Channelling the rage

 There have been rumblings of discontent by certain resource extraction types about the environmental assessment process in the Yukon. 

COMMENTARY

by Lewis Rifkind

There have been rumblings of discontent by certain resource extraction types about the environmental assessment process in the Yukon.

Some projects have been raised up from one type of evaluation to a more thorough and detailed one. Not only has this evoked discontent, in one case a project has even ended up in the courts.

All this in spite of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act having been tweaked by the previous federal government. the previous federal regime was the most gung-ho “rip those resources outta the ground” government this country has ever been afflicted with, and the changes reflected this mentality.

The new federal government has committed to undoing the worst of those tweaks. Even if we ignore this commitment, the Yukon’s environmental assessment process, as adjusted by the former government, is still seen as too lax by some mining and fossil fuel proponents.

To those who take issue with the current state of the Yukon’s environmental review regime, count instead your blessings.

The current process has the environmental assessor bringing their considerable in-house expertise and, where necessary, outside independent consultants to examine and review all proposed projects in the Yukon. This ranges from the most basic activities to the most technically complex proposals.

This expertise is then synthesized with public input. It is all done in an open and transparent manner, with documentation, reports and analysis being freely available for anyone with an Internet connection to review. This established process gives everyone, including industry, a clear and logical system to work with.

Having an effective environmental review process is also a means of channeling criticism, dissent and even rage that can exist against certain types of projects. Having an environmental review process that all parties, including those opposed to projects, can participate in is vital.

This means that not all recommendations will go the developers’ way. Some projects will be recommended to be turned down. Some will be recommended to be approved. But at least all parties have had an opportunity to participate, the project has received thorough scrutiny by an independent body and a recommendation has been developed that is in the best interests of the territory.

The alternative is what has happened in British Columbia: blockades of logging roads, protests along pipelines’ rights-of-way, and more lawyers running around than there are squirrels in the forest.

We can argue until the Yukon’s bison hunting quota is met about whether the Yukon environmental assessment process provides timely and adequate reviews. For the record, this columnist thinks it does, in spite of there having been numerous project approvals that instead he feels should have been recommended to not proceed.

What must be recognized is that the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act provides for a unique method of gathering everyone’s views on development projects – be they for, against, or neutral – within a single process.

Those who insist on weakening this made-in-the-Yukon process in favour of easier development should be very careful what they wish for.

They could end up with protestors at their project sites, court injunctions, and public relations nightmares.

The Yukon process is not perfect, but for those complaining about it being too thorough or too environmentally (or developmentally) friendly, at least there is a process that more or less satisfies most parties across the entire spectrum.

There will be those who will insist on weakening the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act. To those people one can only respond that the groups and individuals who are currently channeling their environmental and socio-economic concerns through the current process will have to turn elsewhere to express their viewpoints.

And that, dear project proponent, is a polite way of saying “see you at the barricades.”

Lewis Rifkind is the Yukon Conservation Society’s mining analyst.

Just Posted

Silver rules out HST, layoffs and royalty changes

Yukon’s financial advisory panel has released its final report

City of Whitehorse budgets $30M for infrastructure over four years

‘I think we’re concentrating on the most important things’

Yukon community liaison for MMIWG inquiry fired

Melissa Carlick, the Whitehorse-based community liaison officer for the national Missing and… Continue reading

Yukon man holds no grudge after being attacked by bison

‘The poor guy was only trying to fend off someone who he knew was trying to kill him’

Straight and true: the story of the Yukon colours

Michael Gates | History Hunter Last week, I participated in the 150th… Continue reading

Get ready to tumble: Whitehorse’s Polarettes to flip out at fundraiser

‘There’s a mandatory five-minute break at the end, just so people don’t fall over’

Alaska’s governor goes to China

There are very different rules for resource projects depending on which side of the border you’re on

Yukon survey shows broad support for legal pot

But there’s no consensus on retail and distribution models

Yukon government releases survey on the territory’s liquor laws

Changes could include allowing sale of booze in grocery stores

Get family consent before moving patients to other hospitals: NDP critic

‘Where is the respect and where is the dignity?’

Bill C-17 passes third reading in House of Commons

The bill, which will repeal controversial amendments made to YESAA by Bill S-6, will now go to Senate

White Pass and Yukon Route musical chugs on without director

The cast and crew of Stonecliff are pushing forward without Conrad Boyce, who went on medical leave

Most Read