Jump to Content
A gas flame with the words

In progress

Holding FortisBC accountable for greenwashing

March 26, 2024

Lawyers from Ecojustice and Slater Vecchio LLP are representing Stand.earth and two concerned B.C. residents Lori Goldman and Eddie Deardon — taking the gas utility FortisBC to court for greenwashing its gas in the middle of a climate crisis.

Whether online, watching TV, listening to the radio, or going to municipal council meetings, British Columbians have been seeing and hearing FortisBC’s  promotion of its renewable natural gas program and promise the climate benefits of staying connected to gas. Gas utility FortisBC’s words don’t match up with its actions. The company claims to care about climate action and affordability, but it continues to add 10,000 new gas consumers a year while falsely advertising gas as a climate-friendly source of home heating.

FortisBC has a near monopoly on the supply of gas to homes in B.C. and stands to benefit by encouraging people to buy new gas furnaces and lock themselves into using gas for decades.

FortisBC’s efforts to lock customers into using gas are in stark opposition to both BC’s climate goals and municipal commitments to advance zero carbon buildings. The B.C. government has determined that only heating systems that are at least 100 per cent efficient will be sold in B.C. by 2030 — and these do not include gas furnaces or boilers. In addition, 27 municipalities and counting have passed policies restricting or eliminating new construction with gas heating much sooner.

The use of fossil fuels to power buildings is a major contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. Emissions from buildings make up approximately 10 per cent of B.C.’s climate footprint, rising to more than 50 per cent of emissions in big cities. The province will have a difficult time meeting our CleanBC climate goals without eliminating gas heating in buildings.

Electric heat pumps provide heating and cooling aligned with a fossil free future, protect British Columbians from extreme heat, are cost-effective to run and are in the long-term interests of many households in BC. But the case alleges that because electric heat pumps threaten the demand for gas, FortisBC has to promote gas over electric heat pumps.

FortisBC is greenwashing its products and must be held accountable for deceiving consumers and contributing to emissions in B.C.

Stand.earth and two members of the public, represented by lawyers from Ecojustice and Slater Vecchio LLP, are bringing a case against FortisBC under the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act for its deceptive practices.

The lawsuit claims that FortisBC has promoted the use of renewable natural gas and fossil gas to residential consumers, representing that these sources of home heating are always more cost-effective and as good or better for the environment than alternatives like electric heat pumps. Neither of these claims are true.

The case also alleges that FortisBC has exaggerated the renewable natural gas in its system to get people to continue to connect to the gas system. Yet it omits that more than 90 per cent of the gas in its system is sourced from fracking in Northern BC and Alberta, a fossil fuel that is incompatible with a safe climate future.

Further, it advertises that its renewable natural gas comes from “local” sources, despite the fact that the majority of this gas is not being produced or ever delivered to consumers in B.C. Almost all of the gas delivered to a consumer in B.C. paying more for renewable natural gas is fracked gas, counter to what renewable natural gas advertisements of scenic trees and farmland would lead consumers to believe.

FortisBC has also claimed that its sources of renewable natural gas are certified by a third-party as carbon neutral. The lawsuit alleges FortisBC does not have a certificate for its renewable natural gas.

Greenwashing is rife and systemic in Canada, and FortisBC has deceived consumers into buying new gas furnaces and staying connected to the FortisBC gas system.

The plaintiffs launched this legal challenge because FortisBC’s deception needs to stop. The plaintiffs want to see FortisBC forced to stop peddling misinformation and instead tell consumers the truth about gas.

The plaintiffs are seeking declarations, injunctions, and corrective advertising to prevent these misrepresentations from continuing.

Mar 2024
A gas flame with the words
press release

Lawsuit claims FortisBC greenwashing deceives consumers, threatens climate progress