FortisBC Sued Over False Natural Gas Claims

A coalition of British Columbia residents and environmental groups is suing the province’s gas company for allegedly greenwashing its gas products and misleading consumers about the fuel’s climate impact and affordability. The lawsuit is the first of its kind in British Columbia and Canada.

The lawsuit alleges that FortisBC has improperly promoted natural gas to consumers as a form of home heating that is always more affordable and sustainable than electric alternatives. The lawsuit suggests that neither claim is true.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims that the company’s advertisements and promotional materials about its plan to use so-called “renewable natural gas” (RNG) made from organic waste instead of fossil deposits mislead consumers about the impact of the program on the environment and the gas system. In particular, court documents allege that the company has independent certification to demonstrate that the program to switch to GNR reduces harmful emissions.

The case “offers the opportunity to have, in public hearing, a discussion and examination of how greenwashing affects people, what kind of impacts fossil gas and renewable natural gas has and to have that evaluated in public and transparently,” said Andhra Azevedo. a lawyer from Ecojustice, one of the environmental groups, along with Stand.earth, which supports the lawsuit.

Canadian National Observer Fortis has been contacted for comment and will update the story when it becomes available.

Environmental groups sue FortisBC for greenwashing. #naturalgas #greenwash

The case comes amid a pitched battle in Canada as a growing number of municipalities and individuals try to phase out natural gas infrastructure in favor of electric alternatives such as heat pumps. Experts driving municipal governments’ efforts to phase out gas are clear that we must stop expanding fossil fuel infrastructure to keep global warming below a safe limit.

For months, FortisBC, other gas companies and lobbyists have pushed back against these municipal initiatives, using everything from online advertising campaigns to lawsuits in their efforts to stop them. Greenwashing has been a key pillar of this push, the lawsuit alleges, citing five types of misleading claims made in company ads.

Three of the alleged misleading claims focus on the company’s RNG program. In advertisements and other documents, the lawsuit alleges that FortisBC implies to its customers that most of its RNG comes from BC, that the company will eventually be able to meet all of the province’s gas needs with the fuel and that its supply of gas is from third parties. certified part to reduce emissions.

According to FortisBC’s own documents, the first two claims are misleading: most of the company’s GNR is so-called “nominal” GNR, meaning it is offset purchased from a GNR plant elsewhere in Canada or the United States. States, while the actual gas flowing through BC’s pipelines is conventional fossil gas. The company also noted in a 2022 report study that biomethane (gas made from organic waste) would only represent a small fraction of its future gas supply.

Additionally, Azevedo said the document cited by FortisBC to demonstrate that its RNG program is certified to reduce emissions only addresses emissions reductions obtained through the use of RNG in general. He does not evaluate whether the RNG credits FortisBC purchases toward its greenhouse gas emissions reduction program.

The lawsuit also claims that the company’s efforts to present gas heating and electric air conditioning as more cost-effective than electric heat pumps (which can serve both functions) are misleading. It also alleges that FortisBC’s claims that its gas products are aligned with BC emissions reduction rules misrepresent the company’s harmful climate impacts.

“It should not be left to small businesses and residential home designers to inform British Columbians about the true nature of the substance they are introducing into their homes,” said Eddie Dearden, a sustainable home builder in British Columbia. and one of the plaintiffs.

“As a sustainable builder, I also see the effects of FortisBC’s ads… with my clients who have to choose between using gas or electricity in their homes. FortisBC’s promotion of gas has made people think that connecting to the gas is climate friendly. This is misleading.”

A growing push against fossil fuel greenwashing is underway across Canada, with two complaints filed last year with the national competition office rejecting ads by the Canadian Gas Association and Pathways Alliance, a coalition of major oil and gas producers in the country.

Most recently, the issue was highlighted this winter when NDP MP Charlie Angus introduced a bill to address fossil fuel greenwashing. In response, he was quickly inundated with death threats and homophobic slurs, as well as a strong backlash from industry groups and conservative politicians.

Still, co-plaintiff and Stand.earth construction advocate Liz McDowell is hopeful that BC’s lawsuit will help curb the spread of misinformation about natural gas and other fossil fuels.

“We hope this is a way to force the company to stop selling this misinformation,” he said.

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