POwer transmission lines
Climate youth rising

Ashland youth push Council for a fossil-free future

Ashland has become the third city in Oregon to make a major step towards building electrification. The city is considering a new ordinance to ban fossil fuels in new home construction. Public support for the ordinance is being spearheaded by the Rogue Climate Action Team, a youth-led organization that has been campaigning on the issue since March. The Ashland City Council voted to move forward even after the Ninth Circuit court decision ruled against the City of Berkeley, California’s ban on gas in new construction; the Oregon city is looking at different approaches instead. Already gas company NW Natural gathered signatures to force the city of Eugene to hold a ballot challenging the city’s recently passed electrification ordinance. In Ashland, residents’ gas service comes from Avista Gas, which has proposed a 8.1% rate increase this fall, on top of an 18% price hike last year, partly to cover Avista’s expansion of its gas system. “We cannot simultaneously build out fossil fuel gas infrastructure and protect our children’s future,” said Ashland Mayor Tonya Graham.

…while Big Sky country youth take state to court 

Sixteen youth filed a climate lawsuit against their home state of Montana in March 2020, alleging that the state's pro-fossil fuel policies violate the Montana constitution, which specifically guarantees that “each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations.” In the groundbreaking suit, the first of its kind in the US, the plaintiffs argue that state elected officials have “put the interests of the state’s fossil fuel industry over their climate future.” Their case has been winding its way through the court system since, and officially went to trial this week. The court has already heard from several plaintiffs and environmental experts, with state officials set to testify later on. The judge is expected to render a verdict in the coming weeks.

Needed: transmission acceleration

Clean electricity projects are surging online across the country; by the end of 2022 solar and wind power had surpassed both coal and nuclear in their contributions to national energy grid demand. That's no surprise—clean energy has clear economic advantages over volatile fossil fuels, on top of its obvious climate and public health benefits. But completing a transition to clean energy will require more electricity still, in addition to improvements in energy efficiency and energy storage. In order to get clean power from wind and solar plants to consumers, we need more transmission infrastructure. By some estimates, existing capacity will need to double within the next decade.

Building this infrastructure has long proven to be a challenge due to the complexity of the national energy grid (actually grids), regulatory issues among various jurisdictions, and the lack of strong federal coordination. When Congress was passing the landmark Inflation Reduction Act last year, members did not address permitting reform among its myriad clean energy provisions and investments, in part over concerns that new reforms would allow fossil fuel companies to avoid strict environmental review of new projects, and could limit opportunities for community input. 

A stand-alone permitting reform bill backed by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin failed to win approval in the fall, setting the stage for the issue to come up again in the context of recent negotiations over raising the national debt limit. The resulting deal between Congress and the White House does contain limited reforms, but fell short by calling for more studies instead of rapid action on further reforms and by bolstering certain fossil fuel industry interests, including limiting the scope of environmental review and clearing the path for a controversial gas pipeline. Former FERC chairman Richard Glick worried that the compromise “may hurt the outlook for additional promised reform in transmission legislation.” Clean energy advocates in Congress, including Rep. Sean Casten, continue to strategize around the unfinished business of expanding transmission infrastructure.

What we’re listening to 🎧

This new feature highlights a podcast episode or longer-form radio interview that we found compelling.

This week we’re listening to a podcast on urban farming in the United Kingdom, the rising trend to keeping chickens and the unique history of Victorian Britain’s obsession with fancy fowl, on Soil, Chickens and City Farms (Free Thinking/BBC 3).

Anne McElvoy is the journalist and host of this episode where she interviews a wide range of guests. They include Mike Collins, who is a Bath City Farm trustee and historian of English city farming; Paul Wright, a documentarian speaking on his latest work, Arcadia, “which captures the magic of rural Britain” and their changing views towards land; Jim Scown who explores the “relationship between soils, science and literary realism in Victorian Britain;” and Catherine Oliver, a lecturer in the sociology of climate change at Lancaster University who explores the community of city folk who get into chicken keeping.

Soil, Chickens and City Farms episode of Free Thinking BBC 3 Podcast.


Author Bio

Jonathan Lawson

Senior Editor, Climate Solutions

As Senior Editor, Jonathan provides editorial management and guidance for Climate Solutions’ communications channels, including the organization’s website, social media, and email. He creates, assigns and curates materials for publication, and assesses the effectiveness of the organization’s communications strategies through measurement and analysis, and provides communications support for Climate Solutions programs and initiatives.

Before joining Climate Solutions in 2014, Jonathan served as Executive Director of the communications rights organization Reclaim the Media, where he played a catalytic role in fueling the growth of a national movement focused on media justice and democratizing media and communications policy. He also spent more than eight years providing communications strategy, digital communications and design to statewide labor organizations including SEIU and WFSE/AFSCME, writing op-eds by day and designing giant puppets by night.

A past board member of the Washington News Council and of Seattle Improvised Music, he is also a veteran of the Independent Media Center movement, and has worked in community radio since 1986; for 19 years he produced the weekly creative music program Flotation Device on KBCS. His articles on media and communications issues have appeared in numerous northwest and national publications. Jonathan holds a masters degree in Theological Studies from Harvard University.

Give for a brighter future

Did you enjoy this article?

Recent posts