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Natural Gas Industry Misleads, Environmental Groups Say

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Monday, August 31, 2020   

SEATTLE -- The natural gas industry has launched a major campaign in the Northwest to tout the fuel source as a reliable way to fight climate change.

Environmental groups say it's as harmful as other dirty sources for the planet.

The Partnership for Energy Progress, made up energy companies and unions, is launching a $2.8 million campaign this year to promote natural gas as the energy source of the future.

Ingrid Archibald, safe cities field organizer for the group Stand.Earth contended even the word "natural" is misleading, since three-quarters of the fuel comes from fracking, nationwide.

"Burning gas is just as natural as burning any other fossil fuels," Archibald said. "And just because it comes from the earth doesn't mean that doing so is a good thing or that it's sustainable or good for our communities or for the environment."

The group pushing natural gas, the Partnership for Energy Progress, said natural gas is necessary to transition from coal to renewable sources like wind and solar.

The Partnership for Energy Progress includes the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters and energy companies Puget Sound Energy and TC Energy, which is behind the Keystone XL pipeline.

Jesse Piedfort, director of the Washington state chapter of Sierra Club, noted the fuel often leaks methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

He said we'll have to move away from natural gas if we want to stop climate change.

"They have a lot of money on their side and we have the science on our side," Piedfort said. "We know what the climate models show. We know what the truth is. We know where we have to start going on energy and natural gas."

The Partnership for Energy Progress has gone on the offensive in places like Bellingham, where the city is considering phasing out natural gas and electrifying homes instead.

Other cities are looking at the building sector as well, which is the fastest growing source of climate pollution in Washington state and up 50% since 1990.

Archibald said the natural gas industry understands the stakes.

"They know that electrification is a huge threat to their bottom line and their plan to frack and burn gas for as long as they can," Archibald said. "And we're calling that out and saying, 'We can't do that anymore. We need to stop burning gas. We need to move on to clean and renewable energy as quickly as we can.'"

The Partnership for Energy Progress notes natural gas is a cheaper form of fuel.

But Archibald doesn't believe the industry evaluates the full cost of gas, including its impacts on indoor air quality.

UPDATE: In statement from the Partnership for Energy Progress, the group said it will, "play a leadership role in communicating our progress toward advancing renewable energy and addressing climate change." It added that the industry captures organic methane that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and converts it to energy.

Disclosure: Sierra Club-Beyond Coal Campaign contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, and Environmental Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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