Salem’s climate action plan recommends banning new natural gas connections over the next three to five years in an effort to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. In a letter from its lawyers, NW Natural said it wanted more opportunities to share its views before the council passed the plan.
A natural gas meter outside a house in Salem (Rachel Alexander / Salem Reporter)
The natural gas utility that serves nearly 40,000 Salem customers opposes a target in Salem’s proposed climate action plan to ban new natural gas connections in the city.
The final version of the plan completed last month indicates that the city would have a large reduction in greenhouse gas emissions if it implemented “policies to reduce the use of natural gas, such as the requirement for new all-electric constructions, a ban on the use of fossil fuels in new construction and / or a ban on the use of gas and fuel oil in residential appliances.
City council will consider adopting the plan early next year. The plan itself doesn’t ban natural gas or change city laws, but rather suggests a way forward for the city to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets.
He suggests that the city make the changes to natural gas connections over the next three to five years.
But NW Natural said the idea defies the reality of the current utility system and ignores state-imposed cuts over the next 30 years.
“If the goal is to reduce carbon emissions, banning new gas infrastructure that can and does provide renewable energy is not an effective strategy and may even prevent Salem from reducing (greenhouse gas) emissions in as much as possible “, wrote Connor Reiten, responsible for community and government affairs at NW Natural, in a letter sent to the city on November 6.
Reiten was on the Salem Climate Action Plan Working Group.
Tom Andersen, a Salem city councilor and a member of the Salem Climate Action Plan task force, said natural gas accounts for 6 to 13 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the Salem region, according to the report. modelization.
Salem City Council has set a goal of halving its greenhouse gas emissions by 2035.
And banning new gas connections was one way to achieve that, he said.
“Of course, NW Natural gas and its hired lawyers are interested in opposing the ban because it has a direct financial impact on them,” he said.
In the public comment documents, counsel on behalf of NW Natural emailed city attorney Dan Atchison saying they had “significant concerns” about the proposed December 6 climate action plan.
“NW Natural requests that before going any further in adopting the (climate action plan), the city of Salem allow all stakeholders to publicly share their views and analyzes,” wrote the lawyers Sharon Rudnick and Robert Steringer.
Reiten said Oregon electric utilities consume about as much natural gas for power generation as all state gas utilities combined. He said more natural gas would be needed when coal-fired power plants shut down, and that the plan did not contemplate the possibility of replacing natural gas with renewables in the gas system.
Renewable natural gas is a term used to describe biogas that can come from landfills, sewage treatment plants and food production facilities. It is processed and then injected into gas pipelines.
NW Natural will have to reduce its emissions by 80% by 2050 under a March 2020 executive order from Governor Kate Brown.
David Roy, spokesperson for NW Natural, said the company had nothing to add beyond what was in the public comments, “except to say that we have provided the city with several options to help them achieve their goals regarding this very important issue. “
Andersen said one of the concerns raised about natural gas is the loss of heat in the event of another ice storm like the one that occurred last February.
He said the Portland power company General Electric was taking steps to harden its system to prevent widespread blackouts from reoccurring.
He said they are pruning trees, creating a better warning system and prioritizing critical facilities.
Andersen added that the natural gas recommendations in the plan were a compromise. After hearing comments from NW Natural and the Marion and Polk Counties Home Builders Association, he said the timeline for implementing the changes had increased from one to two years to three to five. year.
“We want as broad support as possible in this climate action plan, because we are in crisis,” he said.
The Climate Action Plan notes that no comparable city has enacted a comprehensive ban on fossil-based natural gas that ends current connections.
“Natural gas bans that eliminate the future growth of new natural gas connections are increasingly common, and Salem would be ahead of its peers and most cities in the United States if it enacted this type of ban. “, we read in the plan.
Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]
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