For Immediate Release: 

August 24, 2021 

Contact: 

Nick Caleb, Breach Collective, 541-891-6761, nick@breachcollective.org

Dineen O’Rourke, 350PDX, 631-830-7478, dineen@350pdx.org 

New Report Exposes the Dangers of Methane Gas 

& NW Natural’s Misinformation Campaign

[Portland, OR] Today, a new comprehensive report titled, “Methane Gas: Health, Safety, and Decarbonization,” was released to the public and to elected and appointed officials in Oregon and Washington, including the Oregon Public Utility Commission and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. The report is supported by 64 organizations from around the Pacific Northwest as a means to curtail confusion created by NW Natural and other fossil fuel entities’ purposeful misinformation campaigns targeting elected officials and the public.

Report authors state, “We believe it is of utmost importance that policy makers are able to 1) identify false expressions of environmental care as a cover for climate-damaging activities; 2) know where to find accurate data about the many impacts of the gas industry; 3) avoid undue influence by fossil fuel interests; and 4) make sound policy decisions for the health and safety of our communities in the just transition to a decarbonized economy.” 

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

“We hope this report serves as a resource for policy makers to do the right thing and ban gas in new buildings, for the sake of our health, the climate, and our economy. Despite what the fossil fuel industry would have us believe, methane gas has no role in decarbonizing our energy system. Ongoing and expanding gas use is, instead, shortening our already-short timeline to curb the worst effects of the climate crisis, and it’s putting communities’ health and safety at risk, especially low-income and BIPOC communities.”

This project was initially inspired by NW Natural’s dramatic response to youth testimony leading up to Earth Week 2021. 

Amy Hendrickson of the Portland Youth Climate Council said:

“After testifying to the Portland City Council in April, NW Natural attacked me and other youth in an attempt to discredit us. Elected officials should listen to youth on these topics because we are inheriting the climate crisis, and we don’t want the gas industry to exist. NW Natural’s greenwashing and use of methane gas puts all people at risk for poor air quality, gas leaks, and increased danger during earthquakes.”

The 64 organizations supporting the report seek to promote electrification of buildings and urge strong regulatory action against any further expansion of gas infrastructure. They hope to ensure that elected officials, community and business leaders, journalists, and the broader public are equipped with knowledge to safeguard their communities, and see the gas industry’s misrepresentation of findings in renewable natural gas and green hydrogen feasibility reports as an effort to prolong and expand the use of methane gas.

Allie Rosenbluth, Campaigns Director with Rogue Climate said: 

“As communities across Southern Oregon celebrate the recent victories in the fight against the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and pipeline, it is critical to recognize the health, climate, and public safety threats posed by the fracked gas infrastructure running beneath our feet. If we are to heed the dire warning of the most recent IPCC report, we have to take on the fossil fuel industry at every turn – including in our homes.”  

Priya Judge, Coalition Coordinator with Power Past Fracked Gas said: 

“There is a broad and growing coalition that sees through the false solution of gas, including the intimate harm it does to our human and greater-than-human ecosystems. We are committed to working toward electrification as one prong of a greater movement for climate justice.”

Jonny Kocher with the Rocky Mountain Institute said:

“Renewable natural gas is a false solution because it relies on the creation of new sources of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, which will inevitably leak back into the atmosphere when piped to our buildings. Building electrification is a better path to reduce the climate impact of our buildings because it is cheaper, better for the climate and better for our health.”

Brian Stewart, founder of Electrify Now said:

“All of the major studies on energy use in the Northwest have come to the same conclusion – using electricity rather than methane gas for heating is the most effective and lowest cost pathway to decarbonize our buildings. As our electricity gets cleaner from additional renewables on the grid, the advantages of electrification are amplified even further.”

Ann Turner, MD said:

“Children in homes with gas stoves are at increased risk of asthma, and pediatric asthma is the most common chronic disease in children in the U. S. Nitrogen dioxide also interferes with lung and brain development in children, who are especially vulnerable because they have higher breathing rates, higher lung surface to body weight ratios, smaller bodies, and immature respiratory and immune systems.”

Dr. Theodora Tsongas, PhD, MS said:

“Air pollution both indoors and outdoors is an issue of environmental justice. The Oregon Health Authority concluded that the ‘communities more affected by air pollution are communities of color and low-income households, who already bear a disproportionate burden of disease in Oregon.’ Members of these communities are more likely to be renters and live in smaller spaces with inadequate ventilation, exposing them to increased concentrations of air pollutants. We know that in Multnomah County, there is a strong correlation between air pollution and asthma, with the highest rates in low-income and BIPOC communities.”

