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Local Youth Advocate Against Natural Gas Usage Locally, Abroad

Sunrise Eugene

Multiple environmental justice groups in Eugene hung two banners on a footbridge near Alton Baker Park on Sunday. The act was in solidarity with the Indigenous Land Defenders, who are fighting against the construction of a pipeline in Canada.

The Indigenous Land Defenders have been protesting against companies such as TC Energy, and their attempts to build a pipeline through Wet’suwet’en land in Canada, as well as on other native land in North America. The groups—Sunrise Eugene, the University of Oregon Climate Justice League, and the University of Oregon Cascadia Action Network—said they hung the banners in response to the Coast to Coast call to action, released by the Wet’suwet’en people to stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples over the weekend.

The groups are also spreading awareness to local efforts to stop the construction of a natural gas line in Eugene.

This comes afterlocal climate change activists sent a letter to the city on Nov. 18, urging them to end current negotiations with Northwest Natural, and stop the expansion of natural gas and fossil fuel usage. The letter, which suggests the city transition to more renewable energies, was signed by the following 12 local organizations:

  • Beyond Toxics
  • Cascadia Action Network
  • Cascadia Wildlands
  • Eugene Democratic Socialists of America   
  • Eugene Environmental and Climate Justice Committee
  • Heart in Hand
  • NAACP Eugene/Springfield
  • Springfield Eugene Tenants Association
  • Sunrise Eugene
  • University of Oregon Climate Justice League
  • University of Oregon Young Democratic Socialists of America
  • 350 Eugene

According to the letter, City of Eugene council, manager and staff have been negotiating an agreement with Northwest Natural for at least a year, to construct a new natural gas infrastructure near the Downtown Riverfront development. Staff recently approved a third, six-month extension to delay finalizing the contract until May 2021.
But if the contract is approved, activists are concerned fracked gas could worsen the environment and the community for decades.

“We are aware that fracked gas has been a significant contributor to the City of Eugene's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and that its extraction and transportation disproportionately impacts historically marginalized, low-income and BIPOC communities,” the letter stated.

In Mayor Lucy Vinis’ letter within the summer 2020 Climate Action Plan 2.0, she wrote the city must work with community groups to address climate change locally.

“This plan makes it clear that we will not meet our goals if we proceed on our current path,” wrote Vinis. “Facing such a crisis is sobering, and basing our actions on a realistic understanding of outcomes is essential to our success.”

Now activists want the city to end negotiations for Northwest Natural to build the natural gas infrastructure, unless the company agrees to follow the Climate Recovery Ordinance (CRO) goals in the city’s climate action plan. The plan includes reducing community fossil fuel usage by 50% of 2010 levels by 2030, and make all City of Eugene owned facilities and operations carbon neutral by 2020—that means no net release of greenhouse gas emissions.

Activists’ demands are also based on the Climate Action Plan 2.0, which states “existing plans are projected to achieve 40% of the CRO 2030 Target reductions compared to 2010 levels.”

In the letter to the city, the organizations state they want the city council to follow cities such as San Francisco, which have outlawed the construction of buildings with gas hookups. They also want the city council to mandate the construction of buildings with electric utilities.

Elizabeth Gabriel is a former KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She is an education reporter at WFYI in Indianapolis.
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