Canadian Town Suffers Blowback After Mayor Crusades Against Big Oil

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A resort town in the western portion of Canada is dealing with fallout after the mayor demanded the country’s oil and gas companies pay for what he says are climate change-related disasters.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce announced it was canceling an oil and gas conference after Whistler Mayor Jack Compton wrote a Dec. 14 letter to the companies asking them to pay for damages.

CIBC said the move came after oil companies refused to attend the event in Whistler.

“In recognition of your collective and justified frustration, we do not want to put you in a position of choosing between our conference and doing what is right. We are therefore removing the oil and gas presentation stream from our conference website,” Roman Dubczak, CIBC’s managing director, wrote in a Dec. 14 email to Compton that a local outlet obtained.

Activists associated with West Coast Environmental Law spearheaded the campaign.

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The letter is one of the first steps toward local governments to engage “in a joint lawsuit to claim compensation for the costs of preparing for climate change,” WCEL noted on its website.

The town’s mayor readily recognizes that Whistler’s economy relies heavily on oil.

“We recognize that there are hundreds of thousands of Canadians that work directly and indirectly in the oil and gas sector and they are very proud of the work they do,” Compton said in a Dec. 13 Facebook video addressing the controversy.

“Whistler acknowledges as a community that we depend on fossil fuels.”

WCEL receives funding from wealthy liberal groups like the Oak Foundation, which is involved in efforts similar litigation against oil companies in the U.S.

The foundation donates money to EarthRights International, a legal nonprofit representing Boulder and San Miguel County, Colorado, in their climate liability lawsuit against Exxon Mobil and Suncor.

Whistler is just one of several towns currently demanding oil companies pay climate mitigation efforts.

Several cities in California and Boulder, Colorado, are among the highest profile areas currently engaged in climate lawsuits against ExxonMobil and other oil companies some activists believe are responsible for climate change. 

Many of the law firms involved in the lawsuits also stand to benefit financially.

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Sher Edling LLP could capitalize on a big pay-day if San Francisco’s lawsuit against the oil company settles, according to financial documents.

The contract between the firm, San Francisco and the county is complex and lays out a multi-tiered payment method for Sher Edling.

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