The Yukon Conservation Society must disagree with the Yukon News editorial from Friday, April 5 entitled “Fracking is a foregone conclusion.”
YCS believes there are many informed people in the Yukon who care about the land, water and healthy ecosystems who will actively participate in the consultation process about the future of oil and gas development. YCS and others will work hard to educate decision-makers about fossil fuels and energy alternatives.
As stated by the News, the unfavourable economics and the likelihood that Yukon First Nations will ensure oil and gas companies have a tough road to fracking will prevent imminent fracking. Further, much of the Yukon’s gas is stranded, and the cost of bringing it to market competitively may be difficult to justify its development at all.
YCS suspects that the News may have unwarranted optimism when it suggests that: “maybe groundwater contamination can be avoided with the careful sealing of well casings and other safety measures.” With cumulative well drilling and frack blasting, frack-induced seismicity and naturally occurring earthquakes, maintaining the integrity of well casings into the future to prevent emissions and contamination is unlikely.
The most disturbing suggestion made by the News is that may not “matter much” if methane gas and fracking chemicals pollute the water table because it will occur in remote pockets of the territory far from drinking wells.
This shudder-inducing statement doesn’t bode well when considering environmentally damaging resource extraction industries and the fact that most of the Yukon is not near human settlements. Contaminated groundwater can surface in streams, rivers and lakes. The disastrous trickle-down and food-chain impacts of water pollution to all living things should not be understated or disregarded.
As the issues mentioned earlier will put any actual fracking on hold for now, we hope this will provide enough time for the government to put in place measures to prove its industrial development aspirations are safe. Before permitting fracking, government must design and conduct robust air, water, land and socioeconomic baseline data collection programs in partnership with First Nations, communities and the scientific community.
Then, if fracking does proceed, the territorial government and industry must implement independent rigorous monitoring of air, land and water to compare with baselines. When contamination occurs, development must stop – regardless of distance to human settlement.
The Yukon government may decide that fracking can happen safely and that oil and gas development should proceed as it has in neighbouring jurisdictions. This decision would be in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary, as well as the increasing resistance to aggressive resource extraction and continued fossil fuel addiction instead of investments in conservation and renewable energy.
If the Yukon government decides to take us down the fracking road, YCS will work to commit government and industry to actions that will ensure the protection of air, land and water prior to moving forward.
YCS Energy Coordinator