On July 10, the Eugene City Council voted unanimously to repeal the ordinance banning natural gas connections to new residential construction that it originally passed on Feb 6, 2023. The Council pointed to legal uncertainties brought on by the recent U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion that a similar ordinance in Berkeley, California, upon which the Eugene ban is modeled, is illegal because it is preempted by the Federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act.
NWGA members maintain that we should decarbonize and that the natural gas system is an essential piece of the puzzle to reaching our decarbonization goals. Alternative fuels such as Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) and hydrogen can help Eugene and the State of Oregon reach those goals more quickly, more affordably and more dependably than forced electrification.
The public agrees. Seventy percent of Eugene voters oppose banning natural gas and even more support the increased use of renewable fuels like RNG and hydrogen. Despite the clarity and consensus of public opinion, and the City's own analysis showing an emissions reduction benefit of only 0.1% by 2037, the Council forged ahead with its ban.
In a remarkable show of support for preserving energy choice and a diversified energy system, thousands of Eugene voters signed a petition referring the misguided and ill-informed ordinance to the ballot for voters to decide. Twice as many of the required signatures were gathered in half the time. The Council heard the message and the referendum is now off the table. The Council’s rescission of its gas ban ordinance is terrific news in spite of the fact that Eugene voters have now been deprived of the opportunity to directly express their opinion at the ballot box.
Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis said, “The Council will return to discuss fossil fuel restrictions and reductions in new buildings when the legal status of the ban in Berkeley is clear.” The Council’s options are well-defined. Will it continue down the path of government overreach by directly or indirectly restricting access to energy options? Alternatively, will the Council commit to developing a pragmatic approach to achieving meaningful emissions reductions while preserving energy choice, affordability and dependability?
One approach echoes a kind of tyranny of the elite; the other represents true collaboration. If it proceeds with the former, the Council may expect voters to once again take matters into their own hands. If the latter, we stand ready to engage constructively and productively with real solutions toward our shared goal of reducing carbon emissions in Eugene and beyond.