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Twenty communities asking fossil-fuel companies to pay up

A letter-writing campaign that sparked controversy in Whistler gains momentum

Twenty municipalities have signed onto a letter-writing campaign that sparked much controversy in the Sea to Sky corridor.

West Coast Environmental Law announced that its letter-writing campaign that asks fossil fuel companies to pay for the cost of climate change has gained momentum.

The City of Courtenay, on northern Vancouver Island, became the 20th local government to vote to send a letter with a unanimous vote on March 4, according to the law firm.

Other recent votes to send letters include the Village of Alert Bay (Jan. 14); the Village of New Denver (Jan. 22) and the North Coast Regional District (Jan. 23), a news release says.

"Fossil fuel companies have deliberately put profits before people and the planet for decades," said Tracey Saxby, executive director of My Sea to Sky, which helped initiate the campaign.

"If fossil fuel companies have to pay their fair share of the costs of climate change, this creates an economic incentive for them to stop opposing climate action and instead use their considerable resources and expertise to develop alternatives, and help solve our collective climate challenge."

"These local governments have 20/20 vision when it comes to seeing local climate costs and realizing that the fossil fuel industry must pay a share of these costs," said Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, in a news release.

Whistler also signed onto the campaign last year, but its letter resulted in a widely-publicized pull-out of fossil fuel companies from a high-profile conference at the municipality.

At the time, Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton said it was unfortunate a poorly worded letter had resulted in economic impacts locally.

"I could have chosen a better venue. I certainly should have sent a better letter. As I've said, I regret making any guests feel unwelcome. We were tonedeaf. We do, as a resort, depend on oil and gas," Crompton said on Dec. 18.

"So I don't disagree with the charge that the letter was hypocritical. But as a friend said to me, this issue is just too large for us to wait until all of our hands are clean."

Shortly after, Squamish decided that it would soften the language in its letter, which has yet to be sent.

There is also a countermovement to this effort. Fort St. John recently passed a resolution that it hopes to eventually bring to the UBCM. This motion calls municipalities' efforts to get fossil fuel companies to pay the bills "inappropriate."

A version of this article originally appeared in The Squamish Chief on Thursday, March 12.