Open letter to Resources Minister Brad Cathers:
Much has been said in the legislature about oil and gas during this sitting. You have often spoken of the Yukon Conservation Society and included YCS in your government’s Motion 309.
The motion indicates some progress toward responding to Yukon peoples’ concerns about oil and gas development in the Yukon.
Thank you for meeting with us on Nov. 21. We are disappointed that you did not agree to our request for a five-year moratorium on fracking, which is less than thousands of Yukon people asked for in the petition to ban fracking in the Yukon.
However, Part 3 of your motion shows your government’s commitment to public consultation about the oil and gas industry, including fracking, before regulatory approvals or permits allow fracking in the Yukon.
We see this as a de facto temporary moratorium. It provides assurance that your government will not allow fracking while consultation is underway. This is particularly important not only in Eagle Plains, but also in the southeast Yukon, where EFL Overseas recently acquired significant interests in the Kotaneelee gas fields “with its conventional and important unconventional resource development opportunities,” as the company’s website states.
We understand that EFL Overseas wants to test the shale gas potential (i.e. wants to frack), and your government wants to allow development in this area without the consent of the Kaska, whose traditional territory it is located in. We would like the Yukon government to confirm that its commitment to not permit fracking while public consultation is underway includes fracking at any scale, including appraisal or exploration fracking, not just large-scale production fracking, everywhere in the Yukon.
In the legislature, you have described the forthcoming public consultation as “a good discussion of the risks and benefits of oil and gas activity, whether action is needed to better regulate this activity, or whether certain activities should not be allowed.”
We hope this statement is an assurance that the public consultation will inform decisions about the future of oil and gas in the Yukon, including whether fracking should or should not be allowed.
We urge your government not to pass your proposed amendments to the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, and to include them in the consultation.
During the consultation around similar amendments in the summer of 2009, the public, First Nations and YCS did not support removing Section 13’s requirement of consent from First Nations without a Final Agreement.
Removing Section 13 would be a bad-faith move that would harm your relationship with First Nations, raise the threat of litigation and direct action, and would not provide certainty for industry.
Proceeding with these changes to the Yukon Oil and Gas Act would severely erode your credibility. Such a unilateral and adversarial move would make it difficult for Yukon people to believe that your government will actually undertake a credible consultation process and make responsible decisions based on that input.
Yukon Conservation Society