Climate change labels coming to Port Moody gas pumps, but mayor has reservations

Port Moody will join North Vancouver by making it mandatory for gas pumps to have climate change warning labels on them. The idea divided council, with Mayor Mike Clay questioning the efficacy and legality of the labels.

Mike Clay says labels a 'backdoor way of trying to put some sort of social engineering message out'

Two of the proposed labels put forward by environmental group Our Horizon. Port Moody council voted to move ahead with stickers like these on gas pumps. (Our Horizons)

Climate change warning labels are coming to Port Moody's gas pumps, although Mayor Mike Clay says he fears potential pushback and lawsuits from gas station owners over the issue.

Back in October, council decided to pursue the issue of climate change warning labels, which would make clear the link between burning fossil fuels and climate change.

On Tuesday, council voted four to three for city staff to design labels for the city's four gas stations and charge the gas station owners about $16 per pump to install them.

Clay was one of the three who opposed the plan.

"This isn't something we regulate or have any authority on, so this has become sort of a backdoor way of trying to put some sort of social engineering message out," he said. "I think it's completely overreaching."

Clay says the city has a greenhouse gas reduction plan, but their goals are better met by plans like making city buildings and vehicles more efficient.

He also says that since the plan had to be enacted by making the labels part of the gas station's business licenses, and those licenses have already been issued, there could be a court fight ahead.

"There's no indication that our staff … have talked to any of the businesses yet, so it'll be interesting to hear what they say when they get this put on them," he said.

"That will be up for the courts to decide if someone decides to challenge this legally."

Councillor fought for tougher labels

Coun. Zoe Royer was one of the four votes in favour of the labelling plan. She says the idea of the labels isn't to hurt the gas stations' business.

Port Moody will go ahead with tobacco-style labels on gas pumps in the city after a council motion passed on Tuesday. (Our Horizons)
"The warning labels … create a link between our actions and a problem," she said. "I see this as a very low-hanging fruit."

While staff originally wanted the city to allow the gas stations to design their own labels and get approval for those labels from the city, Royer said example labels from the Canadian Fuels Association-sponsored group Smart Fuelling didn't go far enough, and she wanted labels to be more like the tobacco-style ones proposed by environmental group Our Horizon.

"To have a label that says 'maintain tire pressure' … versus 'use of this product contributes to ocean acidification which puts much marine life at risk of extinction' is totally different," she said.

When asked about potential resistance from gas station operators, Royer noted that neighbouring Coquitlam made it mandatory for attendants to pump gas, and she doubts the labels will have as great an impact on the bottom line as that action.

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