GEI Defeats Request to Raise Gas Bills
After successful advocacy by the Green Energy Institute (GEI) and Earthjustice the Oregon Public Utility Commission’s (OPUC) partially rejected NW Natural’s request to raise gas bills to pay for gas system expansion, political lobbying to local governments to prevent climate action, and promotional advertising expenses, among other things.
“Oregon utility customers should not have to pay higher utility bills to bankroll a fossil fuel expansion that is not in their best interest – it’s just that simple. The regulator’s decision to reduce NW Natural’s proposed rate hike is a first step towards protecting customers from the gas company’s dangerous effort to extend fossil fuel dependence for decades to come, at the expense of Oregonians’ health, climate and utility bills,” said Carra Sahler, staff attorney at GEI.
The OPUC Order reevaluated incentives for gas-system expansion, approved the expansion of a low-income energy efficiency program, and slashed NW Natural’s requested rate increase for lobbying expenses and advertising costs, including NW Natural’s attempt to recover costs for the printing and distribution of activity books targeted at school-age children. In the Order, the Commission pointed out that asking children to identify natural gas as “clean” and diesel as “dirty” has “nothing to do with the purported safety messaging goal.” The Commission cautioned NW Natural to “carefully track its advertising costs” and ensure “expected expenses do not include promotional elements.”
GEI works to develop equitable, comprehensive, effective strategies to prevent catastrophic climate change by furthering the just transition to a sustainable, carbon-free energy grid. GEI’s analyses and recommendations aim to hasten the energy transition by strengthening existing policies, eliminating barriers, and promoting innovative and ambitious new strategies to design and help implement just and ambitious energy and climate policies.
In the present case, GEI collaborated with Earthjustice to represent a broad group of public interest advocates, including Community Energy Project, Climate Solutions, Columbia Riverkeeper, Coalition of Communities of Color, Oregon Environmental Council, the Sierra Club, and Verde.