ashland.news
July 21, 2024

Ashland teens push for ban on fossil fuel infrastructure in new buildings

Piper Banks speaks during the public comment period at the Ashland City Council meeting Tuesday. Bob Palermini Photo/@bobpal
March 23, 2023

Express disappointment at lagging progress toward meeting goals of earlier ordinance backed by youth

By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news

If passed as is, an ordinance put forward by the Rogue Action Climate Team on Tuesday would prohibit the construction of any new buildings with fossil fuel infrastructure in Ashland. If passed, the ordinance would require the city to deny any permit applications that include piping for fossil fuels, primarily natural gas.

About one dozen students from Ashland High School are part of the team, which led hundreds of their peers to walk out of class on March 10 for a “Youth for Electrification” walk down to the Plaza in support of tougher action on climate policies. The teens showed up in energetic force at Ashland City Council chambers on Tuesday to continue their plea for the city to make climate change policy a priority. 

A standing room crowd filled the room during the public comment period at the Ashland City Council meeting Tuesday. Bob Palermini Photo/@bobpal

Two-by-two, members of the RCAT read statements to council members, part of their introduction to an ordinance they proposed that would mandate use of electricity in new residential, commercial and industrial buildings built in the city. The proposed ordinance is largely based on a similar ordinance passed in Eugene that amends the health and sanitation codes of the city.

Ashland High sophomore Piper Banks told Ashland.news prior to the meeting that during the last few years, and especially with the COVID-19 impact on schools, she feels like her and her peers are empowered to push for positive change.

Te Maia Wiki speaks during the public comment period at the Ashland City Council meeting Tuesday. Bob Palermini Photo/@bobpal

The 16-year-old Banks was among those who spoke during Tuesday’s meeting and was also part of the planning that went into the Youth Climate march on March 10.  

“We want to be heard, we want to be listened to, we have a lot of ideas and we have a lot of really big feelings, for a lot of big things that are going to affect us, are affecting us now, and are really going to affect us in the future,” Banks said.

“I think we’re just really calling to our people in power to listen to what we’re saying and do something about it,” Banks added.

Anya Moore speaks during the public comment period at the Ashland City Council meeting Tuesday. Bob Palermini Photo/@bobpal

As a “soon-to-be” seventh-grader at Ashland Middle School in 2017, Anya Moore had sat at the podium before Ashland City Council members, asking them to pass the Climate and Energy Action Plan, a community-wide commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8% each year, reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.

On Tuesday, Moore, now a senior at Ashland High and preparing to graduate, was the first to speak at the podium, seated with fellow AHS senior Te Maia Wiki and almost a dozen of her classmates and supportive local residents behind her, participating in Rogue Climate’s Rogue Climate Action Team, asked the council to up their efforts to address climate change. 

Moore told council members on Tuesday that she was thrilled when the city of Ashland passed the Climate and Energy Action Plan.

“Since then, I’ve been disappointed to watch as the city of Ashland has not lived up to the promises that it made,” Moore said. “Ashland will not be able to meet its climate goals if fossil gas (use) continues to expand and increase.”

Members of the Rogue Climate Action Team hold up their signs and pose for a photo outside Ashland City Council chambers on Tuesday. Ashland.news photo by Holly Dillemuth

The ordinance brought forth by RCAT would also amend existing language for “Solid Fuel Heating Device Installation,” which requires that newly constructed homes use alternative heating sources in addition to wood-burning stoves, to no longer include provisions to allow for natural gas, propane, oil or kerosene heating sources, according to the ordinance.

A note is included in the ordinance stating that the city could decide what date works for them to make the policy prohibiting fossil fuel infrastructure in new buildings effective.

The ordinance also references the United National Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has warned that, “failure to address the causes of global climate change will result in sea level rise, increased frequency of fires, and reduced freshwater resources, which will significantly increase.”

A March 20  IPCC report also warns that limiting warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius will require quick, deep, and immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Moore said in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, the city must stop running gas lines and transition to renewable electricity sources within the next three years. She also said that changing the policy will keep housing more affordable.

The Ashland City Council listens during the public comment period at the Ashland City Council meeting Tuesday. Bob Palermini Photo/@bobpal

“I’ve witnessed what it means to live paycheck-to-paycheck here in Ashland,” Moore said. “I know families forced to move away from the city after decades of calling Ashland their home because they were unable to afford living here any longer.”

Moore said she believes affordable housing is deeply interconnected with the climate crisis, and that electrifying housing would save individuals and families money, while working toward the city’s promise to carbon neutrality by 2050.

Ashland High sophomore Kiera Retiz, who also shared her testimony with the City Council, shared her thoughts with Ashland.news before the meeting. The 15-year-old also spoke her mind Tuesday night.

“It’s our future,” Retiz said. “We’re the ones who are going to be living in it for … hopefully a long time. I think we as people, as humans living on this Earth, caused what’s happening right now — We are obliged now to fix it.”

To view the full ordinance proposed by RCAT, click here.

To watch the public comment period, go online to ashland.or.us

Rogue Climate is a southern Oregon-based community group that organizes for renewable energy, sustainable jobs, and a healthy environment.

Comments, questions, story tips? Reach Ashland.news at hollyd@ashland.news.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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