American Gas Association

The American Gas Association (AGA) is a trade group for U.S. gas distribution utilities and their corporate parents. AGA promotes the use of methane gas and seeks to influence federal, state, and local energy policy. It has led national campaigns to block appliance energy efficiency standards, halt building code upgrades designed to reduce pollution, and thwart local governments’ efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The group’s board is made up of gas utility executives. DTE Energy Chairman and CEO Jerry Norcia chairs the AGA board.

AGA’s political advocacy efforts are far-reaching. The Energy and Policy Institute submitted expert testimony on behalf of the Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota to dispute rate recovery of AGA dues by Xcel Energy in its Minnesota gas rate case filed in 2023. Xcel ultimately agreed to drop its request to recover AGA dues as part of a settlement. As detailed in the testimony and described below, most of AGA’s political activities are aimed at promoting gas usage and/or hindering efforts to increase energy efficiency and beneficial electrification. These activities include:

AGA pushes false solutions

As part of their effort to increase reliance on methane gas and related infrastructure investment, AGA and its member utilities routinely promote false solutions that are not proven at scale, cost more than electrification, and have limited climate benefits. The gas industry has doubled down in recent years on “renewable natural gas” or biogas, and hydrogen, using dubious promises about their benefits to justify the ongoing expansion of the methane gas system.

Internal AGA meeting notes from March 2018 reveal that the industry planned to use biogas advocacy as part of a strategy to “mitigate” stakeholder opposition, specifically from environmental groups. Several reports and studies in recent years cast serious doubt over utilities’ projected costs, benefits, and even viability of biogas and hydrogen.

Utility customers foot the bill for AGA misinformation

In April 2024, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Ed Markey blasted AGA for “its misinformation campaigns.” Markey noted that AGA has known about the health harms of gas appliances “for decades, but worked for years to mislead the public.” AGA is funded in large part by dues paid by its gas utility members, which those member utilities generally add to their customers’ utility bills.

“These associations can say the terrible things and push the fraudulent lies that the companies themselves with customers and shareholders don’t want to be immediately associated with,” Whitehouse said. “Again, more deception as to who’s really behind this.”

To push back against the links between gas stove emissions and respiratory illness, AGA adapted the Big Tobacco playbook to suit its needs. It undermined science that showed gas appliances pose health risks, including an increased risk of developing childhood asthma – even using some of the same researchers and public relations firms paid by tobacco companies to downplay the proven risks of their product. The gas industry’s tactics influenced regulatory decision-making at the Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Product Safety Commission and have continued up to the present day.

Utilities argue they separate the costs of AGA’s lobbying activities from the amounts requested for ratepayer recovery. However, AGA internal budget documents show that political advocacy activities permeate the organization and broadly commingle with other activities. As a result, it appears that AGA and its member utilities routinely undercount the group’s political advocacy expenses and end up charging utility customers for them – even though these activities often conflict with customers’ interests, like reducing energy usage/bills, avoiding the price volatility of methane gas, and addressing climate change.

Utilities face mounting pressure to leave AGA

Investor-owned gas utilities are not required to be AGA members. Eversource Energy, New England’s largest utility, left AGA in 2022 to “redirect costs to more targeted associations and memberships with a focus on decarbonization to support [its] company-wide operations.” Eversource’s exit demonstrates that AGA membership is not necessary for utility operations, especially for utilities that have committed to decarbonize. 

In the wake of Eversource’s decision to leave AGA, other utilities including Xcel Energy and PG&E have faced pressure to follow suit. A letter that climate, public health, and environmental justice groups sent to Xcel CEO Bob Frenzel noted that AGA is “at the forefront” of gas lobbying efforts, including interference in state policies designed to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. 

In April 2024, protesters convened outside AGA’s office in Washington, D.C. to spotlight AGA’s practice of using misinformation to keep Americans tethered to fossil fuels.

Posted by Karlee Weinmann

Karlee Weinmann is a Research and Communications Manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. In her previous role at the City of Minneapolis, she focused on climate and land use policy and led development of nationally recognized ordinances that increase transparency of home energy costs. Karlee was also a researcher for the Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and, before that, a reporter covering Wall Street dealmaking for a legal newswire. She lives in Minneapolis.