In November 2022, the Multnomah County Commission issued a paper regarding indoor air quality and natural gas stoves that was used to justify recommending residents replace their natural gas stoves with electric appliances.
NW Natural is unaware of any consultation taken up by the County with experts in the fields of toxicology or epidemiology or relevant medical fields in the development of this report. The result seems to be a paper with hastily prepared messages and recommendations that are being made without the support of robust process and a transparent scientific assessment.
The County also issued its report without any engagement with NW Natural. And unlike members of the media and electrification advocacy groups, NW Natural was not provided with the report in advance.
The County’s report includes assertions often promoted by gas ban advocates that claim natural gas cooking could lead to respiratory illnesses like asthma, especially in children.
At the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners public meeting on November 10, 2022, Dr Julie Goodman, Ph.D., DABT, FACE. ATS, a principal at Gradient, provided testimony on NW Natural’s behalf. Dr. Goodman is board-certified in toxicology, and a fellow of both the American College of Epidemiology and the Academy of Toxicological Sciences. She has also been on the Board of Health in Canton, Massachusetts, for the last 15 years.
In her testimony, Dr. Goodman refuted the County’s conclusions (see testimony at 0:02:20) and referenced a robust global study conducted on this topic, The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood, that evaluated over half a million children from 47 countries, including the U.S., over 5 years – finding no association between gas cooking and asthma in children./*Wong, GW; Brunekreef, B; Ellwood, P; Anderson, HR; Asher, MI; Crane, J; Lai, CK. 2013. "Cooking fuels and prevalence of asthma: A global analysis of phase three of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC)." ISAAC Phase Three Study Group, available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24429203*/
This study was not referenced or evaluated in the County’s report.
Epidemiology is a complex field and ensuring accurate information requires sound research methodology and an objective interpretation of the data to arrive at helpful recommendations.
NW Natural believes that a balanced process that focuses on objective technical information is critically important to an economy-wide safe energy system transformation for all. Likewise, consulting with experts and considering complete data and all the facts is essential to making informed recommendations regarding how to safely use appliances.
Due to claims circulated in the media, there are a few items about which we would like to provide additional information and context:
- Multiple studies /*Logue et al. (2014) and Singer et al. (2017) */demonstrate that ventilation plays an important role in mitigating cooking-related air emissions that come from both gas and electric stoves. This is why kitchen exhausts are required for all new homes in Oregon, whether they have gas or electric cooking.
- While acknowledging cooking--no matter the fuel type--has some form of emissions, the County focused solely on gas appliances in its recommendations, ignoring that ventilation is important to any form of cooking.
- The study the County references to support the quote, “Children living in homes that cook with gas are 42% more likely to experience symptoms associated with asthma…” is problematic and inconsistent from a scientific perspective.
- Although to date NW Natural has been excluded from the County’s efforts on this important subject, we welcome the opportunity to have a seat at the table as the discussion continues.
Correcting the record on emissions
The County’s paper implies using electricity is fossil fuel free. That is not the case for cooking or anything else. Oregon electric utilities rely on about as much natural gas for power generation as all the natural gas utilities in the state combined.In 2021, Oregon’s natural gas deliveries for electric power was 140.1 Bcf. Natural gas deliveries for residential, commercial and industrial sectors were 134.5 Bcf. Source: EIA annual natural gas deliveries to consumers, Oregon, 2021, available at: https://www.eia.gov/beta/states/states/or/data/dashboard/consumption About 27% of Oregon’s power generation still relies on coal as well.
In Oregon, 29% of GHG emissions are from electricity; 6% is associated with all the gas use by our residential and commercial customers.Oregon DEQ In-Boundary GHG Inventory 2019 data
The emissions from electric generation and its impact on air quality were not mentioned in the County’s report.
Updated January 31, 2023.