High Country News
Published in

High Country News

Has Eugene, Oregon, found a ‘superpower’ for climate action?

The city’s eyeing changes to its natural gas contract to fund climate ambitions.

Avery Temple of the climate justice advocacy group Breach Collective speaks during a March protest outside the offices of Northwest Natural, the Eugene, Oregon, gas utility. The “die-in” represented deaths due to fossil fuel pollution. | Robert Scherle

Tyee Williams has been on the frontlines of climate change as a wildland firefighter. He helped battle the Pine Gulch Fire, one of three record-setting fires in Colorado last summer and fall — all scorching examples of how the climate crisis is intensifying wildfires in the Western U.S.

Back home in Eugene, Oregon, Williams is on another vanguard of the climate fight: a push for the city to cut fossil fuel consumption. That work includes pressing the Eugene City Council to revamp its operating agreement with the local gas utility, Northwest Natural, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In testimony before the city council in February, Williams shared his experience, which included digging a fire line to protect natural gas infrastructure. “On one side I could see the glow of the wildfire, and on the other hillside I could see flares from the gas wellheads from fracked gas,” Williams said during a virtual public meeting. To him, the connection between fossil fuel emissions and worsening wildfires is clear. “As someone who will have jobs created by Northwest Natural, I would like to say, I’m not appreciative of it.”

The current operating agreement with Northwest Natural is set to expire in May. Renegotiations, however, are stalled, in part because the city is pushing to include funding for its ambitious climate plans in the contract. Natural gas accounts for about 40% of fossil fuel use in the city, so the city sees reducing gas burning as a key to reaching climate commitments. By tying climate action funding to the gas company’s operating agreement, the city is testing a new tool for municipalities across the Western U.S. looking to phase out fossil fuels.

Read more: https://www.hcn.org/issues/53.5/north-climate-change-has-eugene-oregon-found-a-superpower-for-climate-action




The nation’s leading source of reporting on the Western U.S.

Recommended from Medium

Probat vs. Loring. Which is more efficient?

Climate Change and India’s Energy Mix

READ/DOWNLOAD$= Fundamentals of Ecotoxicology: The

Holding Ourselves Accountable: Human Exceptionalism and Our Effects on the Environment

It’s time for Solar to empower the world

The Water Industry Wants You: Careers in Water Are a New Way for Veterans to Serve Our Country

A beginner’s guide to consumer Solar Panels

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
High Country News

High Country News

Working to inform and inspire people — through in-depth journalism — to act on behalf of the West’s diverse natural and human communities.

More from Medium

Lack of Critical Thinking Destroying America and Democracy

Why We Cannot Stop Thinking About the Pregnant Ukrainian Woman

On the Martin Luther King Holiday — A Personal Family Memory

What “Don’t Look Up” Gets Right and Wrong