EUGENE, Ore. — In less than a week's time, the effort to gather enough signatures to put Eugene's natural gas ban on the ballot has crossed a threshold.
According to the campaign manager for "Eugene Residents for Energy Choice," the committee has already received more than the nearly 6,500 signatures needed, but they will continue to get new signatures to ensure the city recorder validates the proper number.
“As of [Tuesday] morning, we were at 6,853 [signatures] approximately,” committee spokesperson Anne Marie Levis said. “We haven’t verified if those are all Eugene voters, valid voters or people like me who live right outside the city. So we’re going through verification. We imagine we’ll turn in our signatures right before the deadline.”
The deadline to turn in those signatures is March 10.
Although the committee is called "Eugene Residents for Energy Choice," it is a political action committee based in Portland, and all of its current funding comes from Northwest Natural Gas Company, which made one in-kind contribution of $51,401.31 on Feb. 10.
“We had 14 organizations that worked on the coalition,” she explained. “Northwest Natural was absolutely a part of that. So we have union members and farm organizations. We have home builders. We have the chamber of commerce and Travel Lane County. So in that way it really is a coalition.”
Although "Eugene Residents for Energy Choice” is based in Portland, there are three actual Eugene residents who signed the referendum petition on Feb. 9.
In a statement to our newsroom, one of the chief petitioners, Jim Ball, said, "A large cost of the ban will be the anger and resentment people will feel at losing this freedom to choose what's best for them."
If the referendum is validated, the expectation is to see it on the November ballot, although it’s possible it will get approval to be on the May ballot.
The ordinance, which the Eugene City Council passed earlier this month, bans natural gas infrastructure in new low-rise residential construction.