Greer Ryan, Climate Solutions, 812-345-8571, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alma Pinto, Community Energy Project, 971-544-8706, email@example.com
Noah Rott, Sierra Club, 406-214-1990, firstname.lastname@example.org
MILWAUKIE, ORE. — In a major step toward healthier and more affordable new homes, the Milwaukie City Council voted last night to join a growing number of communities in advancing measures to transition homes and buildings from fossil fuels to electricity for heating and cooking.
The measures approved by the city include:
- A resolution to require all newly-constructed city-owned and city-financed buildings to be all-electric;
- A resolution for city staff to develop a policy requiring new residential construction to be all-electric starting in 2024.
The vote comes on the heels of a report last month from Multnomah County recommending a transition away from gas appliances over health concerns, including an elevated risk of childhood asthma.
“As with the health harms from asbestos and cigarettes, cities have a responsibility to protect the health of their communities by taking steps to curb dangerous air pollution from gas appliances. By voting to begin the transition away from gas in new construction, the City of Milwaukie is cementing its reputation as a true health and climate leader in the state,” said Greer Ryan, Clean Buildings Policy Manager at Climate Solutions.
In addition to cutting dangerous air pollution, Milwaukie’s vote to begin the transition to all-electric new construction could also help lock in more affordable utility bills for households, at a time when gas heating bills are soaring. NW Natural customers will see a 40 percent increase in bills in just over a year due to a series of rate increases and the high price of gas. Transitioning Oregon homes to efficient appliances like electric heat pumps for heating would generate more than $1.1 billion in system-wide savings by 2050, according to a report earlier this year from Synapse Energy Economics.
“It is great to see Milwaukie's leadership on cutting methane gas from buildings,” said Ben Stevenson with Sunrise Movement PDX. “Fracked methane gas is not cheap, natural or clean. Transitioning to renewable electricity in our homes and buildings is a crucial step in addressing the climate crisis and we hope cities across Oregon will follow suit.”
Starting next year, Oregon households will be able to take advantage of federal incentives through the Inflation Reduction Act to support the transition to healthy electric appliances – including up to $8,000 per household for an electric heat pump, $1,750 for a heat pump water heater, and $840 for an electric stove.
“Policies to transition our buildings to clean and renewable electricity will help to expand access to high-efficiency heat pumps while reducing emissions and harmful pollutants associated with methane gas appliances,“ said Alma Pinto, climate justice associate with the Community Energy Project. “Everyone deserves a healthy, comfortable, and affordable home. Now that the Milwaukie City Council has taken this crucial step, we hope their next step will be to ensure existing homes can equitably transition to healthier, more efficient appliances as well.”
Milwaukie’s vote last night comes in spite of lobbying and misleading advertising to derail the climate effort from NW Natural, the gas utility serving the city. Earlier this year, a number of Oregon lawmakers joined more than two dozen organizations urging the state’s Department of Justice to investigate NW Natural for false and misleading advertising, including a fossil fuel curriculum for local K-12 schools.
“Despite the aggressive lobbying of NW Natural and other fossil fuel companies, we are seeing a growing body of local governments across Oregon taking action to transition their communities off of polluting fracked gas, and expect this movement to grow in the coming years,” said Dylan Plummer, a senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club. “These efforts are critical to reduce emissions, protect public health, and build more resilient communities in the face of the climate crisis.”
Milwaukie is the second city in Oregon to vote to develop a policy to phase out gas in new construction. Eugene is expected to vote to adopt its electrification ordinance in January of next year. Advocates and community organizers are hosting a forum on electrification at the Chapel Theater in Milwaukie this coming Sunday, December 11, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
“Everyday people know that electrification is what we want - what our families and we need, for a climate-smart and safely powered city,” said Josie Moberg, climate justice movement legal fellow with Breach Collective. “We’re grateful that the city councilors showed up for the people on this one.”
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.