The municipality of Whistler, B.C., is asking the oil and gas industry to pay its “fair share” by chipping in for budget costs related to climate change.
In a letter addressed to Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. dated Nov. 15, Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton said the town’s taxpayers “are paying 100 per cent of the costs” associated with climate change events such as “drought, flooding, and extreme weather.”
He’s asking CNRL to pay in to “the costs of climate change being experienced by Whistler,” including the municipalities’ “$1.4 million investment in community wildfire protection activities” for 2018.
“As a town with a population of less than 15,000 people, this is a significant cost to bear along with costs associated with impacts to winter and summer sports tourism,” he said in the letter.
The request is part of a campaign by West Coast Environmental Law and started as a motion to Union of British Columbia Municipalities during its annual meeting this year.
The UBCM motion was defeated, but the West Coast Environmental Law campaign carried on by “demanding accountability from fossil fuel companies,” the campaign website reads.
More than a dozen B.C. municipalities dating back to 2017 have sent similar letters to energy companies, including an open letter from the District of West Vancouver.
CNRL was the only Canadian company to receive the Whistler letter, but similar requests for funding from the resort were sent to 19 international producers, including British Petroleum, ExxonMobil, ConoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell and Devon Energy.
A draft of the letter was penned by the resort’s outgoing council before a municipal election on Oct. 20.
Crompton said he acknowledges Whistler “benefits greatly” from tourism dollars from the fossil fuel industry, saying Whistler is not ignoring its own role in climate change but rather encouraging “action on climate change.”
“Our goal was to draw attention to climate change. In no way was our aim to cause anyone to feel unwelcome in Whistler,” he said in a statement.
Tristan Goodman, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, said he understands the issues being raised around climate change, but added singling out companies over a global problem doesn’t seem logical.
He said the letters will likely rankle people who rely on the energy sector and even urged travellers to “reconsider their activities and participation in resorts” who have signed on to the campaign.
“We have to remember most of Whistler’s clients are actually driving or coming (there) using fossil fuels . . . They might want to consider their customer base as they move forward,” Goodman said.
Prasad Panda, UCP energy shadow minister and MLA for Calgary Foothills, said any agreements on private sector climate change funding “is between the companies and the municipalities.”
“If they come to an agreement mutually . . . beneficial to those communities and the companies’ balance sheets are strong enough to support that, that’s between them,” Panda said.
CNRL declined to comment on the letter when reached Wednesday night.
— With files from Chris Varcoe
On Twitter: @RCRumbolt
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