Eugene, Oregon, Bans Natural Gas Hookups in New Residences

Eugene, Oregon, Bans Natural Gas Hookups in New Residences
The city council of Eugene, Oregon, has moved to ban to ban natural gas hookups in new residential construction. In this aerial view, completed and under construction new homes at a site in Trappe, Maryland, on Oct. 28, 2022. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
Scottie Barnes
2/13/2023
Updated:
2/14/2023
0:00

After more than two years of debate, the City Council of Eugene, Oregon, voted on Feb. 6 to ban natural gas hookups in new residential construction, becoming the state’s first city to prohibit new homes from using gas furnaces, water heaters, or appliances.

During a closed meeting, the council first decided to deny a request by opponents to put the issue on the May ballot. According to DHM Research, 70 percent of those surveyed oppose the ban.

The council then voted 5–3 in favor, citing concerns about climate change and public health, and saying the ban would reduce carbon emissions and eliminate the air quality hazards of gas stoves.

Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis applauded the move.

“We have a governor who has pledged to build 36,000 new houses a year,” Vinis said in a public statement after the meeting. “We do not want those houses with natural gas hookups. And we can lead the way in the city of Eugene to say ‘This is how it’s done.’”

Strong Opposition

Councilor Mike Clark voted no on the ban, claiming the change will discourage developers as well as anger the many voters who were strongly opposed and wanted the issue on the ballot.

Sid Leiken, executive director of the Western Oregon Builders Association echoed Clark’s concerns.

“Our members are committed to helping create the housing our community needs to solve our homelessness and affordability crisis,” Leiken told The Epoch Times.

“We believe that actions like the surprise vote the Eugene councilors took will do little to actually improve our climate, and significantly hurt our local builders’ ability to create housing that is truly affordable for our neighbors.”

The Western Oregon Builders Association will work with the opposition to repeal the measure, he added.

“This extreme policy to end energy choice was adopted despite a torrent of public testimony against the ban from local businesses, restaurant operators, and average citizens,” Lane County Republicans wrote to The Epoch Times.

“This ban is certain to worsen the housing shortage and impose prohibitive costs on small businesses struggling to recover from the pandemic.”

NW Natural, which supplies natural gas to more than 2.5 million Oregon homes, or 80 percent of natural gas in the state, fought the ban, claiming it limits energy choice and that the science does not support it.

“It has been alarming to see the extent to which some organizations will go to make misleading or inaccurate claims based on poorly constructed studies that are used to justify sweeping conclusions to support electrification,” the company wrote.

“This diminishes the importance of rooting policy in sound science.”

The natural gas provider cited a study that says “ventilation plays a key role in mitigating cooking-related air emissions that come from both gas and electric stoves. This is why kitchen exhaust has been required for all new homes in Oregon for many years, whether they have gas or electric cooking.”

But supporters of the ban are just getting started.

Councilor Jennifer Yeh called the resolution “just a first step” to a fossil fuel-free Eugene.

“It’s going to be slow, and it’s going to take us decades, but we have to start moving and this is that movement.”

Gas Stoves and the Culture War

Eugene’s ban comes just as the furor had subsided over Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) member Richard Trumka Jr.’s suggestion that the agency should develop new regulations on gas stove emissions and shouldn’t rule out an end to sales of the product.

As of 2020, about 38 percent of the country’s households used natural gas for cooking, according to Census data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“This is a hidden hazard,” Trumka said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

His statement put gas stoves at the center of the culture wars.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in a post on Twitter that a gas stove ban would be a “recipe for disaster.”

Florida Gov.  Ron DeSantis posted a photo of a gas stove on the Gadsden Flag.

“If the CPSC really wanted to do something about public health, it would ban cigarettes or automobiles, long before it moved on to address stoves,” said Mike McKenna, a GOP energy lobbyist.

“It’s transparently political.”

CPSC Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric quickly disavowed the idea of a federal gas-stove ban but acknowledged research finding that gas stoves may pose air-quality hazards.

The commission plans to launch information gathering and public comment activities into the hazards posed by gas stoves later this winter and could consider barring the manufacture or import of gas stoves and setting standards on emissions from the appliances.

Meanwhile, the battle over gas stove bans is spreading like wildfire in state and local governments.

Eugene is among nearly 100 local municipalities across the nation working to ban the use of natural gas in new residential constructions, even as more than a dozen states have prohibited such bans.

Scottie Barnes writes breaking news and investigative pieces for The Epoch Times from the Pacific Northwest. She has a background in researching the implications of public policy and emerging technologies on areas ranging from homeland security and national defense to forestry and urban planning.
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