Noelle Studer-Spevak of Families for Climate said:

“I’m guessing that 90% of parents I know are unaware that burning fossil fuel indoors may be harming their children. It’s very understandable–the gas industry has been cranking out alluring marketing campaigns for decades. Fortunately a few things are converging to bring the gas problem to light. With an increase in extreme wildfire smoke, air quality health advisories are warning people to avoid cooking on gas stoves. Plus there is a raft of new studies on this topic and influencers like Samantha Bee are talking about it. With so much current research bundled into this one new report, it feels like we finally have a chance to educate parents and policy makers about fuel switching and interim harm reduction strategies.”

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

“Increasingly, communities across the region are bucking the influence of the fracked gas industry and implementing policies to ensure a future free from fossil fuels. As the climate crisis progresses, it is critical for all levels of government to see through the lies of the fossil fuel industry and put forward concrete legislation to provide a just transition to 100% clean electricity for all”  

This new  report summarizes dozens of recent studies to elucidate the following indisputable facts, and more:

  • Electrification is the lowest-cost method to decarbonize buildings, increase efficiency, and protect families and communities from the hazards presented by gas.
  • The Northwest’s gas supply comes primarily from hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a dangerous extraction method that poses immense health and safety risks to communities living near fracking wells drinking water for millions of people, and the climate
  • Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with up to 86 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
  • Biomethane, commonly referred to as “renewable natural gas” (RNG), is still methane, posing the same climate and indoor air quality hazards. It is not economically feasible to produce at scale and should be reserved for hard-to-electrify sectors such as marine and industrial applications.
  • Burning methane indoors generates byproducts known to be harmful to human health, including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter. These pollutants have been shown to cause or exacerbate respiratory conditions, including asthma, in children, the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, low-income, and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities.
  • The dangerous health and safety impacts of gas—from extraction to compromised indoor air quality from gas stoves—fall disproportionately on low-income and BIPOC communities. 
  • Each year in the US there are massive and often fatal accidents involving gas explosions. An October 2016 gas explosion in Northwest Portland injured eight people and caused $17.2 million in property damages.

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Power Past Fracked Gas is a coalition of 30+ groups across the Pacific Northwest organizing against fracked gas infrastructure and environmental racism in all forms. We believe in the power of clean energy and clear water and support the work of ally coalitions Power Past Coal and Stand Up to Oil. We support campaigns against major fracked gas terminals, pipelines, and refineries as well as environmental justice organizers and advocates for reducing reliance on methane gas across the Pacific Northwest.

The following 64 organizations contributed to and/or support the report: 350PDX, 350 Eugene, 350 Deschutes, 350 Seattle, 43rd Democrats Environmental Caucus, Alliance for Community Engagement SW WA, Audubon Society of Portland, Backbone Campaign, Beyond Toxics, Boston Climate Action Network, Braided River Campaign, Breach Collective, Cascadia Climate Action Now, CedarAction, Climate Jobs PDX, Climate Rail Alliance, Coalition of Communities of Color, Columbia Gorge Climate Action Network, Columbia Riverkeeper, Neighbors for Clean Air, Community Energy Project, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Electrify Corvallis, Electrify Now, Environment and Climate Caucus, Eugene Democratic Socialists of America, EV Life, Extinction Rebellion, Families for Climate, Green Buildings Now, Green Energy Institute at Lewis & Clark Law School, Green Living Journal, Inclusive Designers Podcast, Irthlingz Arts-Based Environmental Education, Loo Wit Group Sierra Club, Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good, Neighbors for Clean Air, No Methanol 360, Onward Oregon, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Oregon Chapter Sierra Club, Oregon Conservancy Foundation, Oregon Just Transition Alliance, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oregon State Representative Lisa Reynolds, People for Climate Action, Portland Clean Air, Portland Harbor Community Coalition, Portland Raging Grannies, Portland Youth Climate Council, Power Past Fracked Gas, Quiet Clean PDX,, Rocky Mountain Institute, Rogue Climate, Solar Oregon, Southern Oregon Climate Action Now, St Andrew Catholic Church, St. Charles Borromeo Church, St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, Stand.earth, Union of Concerned Scientists, Verde, Washington Environmental Council, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility.