Clean water is health and wealth

Clean water is health and wealth Over the past number of months, Yukoners Concerned About Oil/Gas Exploration/Development have shared our concern about the possibility of foreign-owned oil and gas companies using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the t

Over the past number of months, Yukoners Concerned About Oil/Gas Exploration/Development have shared our concern about the possibility of foreign-owned oil and gas companies using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the territory.

Yukoners are now being asked to respond to a glossy 15-page draft Yukon water strategy that was just recently released by Environment Yukon. I applaud the department for doing this and asking Yukoners to comment on how they see the future of our freshwater supply, but we do have some concerns.

After reading the draft document, Yukoners Concerned agree with the principles and goals as stated. We want to point out some major contradictions of the Yukon Party policy when it is looking for public response on both its draft Yukon regulations for oil and gas development and the water strategy.

The Yukon Party government has a history of gutting environmental oversight capacities of the water board and other departmental and interdepartmental water responsibilities that were hard won and well proven. The draft water report shows no constructive spirit by government, just lip service and more false populism to cover its tracks.

As stated earlier, the Yukon Geological Survey confirmed in 2012 that Yukon oil and gas are characterized by shale, coal bed and unconventional rock formations.

Fracking means unconventional drilling, and this requires billions of litres of fresh water, mixed with over 600 poisonous chemicals, that will pollute fresh water forever.

Incredibly, there is no mention of hydraulic fracturing in the draft water strategy, even though Resources Minister Brad Cathers has refused on a number of occasions to rule out the use of hydraulic fracturing. Once fracking takes place across the Yukon, the fresh water is polluted forever and is completely removed from the hydrology of our water supply.

How are we going to prevent our water supply from being forever polluted by fracking?

We now have the all-party select committee set up to study fracking in the Yukon. The only solid outcome that has to come from this committee is to ban hydraulic fracturing in the Yukon until such time that operations can return the trillions of litres of fresh water used or affected by fracking to its natural state.

Another important issue is the testing of water before industry begins its operations in any area of the Yukon. It is vital that independent water testing labs, that have a history of taking water samples, be tasked with a systematic regime of analyzing all our watersheds prior to any development taking place. All information on testing must be open and transparent to the public.

In the last three months, the Yukon Party government has asked Yukoners to comment on postings for oil and gas, the draft report on regulations for gas plants, the draft Yukon water strategy and have formed the all-party select committee on fracking.

We believe that requesting comments from Yukoners on all these activities in this short time span is a deliberate process of overwhelming and confusing Yukoners on the future of the territory, so the Yukon Party can carry on with its true agenda without the burden of accountability.

Let your MLA know that to seek public response in all this in a short time is unfair and should be done over longer periods.

Don Roberts, chair

Yukoners Concerned About Oil & Gas Exploration/Development

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