Partnership for Energy Progress


Partnership for Energy Progress

Background

The Partnership for Energy Progress (PEPNWdescribes itself as a “collaboration of utilities, farmers, workers, small and large businesses, and community advocates across the Northwest” with the stated goal to “communicate the work we do to provide reliable, affordable energy to homes and businesses, and highlight the progress we’re making to address climate change.” [1]

It was registered as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization in Olympia, Washington, with the name “Partners for Energy Progress” according to public filings at the Washington Secretary of State. [2]

According to internal documents obtained by The Seattle Times, the coalition was formed as part of a $1 million public relations campaign to promote natural gas and “prevent or defeat” initiatives that would reduce or prohibit its use. Dan Kirschner, executive director of the Northwest Gas Association, confirmed the campaign would be funded by its association members. [3]

The Times reported the Partnership for Energy Progress campaign would be managed by Quinn-Thomas, a Northwest public relations firm that worked to successfully oppose multiple carbon tax initiatives. [3]

State and Local-Level Natural Gas Industry Opposition

Partnership for Energy Progress in the Northwest parallels industry efforts across the United States working to combat municipal and state level gas regulations. The Los Angeles Times reported on efforts by the Southern California Gas Co. and the 'grassroots' advocacy group it funds to fight regulation efforts in Southern California. SoCal Gas was accused of using ratepayer dollars to fund a front group, “Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions,” (C4Bes) to lobby against climate change policies, and later denying it. [4], [5], [6]

Earthjustice, representing  Sierra Club, asked regulators to ban C4Bes from participating in the building decarbonisation proceedings[7]

While SoCalGas feigns umbrage at the characterization of C4Bes as an astroturf or utility front group, these terms refer to exactly what is at issue here: entities who hide their sponsorship to appear independent,” attorney Matt Vespa wrote in the Sierra Club’s motion to deny C4Bes party status in the proceedings.

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board described C4BES as SoCal Gas' sleazy “Astroturf” effort to keep fossil fuels flowing in California. [5]

Similar to the tactic Partnership for Energy Progress uses on behalf of its members, C4Bes promoted the use of “clean” or “renewable natural gas” from methane, wastewater treatment, and landfills as a method to reduce emissions. [7]

Uncovered documents confirmed SoCalGas had used ratepayer funding, however the company argued the efforts were to try to meet the state's climate goals. The California Public Utilities Commission began an investigation into whether SoCalGas's use of customer funds to support industry groups was appropriate. A supervisor at the PUC's Public Advocates Office told the Los Angeles Times that “Using ratepayer funds to undermine the state's interests and goals is inappropriate.” [8]

There is a similar fight on the east coast with communities aiming to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings starting in 2021 with a zero net emissions goal for 2050. [9]

Stance on Climate Change

Partnership for Energy Progress portrays natural gas as part of “our shared goal of addressing climate change.” However—as the Seattle Times article notes, this “doesn’t tell the whole story” as natural gas “has been deemed to be part of the climate problem” in Washington state. [3]

“Natural gas, when combusted, releases roughly 50% fewer carbon emissions than coal. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Natural gas vents and leaks release unburnt methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, and anxieties about that phenomenon are growing,” The Seattle Times noted.

Unburnt methane can warm the planet 84 times more in the first 20 years than the same amount of carbon dioxide. A leak at an Ohio well that received scant attention last year released more methane than the oil and gas industries of countries like France emit annually, scientists said this month.

