Tuesday, July 25, 2017

News on the Climate Change Front, Mostly Good

First the good news. The Vancouver-based National Observer reports that Canadian security regulators are beginning to scrutinize publicly-traded companies to determine if they're hiding climate change risks from investors. This appears to echo investigations underway in America launched by several states' Attorney-Generals.

Provincial securities officials have been spending the spring and summer investigating exactly how climate disclosure is regulated in Canada. The Canadian Securities Administrators, the umbrella group representing several provincial regulators, expect to issue a report after their investigation has concluded. The group says the goal of the review is to instigate “high quality disclosure of material information” to help investors make informed investment and voting decisions.

The probe follows several legal cases that question whether companies are liable for the changes to the earth’s climate as a result of their products or activities, or whether they are misleading investors over the risks posed by climate change to their businesses.

In the U.S., they include a high-profile investigation of a possible climate change "fraudulent scheme" at fossil fuel giant Exxon Mobil, as well as a lawsuit filed last week in the San Francisco Bay Area against dozens of oil and gas companies alleging that they hid knowledge of carbon pollution's impact on the climate.

In Canada, environmental group Greenpeace asked Alberta’s securities regulator to stop an initial public offering of Kinder Morgan, questioning the company’s disclosure of climate risks to investors.

It's time the polluters pay:

The securities investigation will also undoubtedly be examined closely by the District of Highlands, a municipal area outside Victoria, B.C, which sent a “climate accountability letter” last week to 20 fossil fuel companies demanding they help pay climate costs like those that result from wildfires and drought.

“Until communities start asking fossil fuel companies to pay their fair share, it’s not on the radar,” said Andrew Gage, a staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law, in an interview.

“We’ve got a situation where communities around the world, and certainly in Canada, are having to already pay increased costs” for more resilient storm drains, and to deal with wildfires and floods, he said.

“Right now the assumption is that 100 per cent of those costs will be paid for by taxpayers. This letter, and others we hope to see sent, are signaling publicly that that’s not the assumption.”

I expect this will go over like the proverbial lead balloon in Ottawa. What's that I hear? Oh yes, that's our environment minister, Dame Cathy, bleating, "national unity, national unity...."

Another item in the National Observer questions whether Big Oil is committing fraud to keep its books in the black. Bill McKibbin calls Exxon's shenanigans "the most consequential lie in human history."

“They kept that lie going past the point where we can protect the poles, prevent the acidification of the oceans, or slow sea level rise enough to save the most vulnerable regions and cultures. Businesses misbehave all the time, but … no corporation has ever done anything this big and this bad.”

Exxon denies it did anything wrong and calls the investigation a “political witch hunt.”

Remind you of anyone else bigly in the news lately?


The company didn't respond to questions from National Observer reporter Carl Meyer who asked the company and its Canadian subsidiary, Imperial Oil, about the situation last week.

New York’s attorney general alleges that Exxon’s Canadian arm — Imperial Oil — was “false and misleading” by keeping two sets of books. One set designed to placate investors worried about the implications of climate policy, and a different set that Imperial actually used for its operations.

Exxon's lead lawyer, Theodore V. Wells Jr., wants the AG to close the investigation, arguing that there is no evidence to pursue the probe.

Eric Schneiderman, the New York AG, has gotten a court order to get testimony from Jason Iwanika, an Imperial Oil employee who pushed back against his bosses’ bookkeeping practices in the Alberta oilsands.

Around the world, lawyers are riffing off the fight against tobacco companies and launching lawsuits against big oil or against governments for failing to protect citizens from fossil fuel impacts.

Just this week three communities in California sued 37 fossil fuel companies over damages from sea level rise.

How embarrassing must it be for our Liberal government that the New York AG is going after a Canadian company, Imperial Oil, for cooking its books while Ottawa sits there with its thumb up its ass?

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