B.C. municipalities cover themselves after pressing oil producers for payment


Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton was forced to retreat last week after a letter he sent to oil producers seeking costs for climate change sparked a new skirmish in the current BCB-Alberta conflict over fossil fuels.

Crompton's letter sparked rapid protests by some in the Alberta energy industry and led to canceled travel plans and a decision to cancel part of an investor conference in Whistler. The mayor said he sincerely regrets that no one feels welcome in his city.

For the experts, the letter of exit illustrated on a local level several broad trends that gathered in the conversation around climate change, while the strong reaction that provoked was indicative of how polarized the debate has become.

Whistler was not alone in asking for payment from producers. More than a dozen other B.C. Municipalities have recently voted to join a campaign led by the West Coast Environmental Law to urge oil and gas companies to explore the costs that local governments are paying for climate change. The company did not respond to a comment request by Sunday deadline.

Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton was forced to retreat last week after a letter he sent to oil producers seeking costs for climate change sparked a new skirmish in the current BCB-Alberta conflict over fossil fuels.


Kathryn Harrison, a political science professor at the University of BC, said the campaign was consistent with a larger strategy to divert the attention of those who use fossil fuels to those who produce them, and to explain the costs of climate change here and now. . It also occurs when municipal governments around the world are taking on vocal roles in the environment.

"They are not typically the level of government that has authority and responsibility to adopt things like carbon pricing and exhaust emissions standards … but they are the ones who are on the front line when it comes to adapting to impacts and costs of climate change, "Harrison said.

In the Canadian context, the strategy of focusing on oil companies "tends to point the finger in Alberta," given that it is the heart of the country's oil and gas industry, she said.

Adam Pankratz, an adjunct professor at Sauder business school, said he would be surprised if oil producers did not feel like their industry was under attack and is not being recognized for its importance in the Canadian economy.

"They all recognize that a climate tax and the price of carbon are coming. … But in this environment this does not mean that they also need to be informed that they are responsible for all of Whistler's problems, "Pankratz said.

He said he found the strong industry reaction interesting. "There are these two solitudes that do not seem to want to talk to each other, but they do need, after all, just the almost vitriolic nature of this debate."

Among the counties that joined the campaign is West Vancouver, according to the West Coast Environmental Law. A letter printed on letterhead from the district mayor's office and posted on the environmental company's website urges industry recipients to make a financial contribution "to climate change mitigation." The letter was neither addressed nor signed, but was attributed to Mayor Mary-Ann Booth, who could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

"It is our position that you have played a key role in the degradation of the global atmosphere and in the creation of a number of threats to our community. Their contribution is readily detectable globally and therefore is considered legally significant and actionable, "the letter said.

"(As) we take on the task of planning, building and modifying our infrastructure and services, and developing a community that can withstand current and anticipated climate change, and we ask you to pay your fair share of the resulting costs. "

Squamish, Victoria, Saanich, North Saanich, Colwood, Highlands, Sooke, the city and the Powell River, Sechelt, Castlegar, Rossland and Slocan districts were listed by the West Coast Environmental Law as having voted to send "letters of accountability ". It is unclear how many, in fact, sent letters.

Lisa Helps, Victoria's mayor, sent a letter to Chevron asking the company to pay 3.34% of the costs related to the city's climate in the future. This letter was posted on the West Coast Environmental Law page.

"Climate change is the direct result of pollution from burning fossil fuels, including their products," his letter said.

"You can not make billions of dollars selling your product knowing you are causing significant financial damage to communities around the world, and you do not expect to pay at least some of that damage."

The response letters that the municipalities received from BHP, Total and Shell were also posted on the website of the West Coast Environmental Law.

"BHP welcomes the assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of climate change science, which found that climate warming is unequivocal, human influence is clear and physical impacts are inevitable," wrote Fiona Wild, president of BHP Billiton. sustainability and climate change. "As a leading global resource company, we are committed to doing our part in addressing climate change."

Manoelle Lepoutre, Total senior vice president of civil society engagement at Total, said that Total has always been guided by the observance of laws and regulations.

"In view of the above, we believe that Total can not be held responsible for the consequences of climate change."

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Editor's Note: Allan Holt is not the mayor of Sechelt, as erroneously reported in the previous story. Holt ran for mayor but was not elected.


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