Vehicles line up for B.C. Ferries sailing at Tsawwassen. Vancouver Island is entirely dependent on petroleum for transportation and tourism, including cruise ships as well as aircraft and ferries. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Vehicles line up for B.C. Ferries sailing at Tsawwassen. Vancouver Island is entirely dependent on petroleum for transportation and tourism, including cruise ships as well as aircraft and ferries. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. communities push back against climate change damages campaign

Activists copying California case that was tossed out of court

While Victoria and other B.C. municipal councils are on board with an activist effort to demand compensation from global energy companies for their products’ effects of climate change, others are pushing back against what they see as an inappropriate use of local government and court resources.

In Fort St. John, the heart of B.C.’s oil and gas industry, Mayor Lori Ackerman and council plan to take a resolution to regional and provincial municipal associations this year, to oppose the lawsuit plan proposed across B.C. city halls in December.

One of the early supporters was Whistler council, which felt an immediate backlash when it adopted the lawsuit proposed by West Coast Environmental Law and the Georgia Strait Alliance. A resource industry conference in Whistler was cancelled, and an Alberta oil executive wrote an open letter to Whistler’s mayor pointing out that his tourist economy would collapse without road and airline access to the world-famous resort.

Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb has also been outspoken, pointing out that most residents of his and other resource communities depend on oil and gas for their livelihood, to get to work and run machinery.

“Places with hardcore green councils, like Victoria, enthusiastically signed up for this financial shakedown campaign to appease their progressive voters,” Cobb wrote in a commentary in the Williams Lake Tribune. “This is in spite of benefiting from a large tourism sector totally reliant on fossil fuels to power their cruise ships, ferries, float planes and other modes of travel.”

RELATED: Williams Lake mayor says forest industry may be next

RELATED: 16 B.C. communities join call for climate compensation

The activist letter touts the effort as a cheap way to send a message to selected companies such as ExxonMobil and BP, which Cobb dismisses as “virtue signalling” that is likely to generate only legal and staff costs for B.C. communities. It calls on councils to follow the lead of San Francisco and Oakland, which sued Chevron and four other companies for the effects of global warming and sea level rise on their cities.

In a June 2018 ruling, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said he agrees with the scientific consensus of carbon dioxide emissions from fuel use affecting the climate, but responses are best left to the executive and legislative branches of government.

“Their causes are worldwide,” Alsup wrote. “The benefits of fossil fuels are worldwide.”

RELATED: San Francisco Examiner report on California decision

RELATED: B.C. NDP launches lawsuit against opioid makers

The concept has also been popular with the B.C. NDP government. Last fall, Attorney General David Eby moved ahead on a planned class-action lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies, to claim damages for opioid drug overdoses that followed widespread promotion of opioid pills like oxycodone.

Eby acknowledged that the pharmaceutical case is similar to a lawsuit against tobacco companies launched by the previous NDP government in 1997. That case still drags on more than 20 years later.

Central Saanich council made short work of the West Coast Environmental Law proposal. Mayor Ryan Windsor and two councillors voted for the letter to be referred to committee for further discussion, but the rest of council voted that down at their Dec. 10 meeting.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureClimate change

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The IIO is investigating after a police dog bit a man during a traffic stop near Ladysmith on April 17, 2021. (Black Press Media stock photo)
IIO investigating after police dog bites man near Ladysmith

RCMP dog bit man during traffic stop on Friday, April 17

Possible COVID-19 exposures were reported at Maple Bay Elementary between April 12 and 15. (Google Maps screenshot)
Possible COVID-19 exposure reported at Maple Bay Elementary

Exposures may have occurred between April 12 and 15

”It was an angry welcome for Cowichan-Ladysmith MLA Jan Pullinger when she arrived in Lake Cowichan Monday to open her constituency office. She was greeted with some of her long time supporters calling her a ‘liar’. Left to right, Jan Pullinger, Director of Area I, Lois Gage, school trustee Rolli Gunderson, school trustee Pat Weaver, Save our School Committee Chairperson, Tara Daly.” (Lake News/April 17,1996)
Flashback: Garbage, geography and tragedy

Remember these stories from Lake Cowichan?

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Parking permits for people with disabilities

These permits are issued to the person, not the vehicle owner or driver.

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future finally surfaces at Royal B.C. Museum

Museum dives into the world of the killer whale as delayed feature exhibition now open

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Polystyrene has been outlawed as a take-out option for restaurants in Tofino and Ucluelet. (Black Press Media file photo)
Styrofoam done as a takeout option on Island’s Pacific Rim

Tofino and Ucluelet ban polystyrene take-out containers

This photo shows crews battling the fire at 7987 Galbraith Cres. that caused extensive damage and displaced six residents early Sunday morning. (Central Saanich Fire/Department Twitter)
Six fortunate to escape terrifying early-morning fire in Greater Victoria

Damage to the duplex extensive with one resident said to be ‘catatonic’ after escaping building

Joudelie King wants to get out and live life to the fullest, but there are places she can’t go because they don’t meet her accessibility needs. (submitted photo)
New online tool provides accessibility map for people with disabilities

The myCommunity BC map provides accessibility info for nearly 1,000 locations in the province

British Columbia’s provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Wildfire fanned by winds near Merritt prompts evacuation alert

BC Wildfire Service says the suspected human-caused blaze was fanned by winds

Most Read