Thank you Ms. Slakov for including me and my case in your excellent letter, and thanks to PR PEAK for publishing it!
Kids in Newfoundland demanding climate justice – NOW!
Letter: Class action, Efforts to protect our children’s future have clearly been undermined by relatively few people by Jan Slakov, April 17, 2023, PR PEAK, Voice of the Qathet Region
I’m grateful that your Earth Month coverage includes an article on the class action lawsuit local governments can join to sue big oil [“Climate change cost us: Who will pay?” April 13].
Efforts to protect our children’s future have clearly been undermined by relatively few people. Often the legal system has failed to protect the health of people and other living things.
A glaring example of that is the epic legal case initiated by a woman who once was a consultant to the fracked-gas company then known as Encana, Jessica Ernst. Ernst sued Encana, and the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board, after fracking for “natural gas” contaminated many people’s water, including hers.
With the help of West Coast Environmental Law, and volunteer efforts ramping up in many BC communities, we may succeed in getting the legal system to help taxpayers recoup costs associated with the climate crisis. These efforts will also help ensure that financing will go toward transitioning to more sustainable ways of living, rather than toward more fossil fuel expansion.
Van Anda, Texada Island
Ms. Slakov sent the link to her letter in an email along with these comments:
I mention Jessica Ernst’s outstanding efforts. To get a full picture of what she did, there’s Andrew Nikiforuk’s book, Slickwater. One quote from that page:
“If Jessica Ernst had won her case before the Supreme Court of Canada, fracking companies would be running scared, because their protector and advocate, the Alberta Energy Regulator – and all similar government agencies — would no longer be able to cover up for them. The legal landscape around fossil fuel extraction would have instantly been changed forever, and ultimately, the physical landscape in which we live would have been changed also.”
Andrew also wrote this article: https://thetyee.ca/News/2021/05/18/Brutal-Legal-Odyssey-Jessica-Ernst-Ends/ .
MUST WATCH! This clip below sums up in my view how Canadian courts and their self-regulator of judges, the Judicial Council (judges regulating judges); self-regulating lawyers and their law clubs (lawyers regulating lawyers) and benchers (directors, also lawyers, on the boards of those self-regulating lawyer clubs); the self-regulated oil and gas industry; and our politicians that appoint our self-regulated judges, let lawyers and industry self-regulate, function:
Clarke and Dawe – The Front Fell Off Jun 23, 2010, 2:08 Minutes
Climate Crossroads: Who will pay? We have choices. Deteriorating infrastructure. Steep tax increases. Or Big Oil paying its fair share by Robert Hackett, Apr 14, 2023, PEAK Voice of the Qathet Region
Consider these statements from City of Powell River in 2018:
“Like other communities…, we are increasingly concerned about the harmful effects that climate change will have …” These include “increased fire risks, extended summer droughts and extreme winter rain events” impacting “our roads and stormwater management and increasing our costs as a local government.” Not to mention “rising sea-levels and coastal erosion.”
Those excerpts are from a letter to several major oil companies dated April 9 of that year.
Since then, we’ve experienced a storm devastating the sea walk in Westview in January 2022, atmospheric rivers flooding the Fraser Valley, smoke-filled, indoor-only days, and a deadly heat dome.
The cost to local taxpayers? Precise numbers are scarce, but here are some:
$5.3 billion – average annual investment Canada needs for municipal infrastructure and climate adaptation.
$2.98 million – qathet’s share of the above, if we paid Canada’s per person average.
$800,000 – Powell River’s 2023 budget for sea walk upgrading, including $400,000 from the Canada Community-Building Fund (gas tax) and $400,000 from the Powell River Community Forest Reserve, according to city documents.
60 per cent – municipal governments’ share of Canada’s public infrastructure (roads, police and fire services, parks, recreation centres, water supplies and management, et cetera). Most people value such community foundations, but understandably, we also dislike steep property tax increases.
And what about the cost to me, personally, spending over $400,000.00 of my life long savings (does not include the many kind donations from people around the world) trying to get access into Canada’s intentionally inaccessible judicial industry (the courts slammed their doors on me, over and over, and my lawyers did too, quitting, lying and more, violating the rules of their profession, then punishing me for going public about them quitting and not letting them gag me via “winding my lawsuit down” where they would have made yet more money off my suffering), to try to get my safe water back and seek justice for Encana/Ovintiv illegally frac’ing my community’s water supply, turning our aquifers into life-threatening time bombs and my private water well into a methane and ethane gushing polluter contributing to the climate crisis.
What’s the cost to me, personally, having to buy and maintain a truck to haul alternate water supply for my home, and the cost to pay for the gas/maintenance driving about 2 hours round trip to get water? And the cost of the water tank, fittings and hoses, and cleaning them, losing my storage room to house water tanks, etc.? And how much pollution am I causing hauling water because Encana, the Alberta gov’t and AER broke the law!?