There has been an increasing body of evidence suggesting gas stoves can produce unsafe levels of indoor air pollution, including PM2.5—one of the most deadly air pollutants—potentially as much as twice as much as produced in electric cooking. It also produces nitrogen oxides (NOx), including nitrogen oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and formaldehyde (CH2O or HCHO) that can be harmful if concentrations aren't managed. [10]

Similar to other industry groups, such as Southern California Gas Company and its owner, Sempra Energy, Partnership for Energy Progress has promoted renewable natural gas (RNG) as an alternative to electrification. However, studies have found there simply isn't enough biogas in the US to meet decarbonization goals, while many electric alternatives are also cheaper than RNG[11]

Funding

Dan Kirschner, executive director of the Northwest Gas Association (NWGA), confirmed to The Seattle Times that the $1 million Partners for Energy initiative would be funded by association members. NWGA describes itself as a “trade organization of the Pacific Northwest natural gas industry” with members including six natural gas utilities in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia as well as three natural gas pipelines. Members include the following: [3], [12]

Key Documents

Key People

Partners for Energy Progress would be reportedly run by unpaid president and spokeswoman Leanne Guier. Guier also serves as political coordinator for the UA Local 32 Plumbers and Pipefitters union and is mayor of the city of Pacific. [3], [13]

Washington business registration filings listed the following governors: [2]

  • Gary Chandler
  • Leanne Guier
  • Ed Finklea

Ed Finklea is the director of natural gas of the Alliance of Western Energy Consumers (AWEC), a 501(c)(6) that “represents industrial customers in the Pacific Northwest in matters relating to energy rates, usage and conservation.”

Finklea previously served as in-house counsel for NW Natural and NiSource Corporate Services. From 1986 to 2008, he worked a private practice as a lawyer for gas clients including Northwest Industrial Gas Users (NWIGU) before the Oregon Public Utility Commission. He also previously worked as Executive Director of Northwest Industrial Gas Users before joining AWEC.

In an interview with The Oregonian, Finklea cast doubt on climate science, telling Rob Davis that increasing CO2 and global temperatures “…correlate. Whether the one caused the other, we don’t know.” [15]

Actions

Ongoing

Internal documents suggest the Partnership for Energy Progress would be a multi-year campaign targeting “key audiences in Washington and Oregon” with a “positive” message about gas. [3]

“Target audiences will likely include Democratic-leaning suburban homeowners, particularity women. The documents note that many consumers like natural gas but dislike fracking and want to fight climate change,” The Seattle Times reported. [3]

August 2020

The Guardian listed Partnership for Energy Progress among pro-natural-gas groups “waging war against climate action” in Washington and across the United States.  Internal documents reviewed by the Guardian identified a ““wall of opposition” pushing back against city-level climate change initiatives that would cut natural gas. [16]

“The documents show the multibillion-dollar gas industry has built crucial local coalitions and hired high-powered operatives to torpedo cities’ anti-gas policies – sometimes assisted by money those same cities have paid into gas trade associations.” [16]

PEP was among pro-gas groups that cropped up following a coordinated industry and union pushback against gas-related climate change efforts. [16]

“The partnership’s target demographic, what it calls 'flight risks”'that could turn on the gas industry, is Democratic women between the ages of 35 and 54 who own homes and have college degrees, according to polling used by the group,” The Guardian wrote. [16]

“Unions are instrumental to the partnership, contributing about one-sixth of its budget. Leanne Guier – the political director of the Seattle plumbers and pipefitters union that opposed the gas ban – is the group’s president. [16]

Advertisements from the coalition show photos of mothers with their babies next to gas stoves and fireplaces, with the words: 'Reliable. Affordable. Natural Gas. Here for You.'” [16]

According to The Guardian, “Puget Sound Energy and the Partnership for Energy Progress are using the same strategies that the gas industry and its trade groups are employing at the national level.” [16]

Related Organizations

Partners for Energy Progress lists the following “Partners”: [14]

