A coalition of B.C. residents and environmental groups are taking the province's gas utility to court 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 B.C. and Canada.

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

Moreover, the suit claims the company's advertisements and promotional material for its plan to use so-called "renewable natural gas" (RNG) made from organic waste instead of fossil deposits – misleads consumers about the program's impact on the environment and gas system. Notably, court documents allege the company has independent certification to prove the program to switch to RNG reduces harmful emissions.

The case "offers an opportunity to have, in open court, a discussion and examination of how greenwashing affects people, what kind of impacts fossil gas has and renewable natural gas has and to get that assessed in public and transparently," said Andhra Azevedo, a lawyer with Ecojustice, one of the environmental groups, along with Stand.earth, that is supporting the lawsuit.

FortisBC is aware of the Notice of Civil Claim filed today and “will not comment on the merits of the claim,” a company spokesperson wrote in an email to Canada’s National Observer.

Environmental groups sue FortisBC for greenwashing. #naturalgas #greenwashing

“FortisBC takes climate change very seriously and is taking action to help BC meet its climate goals. We’ve always worked to protect the environment— whether by helping customers reduce their GHG emissions, progressing initiatives to lower our own operational GHG emissions or implementing new environmental protections.”

The case comes amidst a pitched battle in Canada as a growing number of municipalities and people attempt to phase out natural gas infrastructure in favour of electric alternatives like heat pumps. Experts fueling the municipal governments' efforts to phase out gas are clear that we must stop expanding fossil fuel infrastructure to keep global heating below a safe limit.

For months, FortisBC, other gas utilities and lobby groups have pushed back on these municipal initiatives, using everything from online ad campaigns to lawsuits, in their effort to stall them. Greenwashing has been a key pillar of this push, the suit alleges, citing five types of misleading claims made by company ads.

Three of the alleged misleading claims focus on the company's RNG program. In ads and other documents, the suit alleges that FortisBC implies to customers that most of its RNG is sourced within B.C., that the company will eventually be able to meet all of the province's gas needs with the fuel, and its gas supply is third-party certified to reduce emissions.

According to FortisBC's own documents, the first two claims are misleading: Most of the company's RNG is so-called "nominal" RNG, meaning it is an offset purchased from an RNG plant in other parts of Canada or the U.S. while the actual gas flowing through B.C. pipes is conventional fossil gas. The company also noted in a 2022 study that biomethane – gas made from organic waste – would only ever account for a small fraction of its future gas supply.

Moreover, Azevedo said the document cited by FortisBC to prove its RNG program is certified to reduce emissions only addresses the emissions reductions gained by using RNG generally. It does not evaluate if the RNG credits FortisBC purchases for its program actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The suit also claims the company's efforts to frame gas heating and electric air conditioning as more cost-effective than electric heat pumps – which can achieve both functions – is misleading. It also alleges FortisBC's claims that its gas products are in alignment with B.C. emissions reductions rules misrepresent the company's harmful climate impacts.

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

"As a sustainable builder, I also see the effects of FortisBC ads…with my clients who are having to make choices between using gas or electricity in their homes. FortisBC’s promotion of gas has made people think that connecting to gas is climate-friendly — this is misleading."

A growing push against fossil fuel greenwashing is underway across Canada, with two complaints filed last year to the national competition bureau pushing back against advertisements by the Canadian Gas Association and the Pathways Alliance, a coalition of the country's largest oil and gas producers.

More recently, the problem was highlighted this winter when NDP M.P. Charlie Angus tabled a bill to tackle fossil fuel greenwashing. In response, he was quickly swamped by death threats and homophobic slurs, in addition to strong pushback by industry groups and conservative politicians.

Still, Liz McDowell, co-plaintiff and Stand.earth's building campaigner, is hopeful the B.C. suit will help rein in the spread of disinformation about natural gas and other fossil fuels.

"This is one way, hopefully, for us to force the company to stop peddling this misinformation," she said.

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Why are there no links to the plaintiffs in this case, only to the villains counter claims?
Ecojustice: Way to go. Donate here: https://ecojustice.ca
Stand.Earth: https://stand.earth/about/

I find that more and more we need a fact check stamp on anything to do with climate change, and or environmental information.
A site such as CNO that (does not) have ties to lobbyists, or corporations that need to tell untruths, or broadcast misleading information.
I rely on CNO, CA, and Beau of the fifth column, USA, to fact check and weed out the misleading and nonsensical post and articles that flood social media.
Anyone with other reliable new outlets post them for all to refer to.