Oregon DOJ should investigate NW Natural for false advertising because methane is not a green fuel, environmentalists say

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A group of elected officials and environmental organizations has called on the Oregon Department of Justice to investigate NW Natural for promoting natural gas as a climate-friendly fuel, a claim the group says amounts to to misleading advertising.

In response to new national and local regulations aimed at limiting the use of methane, the predominant compound in natural gas – NW Natural has “launched a growing propaganda campaign to delay the transition to clean energy in homes by misleading consumers, elected officials and Oregonians about the climate and health risks of gas-fired appliances. methane gas,” the group said today. .

The group alleges that NW Natural executives: gave misleading testimony to the Eugene City Council about natural gas; sent emails that masked the public health impacts of the gas; spent thousands of company dollars on workbooks that mislead children about the dangers of burning methane; and published opinion pieces in local newspapers promoting gas industry decarbonization methods that won’t work, including renewable natural gas (made from cow manure and waste) and “the green hydrogen”.

An image from an NW Natural publication called “Your natural gas activity book” shows a factory worker handing a baseball bat to a child, saying, “Natural gas can be used by industry to make products like video games and baseball bats.” The page was included in testimony to the Oregon Public Utility Commission in April.

“NW Natural is using the tobacco industry playbook to promote its unsafe product and avoid regulation,” Eugene City Councilman Matt Keating said in a news release announcing the action. “It is time for the state to hold this polluting fossil fuel company accountable for the patently false and misleading statements it sends to its taxpayers, the general public and elected officials.”

NW Natural did not immediately return a request for comment sent to its media department.

“Our consumer protection team has a long history of involvement in cases involving the mismarketing or misrepresentation of materials or products to children, and we take our obligation to protect our most vulnerable very seriously,” the statement said. Oregon DOJ in a statement regarding the petition. “In addition, we have teams of attorneys specializing in utility regulation and natural resources who will review the letter we received today.”

Among officials calling on Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to act are Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba, Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla and State Rep. Khanh Pham (D-Portland ). (Disclosure: Rosenblum is married to Richard Meeker, co-owner of WWparent company.)

Groups calling for action include the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Oregon Unitarian Universalist Voices for Justice, 350 Salem, Sierra Club, Portland Youth Climate Council and Electrify Corvallis.

The leaders of these groups and others signed a petition addressed to Rosenblum.

“For more than 15 years, NW Natural has publicly claimed to be working to fight climate change while doing everything it can to prevent regulation,” said Bethany Cotton, director of conservation for Cascadia Wildlands. “Using taxpayers’ money to distribute propaganda to schoolchildren is another unconscionable low in their corporate misinformation efforts.”

After big increases last fall, the other two gas utilities of NW Natural and Oregon are looking to raise rates for the winter heating season, according to the Citizens Utility Board. Cascade Natural Gas offered a 25% increase for residential customers and Avista Utilities is offering a 19% increase, CUB said. NW Natural wants a 16% raise. The Oregon PUC must approve the rate increases.

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