Climate and Justice Groups Urge Oregon Regulators to Reject Utility Rate Hike That Would Harm Customers and Thwart Climate Goals

NW Natural seeks to increase profits and expand its gas system at ratepayers’ expense


Kim Petty, Sierra Club,, 360-362-8467

Elizabeth Manning, Earthjustice,, 907-277-2555

Climate, environmental justice, and community-led social justice organizations filed testimony yesterday detailing a litany of cost, climate, and equity objections to a proposed rate hike from NW Natural, Oregon’s largest gas utility.

The groups, represented by the Green Energy Institute at Lewis & Clark Law School and Earthjustice, are seeking to keep customers’ energy costs affordable by preventing the utility from subsidizing gas line extensions and passing costs on to customers, and also charging higher rates to some customers for new gas hookups.

Both practices would grow the utility’s gas system at customers’ expense — instead of investing more wisely in clean energy infrastructure that could lower energy bills. NW Natural’s proposal would raise utility bills for gas customers by 18% starting next year. Residential customers already pay on average 50% more than they did in 2020.

In seeking the new gas line extension subsidies, the gas utility is attempting to circumvent a 2022 ruling from the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) that ordered the company to curb incentives for gas system expansion. That same ruling required the utility to stop charging its customers to target school children with pro-fossil fuel advertising and for other lobbying activities against state and local climate policies.

In addition, the groups are asking OPUC to deny the gas utility’s request to increase its profitability through a higher return on investment at the expense of customers. The testimony further takes issue with the utility’s pro-fossil gas marketing and misinformation that inaccurately blames climate protection programs for rising energy costs and falsely reassures customers that gas is healthy and safe — when in fact studies have linked methane gas use to asthma, cancer, and other serious health problems.

The organizations intervening in the rate case are Coalition of Communities of Color, Climate Solutions, Verde, Columbia Riverkeeper, Oregon Environmental Council, Community Energy Project, and Sierra Club.

Following are statements from the organizations and the attorneys representing them: 

“As we face intense climate disasters and the skyrocketing cost of basic needs, we should be focused on investing in sustainable solutions that prioritize the wellbeing of our communities and environment while keeping energy bills affordable, instead of furthering our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Nikita Daryanani, Coalition of Community of Color’s Climate & Energy Policy Manager. “NW Natural’s unjustified rate hikes will only add to the growing burden faced by struggling families and low-income communities of color. Enough is enough.”

“Safeguarding utility affordability is crucial to Verde’s mission to advocate for the well-being of our community,” said Anahí Segovia Rodriguez, Verde’s Energy Justice Coordinator. “This is about supporting frontline communities and preserving our planet for future generations. We can do that by ensuring energy sources stay safe and affordable for low-income and BIPOC communities. The urgency of this cannot be overstated, and it’s integral to every initiative we undertake.”

“Community Energy Project believes everyone deserves a safe, healthy and efficient home, regardless of income,” said Siraat Younas, Community Energy Project’s Climate Justice Associate. “We’re advocating for an equitable transition to a more diverse energy supply with more renewable energy and less dependence on fossil fuels. It’s what we need to move toward a cleaner, healthier and more just world.”

“NW Natural keeps trying to impose unreasonable and poorly-designed rate hikes on customers to pay for its irresponsible spending. This vicious cycle must stop,” said Noorulanne Jan, Earthjustice Attorney representing the community groups. “Environmental justice demands smarter energy choices that advance long-term resilience instead of this never-ending ladder of increasing costs that hit customers — especially low-income communities and families — the hardest.”

“NW Natural has become desperate in its attempts to prolong the use of gas, unjustly increase its profits, and avoid inevitable regulation,” said Dylan Plummer, Senior Field Organizing Strategist, Sierra Club. “The utility has spent large sums of ratepayer funds on propaganda promoting fossil fuels and false climate solutions at the expense of the communities it is supposed to serve. NW Natural customers deserve the truth about methane gas, not more hot air.”

“The rate-hikes proposed by NW Natural are outrageous and unconscionable. As Oregon’s largest utility, the company is trying to expand their fossil fuel infrastructure at the expense of consumers and clean energy growth,” said Nora Apter, Director of Programs for the Oregon Environmental Council. “They’re passing costs onto consumers while dodging state rules to limit the expansion of these polluting fossil fuels. It has to stop.”

Young people on the street holding signs that say "Portland Demands Climate Action" and NW "Natural" Nothing Natural about it.
NW Natural was one of the fossil fuel companies protested against during a Portland Youth Climate Strike march in Portland, Oregon on May 20, 2022. (Nick Cunningham /

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