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Protesters Disrupt Press Conference By Natural Gas Advocates

Benjamin Purper

Protesters today (Monday) disrupted a press conference by advocates for natural gas in homes and buildings. This comes after 20 cities in the Inland Empire have passed resolutions in support of natural gas. KVCR's Benjamin Purper has the story.

As cities like Berkeley move to ban natural gas in new construction, 20 out of 65 Inland Empire cities - that's 30% - have passed resolutions in support of natural gas.

That's partly because a lobbying group, Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions, has been going around visiting these cities and urging them to support "balanced" energy plans that include natural gas.

On Monday, natural gas utility SoCalGas and Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions joined city and county leaders in a press conference calling for even more support for natural gas, even as the state moves to use all renewable energy sources by 2045.

The press conference started with Paul Granillo, CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership and Vice Chair of Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions.

Granillo:More than 120 people move to the Inland Empire every day, and for good reason. California is known for its high housing market. But our Inland Empire residents enjoy a less-expensive cost of living in comparison to our coastal neighbors. If natural gas is eliminated as an affordable fuel option, our homeowners and businesses would suffer.”

However, protesters soon showed up chanting and holding signs.

Granillo: “I'm here today because as a representative of business and our residents, I know we must choose the most cost-effective option for the Inland Empire. Because when people spend a disproportionate amount on the basics, they have less left to spend on our businesses. It's simple economics. So in this current economic environment, it's imperative that we choose the energy sources that are most effective to us.”

Protesters soon set up next to the event.

Protesters: “What do we want? CLEAN AIR! When do we want it? NOW!”

Yassi Kavezade is a community organizer with the Sierra Club. She says the demonstrators came out to protest Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions’ lobbying.

Kavezade: “So we came out here today because Southern California Gas Company is promoting a front group called Californians for a Balanced Energy Solutions, and we like to actually, you know, we like to hone in the truth with our stories and our activism, because they've created a movement utilizing a lot of the corruption and money in our politics with cities passing resolutions that haven't been accessible to the public, and so we're just trying to put a public face, we're trying to paint an authentic picture of what it is like to live in the I.E. instead of a picture that's fueled by corporate interests and outside development for the profit gains of one corporation like Southern California Gas Company and the other associated organizations.”

Matt Vespa, an attorney with environmental nonprofit Earthjustice, says Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions is a front group for SoCalGas, and that their message doesn’t belong in a state that’s committed to phasing out fossil fuels.

Vespa: “First of all it's a front group and so there's no transparency, I mean you've got SoCalGas basically paying for everything and controlling it, yet that's not disclosed. So it tried to present itself as some kind of grassroots entity when in fact SoCalGas is behind it. So there's an issue there in transparency. And secondly, the message that we need to keep using gas or somehow there's some kind of right to continue to burn fossil fuels, which is their message, is really holding us back on having clean air in California and having a stable climate. And so it's particularly concerning in Southern California where air quality is a serious issue, where gas contributes to air quality problems, both outdoor air quality and indoor air quality problems through gas stoves, and it's really selling a very harmful message to California and really holding back urgently-needed progress on addressing the climate crisis.” 

SoCalGas says natural gas is a more affordable and less disruptive alternative to traditional fossil fuels that would meet California’s climate goals.

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