Students, community members demand electrification of UO, greater Eugene

Wednesday afternoon students and community members rallied in front of the EMU to demand the University of Oregon move off fracked gas and electrify its infrastructure. They also continued the demand to call on the city to ban the use of gas in newly constructed buildings and transition to the use of electricity for all buildings.

The event was organized by UO Climate Justice League’s Fossil Free UO campaign. Fossil Free UO was started at the end of last school year coming out of Divest UO, which put pressure on the UO Foundation to divest from fossil fuels. After UO foundation leaders said its fossil fuel investments will be expiring soon and will continue to be divested according to their Environmental, Social, & Governance investment policy Climate Justice League decided to move the campaign towards another priority. They began Fossil Free UO to have the university move its infrastructure entirely off of fossil fuel sources. Currently they are focusing on switching the so-called natural gas boilers to electric boilers, which make up about 91% of the campuses heating. In total natural gas equipment accounts for 79% of the UO’s emissions. 

“Is this affordable? Is this feasible? And obviously, yes, but I think it’s time for us to flip the question. Is it affordable to not transition? Okay. Is it feasible to live in an [uninhabitable] environment? Because of our climate crisis? No,” David Lefevre of Fossil Free UO said Wednesday.

In addition to Climate Justice League the rally featured speakers representing Eugene/Springfield NAACP, Sunrise Eugene, 350 Eugene, Fossil Free Eugene Coalition, OSPIRG, Save the Urban Farm, and Progress UO ASUO campaign.

Fossil Free UO stands in partnership with Fossil Free Eugene, which was started in 2020 to bring together activist efforts to make sure the city fulfill its stated climate efforts. Fossil Free Eugene scored a win last November when Eugene City Council voted to hold work sessions on electrifying the city. 

The City of Eugene has scheduled the first of the work sessions on building electrification for this Wednesday. Fossil Free Eugene is calling on people to testify at Monday’s City Council meeting to speak in favor of banning fracked gas.

Fossil Free UO rally organizers also highlighted the impending destruction of the UO Urban Farm and the efforts to save it. Sydney Gastman of Climate Justice League and Save the Urban Farm spoke on the matter. According to Gastman expansion of the Knight Campus will not only cover the farm with shade, but current UO Construction plans detail how they plan to use the back half of the farm as a staging site

“The Urban Farm is clearly such an important place to so many people. It’s where I have learned to connect to my food and build, like so many skills and knowledge that I’ll carry with me for my entire life,” Gastman said.

Last Wednesday evening the ASUO Senate unanimously passed a resolution in favor of the Save the Urban Farm campaign. Save the Urban Farm will be holding a student forum this Wednesday at 5 PM.

Climate Justice League meets Tuesdays at 6 PM. Eugene 350 will be hosting a climate town hall on Sunday, April 24 from 1:30 to 4 PM.