Dishonest. Deceitful. Arrogant. These three words fully describe the behaviour of the Yukon Party government in their response, recently leaked to media, to the report by the select committee on fracking.
This paper, prepared by Shirley Abercrombie, acting assistant deputy minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, was only intended for presentation to the Yukon Party caucus. The response uses, as its underlying pretext, the fact that the all-party select committee did “not recommend a ban or moratorium on fracking” to endorse “multi-stage horizontal fracking.”
Having agreed upon 21 recommendations that clearly described the necessity to gather baseline data with regard to the water, air, wildlife, seismic activity and human health, and recognizing the significant “gaps in knowledge and understanding” about fugitive greenhouse gas emissions and impacts on well integrity, groundwater, land, seismic activity and human health, the select committee was unable to reach consensus about whether or not to recommend fracking in Yukon.
Why not, when the logical answer is so obvious? Why put Yukoners and the Yukon at risk? Simply put, Yukon Party committee members were either reluctant to deny the oil and gas industry or they lacked the courage to do the right thing.
For the Yukon Party government to now use the failure of their own members to act as an excuse to go ahead with fracking is deceitful and dishonest.
It is instructive to note that the other document also leaked to the media, a draft speech prepared for EMR Minister Scott Kent, intended to be delivered to an unknown public audience, makes no mention whatsoever of recommending “multi-stage horizontal fracking.” Instead, this speech uses the “softly, softly” approach of steps the Yukon government will take to prepare the public, especially Yukon First Nations, for fracking. Kent will “agree that… requirements… for baseline data and potential impacts… should be in place for all industrial activities [and] we [will] fill any gaps in our baseline information.” Any gaps, Mr. Kent? Yukon has next to no baseline data and accumulating this will take years, facts not mentioned in this draft speech.
The Yukon Party government’s new plan “to engage First Nations” is an effort to break down opposition. We hope Yukon First Nations recall the powerful testimony of Fort Nelson First Nation, a people with real life experience of fracking, who warned of fracking’s “severe and far-reaching consequences” when they described the significant impacts to their environment and treaty rights.
Abercrombie and Kent will “target First Nations, the general public and stakeholders” by launching what is euphemistically referred to as “an information campaign.” Propaganda would be the more honest word. Expect assurances that “Yukon’s regulations are robust, modern and designed to regulate all oil and gas activities,” as Abercrombie’s document states. The best regulations in the world cannot protect people, water, wildlife, land and air from fracking’s harmful effects.
New York state banned fracking in December because the vast majority of approximately 400 peer-reviewed studies about fracking clearly indicate how harmful it is to people and the environment. As Yuri Gorby, PhD chair of environmental engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, said, “Fracking is an intrinsic danger to air, water, climate and health and cannot be regulated into safety.”
Climate change and the need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels are not mentioned in either government document. Oil and gas development play a significant role in increasing greenhouse gas emissions, yet the assistant deputy minister and the minister’s proposed speech is all about burying our collective heads in the sand, ostrich-style, in the hopes that climate change will pass Yukon by.
Abercrombie’s response views Yukoners as dupes, asserting that “most people cannot evaluate the merits of fracking and find it difficult to reach an informed decision.” How arrogant and patronizing. Towards the end of Kent’s draft speech he is to tell us that the government “remains strongly committed to the responsible and sustainable development of Yukon’s oil and gas resources.” Sustainable? A finite resource? One has to wonder just who is uninformed.
Finally, we will be told that the Yukon Party government “will proceed with caution and transparency.” Has the government behaved transparently in deciding to proceed with “multi-stage horizontal fracking?”
It almost goes without saying, but this arrogant, dishonest government deserves no trust. Peel away the glibness in these documents and there’s a watershed of deceit.
Rick Griffiths is a member of
Yukoners Concerned about
Oil and Gas Development.