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

Lake Flashback: New editor, new design, and recurring vandalism

Changes at Lake Cowichan papers and damage to business and services a theme in late March

Drivesmart column: Are we perpetuating mediocrity with how we teach young drivers?

If the teacher is ill equipped to teach, the new driver will not learn what is necessary

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

Cowichan Valley Public Art Gallery sharing wealth of online art

The CVPAG page will feature new artists and galleries every two weeks

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

List of cancelled Cowichan Valley community events

An ongoing list of events that have been cancelled in the Cowichan Valley due to COVID-19

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

B.C. VIEWS: Pandemic shows need for adequate care home staffing

Seniors in B.C. care homes face challenging times

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

Most Read