Over 2,700 comments filed with the Consumer Product Safety Commission appear likely to be the result of an American Gas Association template letter that the trade group promoted on Facebook earlier this month. The regulatory agency opened a docket in March to review information on the hazards associated with gas ranges and proposed solutions. Data in the Meta Ad Library shows that AGA just spent between $6,000-$7,500 to promote its letter for users to sign and send to the CPSC, targeting the ads to people aged 65 and above. 

AGA’s template letter promotes a 2013 report based on the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). The study’s authors used survey data to conclude no association existed between gas cooking and lifetime asthma or current asthma compared to children who lived in households with electric stoves. But that study was based on a global survey and not on measured concentrations of NO2 in the home. A co-author of the study AGA is promoting said that AGA has misused his study. “That’s not a good use of our study,” environmental epidemiology professor Bert Brunekreef told E&E News. Brunekreef conducted a separate analysis in 2013 published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2013, which found that in children, gas cooking increased the risk of asthma. Another 2013 study from Kathleen Belanger et al. investigated the effects of indoor NO2 exposure on asthma severity among a diverse sample of children. The study revealed that every 5-ppb increase in NO2 levels was associated with a dose-dependent increase in the risk of asthma severity. 

AGA’s budget is primarily composed of dues it charges its member gas utilities that are, in turn, recovering these fees from their customers. While AGA annually informs its member companies of the portion of the dues allocated to lobbying, which is not typically paid for by customers, the trade group relies on a narrow definition of lobbying. AGA itself explained, “while lobbying is a form of advocacy, not all advocacy is lobbying,” which allows utilities to bill customers for advocacy expenses, such as opposing regulations, litigation, marketing, and public relations.  

CPSC’s Request For Information and DOE’s Efficiency Standards for Cooktops Generates Backlash from Fossil Fuel Industry and Climate Deniers

In October 2022, the CPSC voted unanimously to direct staff to issue a Request for Information (RFI) to obtain public input on hazards associated with gas stoves. Two months later, a peer-reviewed study concluded that more than 12% of childhood asthma cases in the U.S. can be attributed to gas stoves. Researchers at RMI, the University of Sydney, and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine authored the peer-reviewed report. RMI is an independent, non-partisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for a decarbonized energy system. Several Democratic Senators and Representatives also sent a letter to the CPSC in December 2022 requesting the agency address the high level of dangerous indoor air pollutants emitted by gas stoves.

Then in early January 2023, Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. told Bloomberg that gas stoves are “a hidden hazard” and added, “Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.” The remarks generated an immediate backlash from fossil fuel industry consultants and a web of right-wing groups with a history of attacking climate science. These individuals and groups set their sights on discrediting RMI, the CPSC, and others in the Biden Administration.

The CPSC’s request for information occurred parallel to the Department of Energy’s supplemental notice of proposed efficiency rules for cooktop appliances, published on February 1. DOE is charged with developing and implementing energy efficiency standards by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and has established standards for many household appliances, including dishwashers, air conditioners, and furnaces. The program’s cumulative utility bill savings are estimated to be $2 trillion by 2030, translating to hundreds of dollars in savings for a typical household. 

DOE accepted comments, data, and information regarding its proposal through April 3. Like AGA’s letter campaign, the DOE docket comprises the same comments – this time originating from Heritage Foundation’s Heritage Action For America. An April 18th screenshot of Heritage’s action alert noted 2,180 actions taken.

Along with the Heritage-produced comments, groups with a legacy as climate deniers or defenders of the tobacco industry submitted their comments to DOE, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the CO2 Coalition, Institute for Energy Research, and E&E Legal Institute

On Wednesday, May 24, AGA will join representatives from the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Institute for Energy Research for a hearing on DOE’s proposed rule, held by the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs. 

Editor’s note: An earlier version said “over 60% of comments” in the CPSC docket appear likely to result from an AGA template letter promoted on Facebook. The article overlooked Sierra Club’s filing, which includes over 4,400 member comments supporting the investigation into the risks and hazards to consumers posed by gas ranges.

Featured image: screenshot of PBS NewsHour YouTube

Posted by Matt Kasper

Matt Kasper is the Deputy Director at the Energy and Policy Institute. He focuses on defending policies that further the development of clean energy sources. He also focuses on the companies and their front groups that obstruct policy solutions to global warming. Before joining the Energy and Policy Institute in 2014, Matt was a research assistant at the Center for American Progress where he worked on various state and local policy issues.