Shannon Van Hoesen, Sierra Club, email@example.com, 202-604-2464
Allison MacMunn, Sunstone Strategies, firstname.lastname@example.org, 312-622-4004
WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 70 climate, health and consumer organizations have called for utilities across the nation to leave the American Gas Association (AGA) over their efforts to block climate policies and proliferate disinformation about the health risks of gas stove pollution. AGA receives millions in annual dues from utilities across the country, primarily paid for through customer bills.
“Despite growing climate disasters, the American Gas Association is fighting the solutions we need without regard for the health, safety and future of communities,” said Jessica Tritsch, Director of Sierra Club’s Building Electrification campaign. “Utilities that make claims to lead on climate cannot justify paying for AGA’s multi-million dollar campaigns to thwart the clean energy policies our futures depend on. The only solution is to leave AGA.”
In letters to the CEOs of seven utilities – Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. (Con Ed), CenterPoint Energy, ALLETE, Inc., Xcel Energy Inc., PG&E, Avista and Puget Sound Energy (PSE) – advocates say membership with AGA is out of line with the utilities' climate commitments, and detrimental to the health and safety of the customers they serve. In fact, AGA is fighting the very same policies that many of the utilities have committed to, including Con Ed’s and PG&E’s support of all-electric new construction and commitment to avoiding the expansion of the gas system.
The campaign follows Eversource Energy’s decision to leave AGA earlier this year in order to “redirect costs to more targeted associations and memberships with a focus on decarbonization to support our company-wide operations.” The utility, which provides gas service in New England, has committed to work toward carbon neutrality by 2030.
Major utilities tend to pay anywhere between $300,000 to $800,000 per year for membership dues, which have been funneled to efforts that include preemption laws to prevent governments from moving away from fossil fuels, front groups and astroturfing campaigns to block climate legislation, and undercutting federal efforts to make electrification more affordable. In most places these dues can be paid with ratepayer dollars, meaning that customers paying their energy bills are not just paying for increasingly expensive utility services as the cost of gas continues to rise, but are also paying for their utility's anti-climate advocacy.
"These utilities can't be true partners in combating climate change and protecting our future if they're sending hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to a trade group working to unravel the country's climate and clean air regulations. It's time for utilities to take Eversource's lead and leave the American Gas Association,” said Matt Vespa, senior attorney on Earthjustice’s Right To Zero campaign. “In light of its track record, the American Gas Association deserves to be left in the past with the dirty fuels it pushes."
The growing calls for utilities to leave AGA come on the heels of a new report detailing AGA’s 50-year long campaign to sow doubt on the evidence of health risks associated with gas stove pollution and fund their own research in order to thwart health-protective regulations.
The report investigates how the methane gas industry trade association pulled strategies straight from Big Tobacco’s playbook by hiring Big Tobacco’s public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, as well as labs and researchers with a proven track record of publishing information “consistent with the Sponsor’s interests and wishes” to conduct research into gas stove pollution. Unlike independent studies which found a link between gas stove pollution and asthma, AGA-funded studies found no correlation and were published in scientific journals - without industry funding disclosed, and are still cited to this day.”
"The combustion of methane gas produces air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2), known to cause and exacerbate asthma particularly in children, and carbon monoxide. Whether this combustion happens at a gas-fired power plant or at your gas stove to cook breakfast, the fact remains that this is dangerous and damaging to our health,” said Zach Williams, MPH, associate director, environment & health, Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Furthermore, the continued use of any fossil fuel contributes to the health impacts of human-caused climate change, such as malnutrition from reduced crop yields, increased range of vector-borne diseases like malaria, and increased risk of injury from climate-intensified extreme weather events. Utilities must absolutely leave the AGA to protect health and wellbeing for generations to come."
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.