Port Moody votes to support class-action lawsuit over climate change

Seven B.C. municipalities and 40 organizations now support West Coast Environmental Law’s campaign to sue oil companies for climate costs.

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Port Moody city council voted Thursday to support a potential class-action lawsuit against large fossil fuel companies.

The city is the seventh municipality in B.C. to join the campaign, along with Burnaby, Squamish, Gibsons, View Royal, Slocan and Qualicum Beach, according to West Coast Environmental Law, the firm advocating for a suit to recoup climate change-related costs.

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“It is our intention to join with other local governments to support a class-action lawsuit to recover our fair share of climate costs, contingent on one local government acting as the representative class action plaintiff,” said Port Moody mayor Meghan Lahti in a statement.

In case a local government decides to act as lead plaintiff and a class-action lawsuit goes ahead, Port Moody is setting aside $1 per resident (estimated at $38,000) to be used as a contribution toward legal fees, added Lahti.

The money will be placed in a dedicated fossil fuel litigation reserve, which is to be funded from current insurance reserves. Lahti said because these reserves already exist there is no tax impact from this transfer of funds.

The city is calling on the provincial and federal governments to enact legislation that holds fossil fuel companies financially liable for climate-related harms caused by their contributions to climate change.

“Fossil fuels have contributed to climate change in a significant way and, as we work to implement Port Moody’s Climate Action Plan, it’s important that we recover costs so that we can reduce the financial burden placed on our residents.”

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Port Moody and other B.C. communities are facing massive costs as a direct result of fossil fuel pollution and climate change, said Andrew Gage, staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law.

Gage said fossil fuel companies have known as far back as the 1950s that their products would contribute to climate change.

“They fought tooth and nail to prevent the world from shifting away from fossil fuels so that they could make trillions of dollars in profits. It’s time they paid their fair share for the damage they’ve caused,” he said in a statement Friday.

The law firm is aiming for support from enough municipalities to represent half a million B.C. residents. So far they have about 340,000, and are hoping that another large city like Coquitlam, Surrey or Vancouver will join.

West Coast they still need one of the participating municipalities to step forward as a lead plaintiff, and then the suit could move forward once they hire legal representation.

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