Farmer Organizations
Oregon Association of Nurseries
Oregon Dairy Farmers Association
Oregon Farm Bureau
Washington State Farm Bureau
Washington Tree Fruit Association
Home and Office Building Organizations
National Association of Industrial and Office Properties – Washington state
Northwest Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association
Oregon Association of Realtors
Washington Air Conditioning Contractors Association
Washington REALTORS®
Natural Gas Industry
Avista
Blue Star Gas
Cascade Natural Gas
Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas
Enbridge Inc.
Northwest Gas Association
NW Natural
Puget Sound Energy
TC Energy
Williams
Small and Large Business Organizations
Alliance of Western Energy Consumers
Associated General Contractors of Washington
Association of Washington Business
Food Northwest
Kaiser Aluminum
Mechanical Contractors Association of Western Washington
National Federation of Independent Business
NW Pulp & Paper Association
Oregon Business & Industry
Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association
Western States Petroleum Association
Worker Organizations
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 77
International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 302
LiUNA Northwest Region
Oregon & Southern Idaho District Council of Laborers
Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council
Teamsters Joint Council 28 (WA, ID, AK)
Teamsters Local Union No. 763
UA 26, Western Washington United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters
UA 598, Tri-cities Plumbers & Pipefitters
UA Local 290, Plumbers & Steamfitters
UA Local 699 Sprinkler Fitters
United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, Local 32
United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, Local 44
United Steelworkers Local 338
Washington & Northern Idaho District Council of Laborers
Washington State Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters

Contact & Address

According to their filing at the Washington Secretary of State, the Partnership has the following principal office address: [2]

1414 CHERRY ST SE,
OLYMPIA, WA,
98501-2341, UNITED STATES

Social Media

Resources

  1. About Us,” Partnership for Energy Progress. Archived May 27, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/Dy4cg

  2. Business Information: PARTNERS FOR ENERGY PROGRESS (UBI Number 604 542 070. Office of the Secretary of State of Washington. Filed December 13, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  3. Hal Bernton and Daniel Beekman. “Natural gas industry’s $1 million PR campaign sets up fight over Northwest’s energy future,” The Seattle Times, December 22, 2019. Archived May 27, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/AxNuI

  4. Sammy Roth. “California ditched coal. The gas company is worried it’s next,” Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2019. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/hqQmb

  5. Editorial: SoCal Gas’ sleazy ‘Astroturf’ effort to keep fossil fuels flowing in California,” Los Angeles Times, August 10, 2019. Archived May 28, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/NVfqy

  6. “Response of the Public Advocates Office to Southern California Gas Company's Motion to Stirke Seirra Club's Reply to the Responses to Motion to Deny Party Status to Californians for Balanced Enegy Solutions Or, in the Alternative to Grant Motion to Compel Discovery” (PDF), EarthJustice, July 5, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  7. Susie Cagle. “US gas utility funds 'front' consumer group to fight natural gas bans,” The Guardian, July 26, 2019. Archived May 26, 2020. Archive URLhttps://archive.vn/XwDbR

  8. Sammy Roth. “SoCalGas shouldn’t be using customer money to undermine state climate goals, critics say,” Los Angeles Times, November 22, 2019. Archived May 28, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/07Ay1

  9. Chris D'Angelo. “The Gas Industry’s Bid To Kill A Town’s Fossil Fuel Ban,” HuffPost, December 8, 2019. Archived May 28, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/ogu5X

  10. David Roberts. “Gas stoves can generate unsafe levels of indoor air pollution,” Vox, May 11, 2020. Archived May 28, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/WVR8R

  11. David Roberts. “The false promise of 'renewable natural gas',” Vox, February 20, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/Ndqva

  12. “About the NWGA,Northwest Gas Association. Archived May 27, 2020. Archive URLhttps://archive.vn/TsbuP

  13. Leanne Guier,” LinkedIn, May 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  14. About Our Partnership,” Partnership for Energy Progress. Archived May 27, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/t33dD

  15. Randy L. Rasmussen. “How two Oregon universities helped finance opposition to Gov. Kate Brown’s climate agenda,” The Oregonian, May 12, 2019. Archived May 29, 2020. Archive URLhttps://archive.vn/ciEA5

  16. Emily Holden. “Revealed: how the gas industry is waging war against climate action,” The Guardian, August 20, 2020. Archived September 8, 2020. Archive URLhttps://archive.vn/NcVPu

Other Resources