Eugene students strike to protest NW Natural efforts to roll back climate policy


Dylan Plummer, 

Eugene, OR -- Students and community members from across Eugene marched out of school and work converging in downtown Eugene on Friday to protest a first-in-the-nation effort from NW Natural, Oregon’s largest gas utility, to roll back a local climate policy to phase out fossil fuels in new homes. 

“We are making it clear that our community will not tolerate the efforts of NW Natural and their Fossil Fools at the Chamber of Commerce to undermine our democracy and endanger our future," said Milla Vogelezang-Liu, and organizer and student at South Eugene High school. "Business leaders in our community should be supporting strong climate policy, not working to deceive the public with a climate denialist misinformation campaign.”

Last month, Eugene became the first city in Oregon, and the 97th city nationwide, to pass a policy phasing out fossil fuel hookups in new homes – a move that cuts climate pollution, improves air quality, and lowers building costs. NW Natural immediately announced an effort to overturn the policy using a ballot referendum in a blatant attempt to protect the utility’s profits. NW Natural's referendum effort is supported by what the students are calling the gas corporation’s fossil fools: Funk/Levis, Eugene Chamber of Commerce, and Travel Lane County.

“Young people in Eugene are already dealing with overwhelming climate anxiety and struggling with the uncertainty of the future in the face of the climate crisis," said Bailey Grebbin, a Eugene teacher. "Nonetheless, they are the ones acting like adults and protecting our climate and our democracy while the leaders of NW Natural and the Chamber of Commerce throw a very expensive tantrum because our City took action to reduce our reliance on polluting fossil fuels.”

Community members speaking with canvassers paid by NW Natural have already reported they were told misleading and false information about Eugene’s electrification policy. The utility has also created and fully funded a fossil fuel front group, “Eugene Residents for Energy Choice,” to masquerade as local grassroots opposition to the clean energy transition for homes. 

“I speak on behalf of the youth of Eugene when I say our generation will not tolerate A fossil fuel company undermining our democracy to preserve its profits," said Lottie Rohde, organizer and student at Churchill High School. "We are here to show our support for the City Council to continue taking action to transition our city off of fossil fuels.”

At the protest, students called on NW Natural and its allies, like the Eugene Chamber of Commerce, to abandon efforts to derail local climate policy. If the pro-gas campaign collects enough signatures, it would go to a ballot measure in May or November.  

“The people of Eugene want climate action— period. Young people deserve healthy homes, and flat out refuse to live our lives chained to fossil fuels," said Eloise Parish Mueller, organizer with Sunrise Eugene. "NW Natural and those aiding them in this deception, including the Eugene Chamber of Commerce and PR firm Funk/Levis and Associates, should be ashamed of their complicity in this malicious campaign of public manipulation and climate denial.”

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