October 7, 2022

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Public comments to EWEB criticize GM, Northwest Natural: We’re out of time

5 min read
Phil Barnhart cited the latest IPCC findings on climate change, and exhorted EWEB and other public agencies to act now.

Phil Barnhart cited the latest IPCC findings on climate change, and exhorted EWEB and other public agencies to act now.

Here’s a summary of public comment from the EWEB meeting Oct. 5.

[00:00:05] Mark Robinowitz: I have heard about your contractor’s dump truck getting stuck at the construction site at 40th and Patterson. You may recall a couple months ago, I spoke to your board, noting that there was a small wetlands more or less in the exact spot where your dump truck has gotten stuck. It’s an unusual wetland to be at elevation, but it had the largest Oregon Ash on the site and rushes and other wetland plants. And seasonal springs tend to get soggy when it rains a couple inches. So it’s kind of ironic to have a water tank built on top of a form of wetland, but then EWEB built your whole new compound out in West Eugene in the middle of wetlands. So maybe it makes sense…

[00:01:00] Jim Neu: My name is Jim Neu. I live in Ward Seven. 87% of fossil gas is made up of methane, which is 84% more potent than carbon dioxide in a 20-year period and has caused 30% of global heating. According to a UN report, cutting methane emissions is the quickest way to slow global heating.

[00:01:18] For the 2022 EnergyStar Most Efficient Appliances list, the EPA just announced it will not include gas furnaces, boilers, or dryers for the first time. The list is only electric appliances. We cannot continue to install new gas appliances that will be around for 10 to 30 years, considering the climate crisis we are currently experiencing.

[00:01:41] I trust the competent staff and the commissioners at EWEB will develop energy policy that makes economic, social, and reliable sense for generations to come.

[00:01:51] Linda Kelly: I just wanted to thank the people who spoke up and addressed the wisdom of the dual source heat pumps. Frank Lawson gave an interesting presentation but I had no clear explanation of why he would be interested in a dual energy heat pump. I couldn’t understand that. We know that natural gas is on the way out and that we must electrify everything as quickly as possible, from all of the recent reports that have been coming our way.

[00:02:20] Northwest Natural, I believe, is hoping to be the Trojan Horse with this dual heat pump and be able to create more opportunities for themselves to getting natural gas into homes, as our city is hopefully about to pass some sort of an ordinance to actually reduce any new hookups. It’s a terrible idea, the dual source, and not really understanding why Director Lawson would be interested in those.

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[00:02:49] Another thing I’d like to bring up. I stopped by the Rental Owners Association office the other day to ask them what they thought may be the best way to support electric heat pumps into rental properties. We had an interesting conversation. I learned that EWEB was formerly a member, but that somehow that had slipped away in the last few years, and they’re no longer a member. They were really disappointed with this and they felt that for the yearly $250 approximate membership, EWEB could have the opportunity to be putting in monthly articles in their newsletter, which goes out to landlords across Lane County, about the opportunities and benefits of electric heat pumps. I would really like to put that on your radar and hopefully you will rejoin that and take that opportunity to really reach out to all of the rental property owners.

[00:03:39] Phil Barnhart: My name is Phil Barnhart. I live in Ward Three. I’ve been a lifetime resident of Eugene, my children and grandchildren also live here and the grandchildren attend school in Eugene. I was an 18-year State Representative, and then among other things, I served on the Energy and Environment committee… The IPCC has said very recently that we have 10 years to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by half, and by 2050, we have to get to zero in order to avoid a catastrophe. We have no chance at all of saving our civilization and maybe even our species, with the relaxed response that I have seen by public agencies up till now. We’re out of time, but there are some basic principles that you can follow to be laser-focused on your part to solve the climate problem.

[00:04:32] Number one, EWEB must work with the city to stop adding methane gas to our energy mix. There is no time for half-measures. Tell the City Council to prevent new methane gas hookups now, and tell the Council that EWEB will pick up the slack and then do it yourselves.

[00:04:51] Number two, tell the Council that EWEB and the City must quickly develop a plan to phase out existing methane gas use in the city, and then gear up to get that done. We don’t have any time to wait. If we get ahead of the curve, we will be saving money, getting the limited supply of electric appliances that will be available. Those that want gas for their new buildings may grumble a bit, but they’ll be thanking you later for avoiding the cold winters and the expensive retrofits that they otherwise will have to do.

[00:05:26] Madeline Cowen: My name is Madeline Cowen, a resident of Ward Two and an EWEB customers for many years, and I’m also the grassroots organizer with Cascadia Wildlands.

[00:05:36] I’m testifying today to request that members of the EWEB commission, and/or the Commission as a whole, come out to correct the record after Frank Lawson’s misleading presentation to City Council about the utility’s stance on electrification and its ability to handle the associated load increases. In fact, I believe that the EWEB commission should condemn General Manager Frank Lawson’s proposal to the City Council, and any proposal that would expand gas infrastructure in the city. With dramatic wildfire, and other extreme weather events seen in the news all the time, it’s become absolutely apparent that climate change is no longer an imminent threat, but a current reality that communities and especially low income and black indigenous people of color communities across Oregon are experiencing.

[00:06:26] John Q: One comment was addressed immediately.

[00:06:31] Commissioner John Barofsky: My question would be to Frank Lawson. We used to be a member of the Renters Coalition and that that might be a way for us to reach rental property owners, I would hope that we could look into that. I mean, if it is only $250 and that gives us an avenue to get in to landlords to help get our word out there, I think that that would be something that I would like to have looked into. I know that that’s one of the things that I struggle with, is trying to get efficiencies and electrification into rental units. So if that’s an opportunity that we can look into, I would hope that we can pursue it.

[00:07:12] Frank Lawson: Commissioner Barofsky, we will absolutely look into that. I don’t know if or why we dropped our membership, but given the challenge with rentals and the amount of rental stock in Eugene, I think it’s a good opportunity to explore and I’ll follow back up with the board before next meeting.

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