Council won’t challenge fossil fuel companies

Council won’t challenge fossil fuel companies

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Sunlight filtering through wildfire smoke gives an eerie light over the Similkameen Valley west of Osoyoos. (Richard McGuire photo)

Lyonel Doherty
Oliver Chronicle

The Town of Oliver isn’t about to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for climate change.

That was the decision recently when council agreed not to act on a request by West Coast Environmental Law to challenge these companies on greenhouse effect costs.

In recent correspondence, West Coast requested that the Town join more than a dozen other communities in writing climate accountability letters to 20 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies.

The Town was asked to take action to protect Oliver and its taxpayers from the impacts and costs of climate change.

West Coast says some communities have been on the front lines with evacuations and destruction by wildfires, floods and droughts that were “almost certainly made worse due to climate change.”

West Coast says it would be fiscally irresponsible for B.C.’s municipalities to pass 100 per cent of these costs on to their taxpayers without seeking to recover some of it from the corporations that directly profit from all of the sales.

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Councillor Aimee Grice said she would be in favour of sending a letter.

“As far as environmental responsibility, I think it’s a small step we can take as a municipality.”

But Councillor Larry Schwartzenberger said there are other communities that have done this and gotten into “hot water.” He referred to one mayor who did this in a resource community where many citizens were employed by fossil fuel companies.

“If we’re driving around in cars and heating our homes with natural gas, it seems very hypocritical to be sending letters to fossil fuel companies saying they’re ruining our environment when we’re using their products.”

Councillor Dave Mattes agreed, saying it’s out of the Town’s purview to be going after corporations in this manner.

“Is it really our role to go after them? I don’t believe that it is,” he said.

Councillor Petra Veintimilla didn’t think sending a letter would be the right step for council. But she said it would be interesting to begin tracking the cost of climate change incurred by the community, pointing to the wildfires and floods. 

Council agreed to receive and file the request, with Councillor Grice opposed.

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