The Yukon government is asking for input on proposed changes to the Yukon Oil and Gas Act.
The Yukon Conservation Society would like to bring this to the public’s attention, as some of the changes have important repercussions for all Yukon people who have an interest in land Ã‚ÂÃ including their own backyards.
The proposed changes are particularly important to farmers, trappers, outfitters, home and property owners within the Whitehorse Basin Ã an area that extends from the BC border north to Carmacks and is as wide as the distance between Teslin and Carcross.
There are oil and gas deposits in this area, and lots of private property.
The Yukon government wants to change Section 69 to give oil and gas companies easier access to land in the Yukon.
In fact, if the changes are passed, this access becomes a right. This right of access is not just for a holder of a licence for oil and gas activity, but also for anyone thinking of applying for a licence.
The new legislation would mean a person or company has the right to access land for surveys and other examinations for potential oil and gas activities. No definition of examinations are given, so YCS fears this could include drilling, seismic exploration or other invasive and environmentally damaging testing.
Similar unlimited access for fossil-fuel companies has caused all sorts of conflicts in Alberta, sometimes with disastrous outcomes.
This would represent a change from the Yukon’s existing legislation, which states that access cannot happen without the consent of the person who has the right or interest in the land.
The proposed Section 70 states a person or company wanting to pursue oil and gas activity on land where others have an interest, can obtain an interest in that land by agreement or, failing that, by expropriation. It does not suggest the mechanism for expropriation of land.
This means the government could decide the future of your property without your consent, and the government might feel the best use of your farm or yard is for oil and gas activity.
The Yukon government also wants to remove the requirement of consent of First Nations.
The Yukon News recently published an article about the Yukon government’s plan to remove Section 13 Ã its obligation to get consent of First Nations without settled land claims prior to opening up their traditional territories to oil and gas development.
The oil and gas resources branch has an objective to promote development of fossil fuels in the territory, and the existing Section 13 is an obstacle to its plans to exploit the gas resources in the Liard Basin in southeast Yukon.
The Yukon Conservation Society suggests that, if the government is keen on developing fossil-fuel resources in southeast Yukon, it work together with the Kaska First Nations on a land-use plan for this sensitive area prior to industrial development.
The deadline for comments on the proposed changes to the Yukon Oil and Gas Act is Monday at 5 p.m. For more information go to www.yukonoilandgas.com and click on the consultation webpage.
Anne Middler, energy co-ordinator
Yukon Conservation Society
See more letters page 8.