry groups are fighting this transition by taking legal action attempting to rollback the state’s Climate Protection Program and opposing local choice of cities like Eugene that wish to move faster on climate action.”

This vote at the City of Eugene took place just a day after Lane County passed a Climate Action Plan codifying a set of clean building electrification goals. The county will commit to making all publicly funded buildings 100% electric as part of a goal to reduce carbon emissions in the coming decades. You can view the Climate Action Plan here.

"We are supportive of Phase 2 of the Lane County Climate Action Plan and continue to advocate for the Climate Advisory Committee's recommendations to make this plan even stronger. We aspire to see these recommendations adopted to ensure a reduction in emissions and the equitable distribution of co benefits in the Climate Action Plan", reads a statement from Beyond Toxics. 

Lane County's policy is very similar to a resolution passed by Oregon’s Multnomah County last year. 

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