What’s the cost to my health living frac’d and coping with the stress of living with a contaminated explosive polluting water well on my personal property, thanks to self-regulating Encana and its enabling, lying, fraud-engaging “regulators” AER and Alberta Environment?
So who’ll pay the bills for climate destruction?
Fossil fuels contribute over 75 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause climate disruption. The three largest oil corporations alone produce about 10 per cent of global GHG pollution. Oil companies make enormous profits (a record $219 billion in 2022, according to Reuters) partly because they offload the damage from producing, transporting and consuming their product – by treating our atmosphere as a private sewer.
Recently disclosed internal documents prove that the major oil companies knew, from their own scientific research, of their contributions to potential climate catastrophe, as early as the 1970s. But rather than lead a transition to a safer energy system, Big Oil covered up and deceived the public about what they knew, and undermined potential alternatives that could have avoided today’s climate crisis. This is superbly documented by Geoff Dembicki in The Petroleum Papers (available through Powell River Public Library or Pocketbooks).
For such reasons, Powell River and other cities wrote in 2018 to some major oil companies asking them to pay their “fair share.” The result? Zilch.
So in 2022, West Coast Environmental Law, a nonprofit society, suggested stronger legal muscle: get enough BC municipalities to set aside $1 per resident to file a class-action lawsuit. Following Vancouver’s in-then-out wavering, Gibsons’ council voted unanimously to join, in March, and the campaign continues.
Meanwhile, legal action against Big Oil is ramping up in the United States (40 states and cities so far) and elsewhere.
American tobacco companies used similar deny-and-delay tactics to defend their own lethal products. But after legal battles, they agreed in 1998 to pay $206 billion to 46 states for public health costs.
Powell River’s 2018 letter acknowledges that consumers and communities share responsibility. We could do more to halve GHG emissions by 2030 to avoid the worst climate scenarios. But greener alternatives are often unavailable or unaffordable to individuals.Because Greedy Big Oil makes sure of it. One of my many heart breaks caused by frac’ing, is that when I bought my 50 acres at Rosebud, I was going to install a solar farm and other energy created locally to serve myself, my loved ones, and share with Rosebud. My savings for my plan were gobbled up by lawyers, mine and those serving the defendants, thanks to our courts serving polluters and lawyers serving themselves and perpetuating our selfish, sick judicial system instead of serving the public interest and the rule of law. All my dreams for my land and Rosebud destroyed via Encana’s secretive illegal fracs. Who brings me water when I am too weak and old to keep doing it myself? No one has offered. No one.
We have choices. Deteriorating infrastructure. Steep tax increases. Or Big Oil paying its fair share. Let’s encourage our local governments to join the suit.
See the petition at suebigoil.ca/declaration.
Robert Hackett is a board member of qathet Climate Alliance.
Refer also to:
My note that I attached to this open letter to Ireland’s Minister for Energy, Eamon Ryan, on LNG U-turn.
Dear Minister Ryan.
My community was frac’d, starting in 2001. Encana broke all laws in place to protect drinking water, our regulators engaged in fraud to cover it up and let the company keep frac’ing and refrac’ing us. Now, in 2023, as a senior, I am still hauling alternate water, a most frustrating, expensive, and tiring chore. Soon, I will physically no longer be able to do it. Then what? If you allow LNG, which is frac’d gas (there nothing natural about it), you and your gov’t will cause more and more and more families to be harmed in North America, like I was. Don’t do it. The harms are massive. There are better ways. You can read about my story in Andrew Nikiforuk’s book Slick Water. I urge you to get a copy, and read it.
The frac harmed in Dimock, PA, USA, were just betrayed by Gov Josh Shapiro, and the court, to make the world think justice had been served to the families frac’d, with contaminated life-threatening water like mine. The court hearing was just another fraud to enable more frac’ing in that already dreadfully frac-harmed community, so that the violently extracted “natural” gas can be shipped to countries like yours, as LNG. The sordid betrayal is here: https://ernstversusencana.ca/judicial-frac-farce-dimock-pa-aquifer-polluter-coterra-cabot-rewarded-the-harmed-to-be-refracd-15-criminal-charges-incl-9-felonies-dropped-to-1-misdemeanor-judge-j-legg-accepts-coterra-ad/
Study what the company, regulator, gov’t and judge did to the people of Dimock. Study Slick Water and learn what was done to me and other families in Alberta. There is no possible way to frac without causing significant harms, harms that are never mitigated or fixed. The frac’d aquifers in my community have not been repaired, the frac’d aquifers in Dimock also, have not been repaired.
Think. And then, think again. If you allow LNG to come into your country, you abuse many of us in North America, again and again and again. We deserve the frac’ing of our water, health and lands to stop so that we may live a few years in peace before we die. LNG to Ireland will ensure they never stop frac’ing us.
Sincerely, Jessica Ernst
Give Canadian youth their day in court! Kids appeal 2020 loss trying to sue Canada over climate inaction where Harper’s Justice Michael D. Manson ruled it’s not for courts to decide. What cave does he (and Harper) live in?
