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Squamish council votes to support class action suit against fossil fuel companies

The district will set aside funds— $1 per resident or about $25,000— in the 2025 budget for this proposed suit.

Squamish
File photo of Mount Garibaldi in Squamish. Photo by Sunwolf Lodge /Vancouver Sun

The District of Squamish voted 5-2 this week to support a proposed class action lawsuit spearheaded by a B.C.-based law firm, joining two other local governments.

The district voted Tuesday to set aside funds— $1 per resident or about $25,000— in the 2025 budget for this suit.

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Last year, Vancouver, under then mayor Kennedy Stewart, council also voted 6-5 to support West Coast Environmental Law’s Sue Big Oil campaign and had planned to participate in the legal action that will ask the world’s major oil companies to pay municipalities to help cover climate-change-related costs like seawall repairs and protections from extreme heat.

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But it was later overturned by current mayor Ken Sim and his predominantly ABC council.

“Given that Vancouver already spends $50 million per year on climate-related damages, this is, in our view, was short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible decision,” said Andrew Gage, a lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, told Postmedia Wednesday.

Squamish joins the Townships of Gibsons and View Royal in joining the proposed class action suit. Gage said many other jurisdictions, including the Islands Trust trustees and Powell River and Highland councils are considering the proposal.

“Squamish is spending $13 million on dike upgrades, millions more on wildfire preparedness, and still more on other climate impacts,” said Tracey Saxby, executive director of My Sea to Sky, an environmental group advocating for the district to join the suit.

“We cannot afford to let companies like Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil which have played a huge role in causing the climate crisis off the hook.”

Fiona Koza, a climate accountability strategist with West Coast Environmental Law, said a class action lawsuit by B.C.’s local governments against fossil fuel companies is “the fiscally responsible option” for communities like Squamish, which are facing massive bills as a direct result of climate change.

“These companies knew in the 1950s and 60s that their products would cause climate change, and they chose to aggressively expand while fighting tooth and nail to prevent consumers and governments from moving away from fossil fuels. They must pay their fair share.”

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