For Immediate Release:

April 15, 2021

Press Contact:

Nick Caleb, Climate and Energy Attorney, Breach Collective, 541.891.6761, nick@breachcollective.org

Dineen O’Rourke, Campaign Manager, 350PDX, 631.830.7478, dineen@350pdx.org   

Dozens of Organizations Celebrate Multnomah County Resolution To Ban Fossil Fuels in New Public Buildings 

Letter Urges Immediate Action on NW Natural’s Polluting Gas Infrastructure

Portland, OR – Today, 17 organizations — representing youth, environmental justice, conservation, and clean energy constituencies — signed a letter and submitted public testimony in support of the resolution Multnomah County passed this morning to prohibit fossil fuels in new public buildings, and to plan a transition away from fossil fuel infrastructure in existing buildings. The resolution asserts that it is now “[Multnomah] County policy to oppose the use of fossil fuels in new building projects” and to “work with energy providers to reduce the use of fossil fuels at existing buildings through efficiency and the replacement in part or in whole with less or non-emitting renewable or low-carbon alternatives.” 

Local action on gas infrastructure is becoming increasingly common in Oregon. In Eugene, advocates with the Fossil Free Eugene Coalition have been advocating for strong action in and around Eugene City Council’s heated franchise agreement negotiations with NW Natural.  Earlier this week, the Fossil Free Eugene coalition sent a letter to Eugene City Council advocating for an immediate moratorium on gas infrastructure in the city. Advocates in Multnomah County are following suit, and like their counterparts in Eugene, argue that Multnomah County has a strong legal basis for immediate action on gas. 

Signatories to the letter urged strong regulatory action due to the extreme and disproportionate health and safety risks associated with natural gas from the site of extraction, through transport, and where combusted; the rapidly growing evidence of the alarming health and safety risks of indoor gas usage and the efforts of the natural gas industry (reminiscent of the tobacco industry) to hide, downplay, obfuscate, and deny these risks; disproportionate effects of indoor gas pollution on marginalized communities; and the vulnerability of gas infrastructure to expected significant seismic events and the threat this poses to Multnomah County’s residents. The signatories celebrated the County’s resolution while urging for a prohibition on gas in all new buildings in Multnomah County and an actionable plan to transition existing gas use to clean energy. 

Akash Singh, Policy and Advocacy Manager with OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, said:

“There is no environmental future without the active, meaningful implementation of racial and class equity into our environmental policies. Communities of color and low-income communities have been and are at a disproportionate risk from the fossil fuel industry. Fracked gas, greenwashed as natural gas, is no exception. From pipelines to indoor air quality and health hazards posed to communities already at a higher respiratory health risk even aside from the pandemic, the phasing out of fracked gas is a necessary step. Multnomah County has been a leader on climate action and I urge the Commission to take an additional step in creating an equitable and sustainable Oregon for future generations.”

Lilah McLowry with the Portland Youth Climate Council, said:

“Our electric grid may not be fully clean now, but it has the potential to be. Methane will never be clean.”

Dineen O’Rourke, Campaign Manager with 350PDX, said:

“We celebrate Multnomah County for their climate leadership today, and urge the Commission to see this resolution as a first step towards full electrification of all new public buildings throughout the County. New buildings that are hooked up to gas must be seen for what they are: new fossil fuel infrastructure that locks us into dirty and polluting energy for decades to come. Electrification is a solution that can create a just transition to homes and buildings that are safer, healthier, and more resilient, and powered by clean energy.”

Amy Henrikson with the Portland Youth Climate Council, said:

“Most people don’t even know about the health impacts of methane “natural” gas and it’s wrong to allow people to unknowingly harm themselves.”

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

“Multnomah County has consistently shown strong climate leadership. It now joins a growing number of cities and counties saying no to new gas infrastructure because of the myriad health, safety, and climate risks it poses. We urge the Commission to go beyond public buildings to prohibit new gas infrastructure in all buildings in Multnomah County, and to work with community organizations and residents to plot an actionable path for transitioning all existing gas infrastructure to clean energy sources and appliances.”

Damon Motz-Storey, Healthy Climate Program Director with Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, said:

“The scientific evidence is clear: not only does fracked gas accelerate the climate crisis — one of the greatest public health crises the world has ever faced — it also harms our health when burned in our homes and buildings. We must take bold action to phase out the use of gas in buildings, increase home energy efficiency, and transition to clean energy by developing the local workforce. We applaud Multnomah County for taking an important first step today by opposing the use of all fossil fuels in new building projects.”

Noelle Studer-Spevk, Families for Climate, said:  

“Hopefully this will help raise awareness about the serious public health risks of burning methane inside buildings. High concentrations of pollutants indoors seriously impact our children; many vulnerable members of our community haven’t had access to the information or support needed to switch to safer heating and cooking fuels. As the agency responsible for public health, Multnomah County has made a bold move in the right direction.”

Link to full-text of sign-on letter here.

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