Don’t downplay fracking’s risks

Don't downplay fracking's risks Open letter to Ron Sumanik, Yukon's director of oil and gas resources: I was not reassured by your equating the risks of fracking to the risk of driving a car to work. (The News, April 15.) Driving, where someone statisti

Open letter to Ron Sumanik, Yukon’s director of oil and gas resources:

I was not reassured by your equating the risks of fracking to the risk of driving a car to work. (The News, April 15.) Driving, where someone statistically has a high likelihood of arriving safely, has little relation to many undisputed adverse consequences caused by fracking.

According to Wikipedia, in Canada, road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants per year, is six. Total fatalities: 2075, in latest year of World Health Organization data (2011). As you say, that is a reassuringly low level of risk, made even more so because people usually can avoid an accident if they drive safely.

The word “risk” also conveys a possibility of an acceptable outcome. Wikipedia defines “risk management” as the “identification, assessment and prioritization of risks … followed by coordinated and economical application of resources to minimize, monitor and control the probability and/or impact of unfortunate events or to maximize the realization of opportunities. Risk management’s objective is to assure uncertainty does not deviate the endeavour from the business goals.”

I can imagine all too easily that the government has instructed you to assure uncertainty does not deviate us from the government’s goals, which in this case are evidently include getting fracking inside the territory somehow or other. However, it would make me feel a lot safer as a citizen if you acknowledged the legitimate serious consequences, as distinct from risks, posed by fracking. Particularly to water, which you seemed to gloss over.

Lois Moorcraft pointed out in the legislature last week, as so many others have, that fracking permanently contaminates millions of litres of water. We know that northeastern B.C., just adjacent to the Liard basin, is already suffering a shortage of water. We know a global water shortage is imminent. We know that people cannot survive without water.

We also know that industry and government cannot prevent this contamination even with the best regulations, and that attempts to deal safely with fracking wastewater and flowback are a big issue in the industry.

How can you justify saying yes to permanently polluting so much water when our global water supply is in grave danger?

You address health risks more fully in your remarks. Yet adverse impacts of fracking also include inadvertent leakage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, at many points of production, into the atmosphere. We cannot afford this consequence either.

As well, new studies confirm almost daily that health risks are either as bad as feared, or still poorly understood, and that adequate safeguards for people’s health just aren’t there! Many people know this, yet you want a very informed population to trust you simplistically as “safe drivers,” capable of minimizing risk?

Seems to me more like unsafe driving – or inadequately protected sex. In both cases, “trust me” seldom works. Myself, I prefer 100 per cent safeguards on such intimate issues as the health of my body and my biosphere.

Susan Gwynne-Timothy

Marsh Lake

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Copper Ridge resident clears their driveway after a massive over night snowfall in Whitehorse on Nov. 2, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Whitehorse and Haines Junction areas for Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Winter storm warning for Haines Junction and Whitehorse

Environment Canada says the storm will develop Monday and last until Tuesday

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

Most Read