Earthjustice filed comments on behalf of Sierra Club before the Maryland Public Service Commission late Friday addressing Washington Gas Light (WGL) Company’s misleading claims about the environmental benefits of gas and its promotion of gas over electric appliances and technologies. These comments support the Maryland Office of People’s Counsel November Complaint filed with the Public Service Commission alleging that WGL is sending its customers misleading information about the advantages of gas as compared to electric in its customer billing statements.
“We cannot allow the gas industry to take advantage of utility customers’ bills as an advertising space for false information and gas greenwashing. We must transition to electric appliances and new technology in Maryland’s buildings to address the climate emergency,” said Susan Stevens Miller, a clean energy attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign. “We’re asking the Commission to strengthen its rules to protect consumers from deceptive advertising practices. The Commission should require WGL to fund an education program to provide Maryland residents with accurate information about climate change and fossil fuel use.”
WGL’s actions undermine Maryland’s climate and clean energy goals and follow a pattern of behavior from gas interests that undermine Maryland’s ability to address the climate crisis. Earthjustice argues that the WGL’s statements are misleading and violate the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guide requirements, the Maryland Consumer Protection Act, and the Commission’s own requirements about customer information.
The comments show that gas production, distribution, and consumption are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and that gas combustion in homes, such as through gas stoves and heating, have severe indoor air quality impacts that threaten residents’ health. The assertion that natural gas is clean energy ignores the fact that residential use of gas is a significant contributor to Maryland’s greenhouse gas emissions; a recent study demonstrates that emissions from the gas supply chain were 60% higher than previous estimates, including in Baltimore. WGL’s contention that natural gas is one third cheaper than an all-electric home ignores the myriad of evidence that demonstrate that all-electric new buildings typically have the lowest construction and operating costs.
Earthjustice also asks the Commission to direct WGL to remove the misleading statements from its bill inserts, impose financial penalties, and determine how to prevent such misinformation campaigns in the future.