Climate Courts: Let trials proceed without gov’ts if politicians care so little about rights of youth and fail to show up or are too ashamed about giving the rich and corporate polluters everything and nothing to our kids and their future.
Australia High Court “full bench of dinosaurs” unanimously rules Environment Minister owes no duty of care to protect youth from climate change when assessing fossil fuel projects (similar to Alberta courts ruling AER owes no duty of care to residents harmed by companies, not even when their drinking water supplies are illegally frac’d)
Bankruptcy, Deregulated & Weaponized: Used by the rich and powerful, judges, lawyers, corporations (including churches), politicians, etc. to hide truth, evade liability and accountability so as to keep polluting and poisoning us (as earth becomes increasingly unlivable). “Using bankruptcy, corporations get to eat their cake and lie about it too.”
New Study on Climate Litigation: Failing to heed latest science or lawyers intentionally working to ensure their clients’ lawsuits fail to keep big polluters, judges and enabling “regulators” and gov’ts happy?
Another cowardly North American judicial pass the buck? Federal appeals court throws out Juliana v. United States climate lawsuit in 2 to 1 ruling. In her blistering dissent: Judge Josephine Staton criticized the notion that courts have no role to play, saying govt itself acknowledged “the United States has reached a tipping point crying out for a concerted response – yet presses ahead toward calamity.”
Kids tried to sue Canada over climate inaction. They lost, Not for the courts to decide, Harper Gov’t appointed judge says. Kids plan to appeal. Bravo kids! I am grateful and in awe of you, but don’t expect “justice” to be served by our oil-soaked Supreme Court of Canada, or your Charter rights respected.
Rhode Island vs 21 Oil & Gas Companies: Judge William Smith characterized operations “leading to all kinds of displacement, death (extinctions, even), and destruction….Defendants understood the consequences of their activity decades ago…. But instead of sounding the alarm, Defendants went out of their way to becloud the emerging scientific consensus and further delay changes – however existentially necessary – that would in any way interfere with their multi-billion-dollar profits.”
Study: U.S. Fossil Fuel Subsidies Exceed Pentagon Spending, The world would be richer and healthier if the full costs of fossil fuels were paid, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund
Judicial Tragedy: U.S. District Judge William Alsup wanted to “stick to the science” and avoid politics, presided over standing room only tutorial on climate change, but let big oil off using politics. Science is on humanity’s side, the law is not
Lawsuit Targets Feds’ Failure to Consider Colorado Fracking’s Climate Harm. “And despite several court decisions making it clear that this failure is illegal, the BLM continues to allow oil and gas leasing to go forward without considering the climate impacts.”
Lawsuits in USA testing “attribution science.” Researchers can link weather events to emissions and companies responsible. “This body of literature…tells us that dangerous climate change is upon us, and people are suffering and dying…and it’s going to get worse.” For any potential uncertainty about climate attribution, there’s at least one truth that should override the rest: Fossil fuel companies “were aware decades ago what trouble climate change would be.”
Encana, one of the world’s 47 most polluting companies, named “morally responsible” for death & destruction; First time a human rights body stated fossil fuel companies can be found legally and morally liable for harms linked to climate change.
A Duty to Protect. “It is also not at all certain, that stricter climate policies will seriously harm our competitive position, or lead to companies leaving…supposed dangers that the State put forward in its defense. But even if this were the case these grounds are insufficient to assume that the Netherlands is not neglecting its duty of care.”
Damaging the Charter: Ernst vs Alberta Energy Regulator by Lorne Sossin, Dean Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. Comment: “It causes one to question how much both the plurality and the dissent were driven by the desired end-state of the judgment, rather than consistency in applying principles of public law.”
Encana named in 3 lawsuits by 2 California counties and 1 city claiming damages, that Encana and other companies deliberately presented misinformation about climate change and hindered action to address it
Texas: New Study by TAMEST, State’s Top Scientists (mostly industry supporters, so findings especially damning): Drilling in Shale causes pollution, earthquakes, billions in road damages annually, billions in trucking industry damages annually, 75% increase in rural crashes involving commercial vehicles. Health & Climate Change Impacts Not Assessed. Why Not? Too terrible?
“By any responsible account,” Chief Justice Castille wrote, “the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and the future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.”
Here’s why the “self-regulation” of industry, lawyers, and judges! BNN Interviews Alberta Oil Patch Consultant Brent Nimeck on Lexin and AER’s Orphan Wells: “This problem is 30 years in the making. … I would call it a Ponzi Scheme…. This is an orchestrated fraud from multiple angles: Industry, CAPP and the Alberta Energy Regulator have enabled this to happen. … Through our independent analysis and we’ve confirmed this at multiple sources within the energy regulator, the liabilities are over $300 billion. That’s what’s on the hook for Alberta taxpayers right now – $300 billion.” That’s just Alberta! As of 2017! Think of the trillions of dollars in oil industry liabilities in Canada, that keep growing and growing with no end in sight.