In commenting on the draft gas plant processing plant regulations I must first address the timing of this draft, together with that of the proposed liquefied natural gas plant in Watson Lake and the draft Yukon water strategy, all of which were presented “for public review” within a period of six weeks.
Imposing these brief, indeed immediate, deadlines raises questions about just how serious Energy, Mines and Resources and Environment Yukon are about consulting the public. Surely
public information sessions outlining the government’s intentions, the purposes and scope of the proposed policies and their ramifications should have been held beforehand if the government’s real intention had been to engage an informed public.
Secondly, I am concerned about the recently announced very narrow focus of the all-party select committee, which is now to examine only hydraulic fracturing (as if that practice happened in isolation), without reference to the broader issue of gas and oil exploration and development in Yukon.
Insofar as the draft gas processing plant regulations are concerned, the proposed singular power accorded to the chief operations officer is worrisome. For example, this individual would possess the right to “exempt a licensee or any other person from compliance” or “may amend a licence” under some circumstances. This vests too much power in the hands of one individual. There is no mention of any oversight body, a function that would be served by a board of directors, for example, in a private corporation.
There are concerns about safety relating to reporting “incidents or near misses.” The chief operations officer should not be permitted to “waive the requirement of a licensee to submit documentation about an incident or a near miss.” Safe practises and accident prevention reporting should be mandatory, not optional. The West, Texas, explosion demonstrates the absolute importance of full public disclosure.
The penalties described in Part 6 for those acting in contravention of regulations are so derisory for a national or international operator that they merit special comment, particularly when measured against the potential for unmitigated harm. Although the chemical constituents are different, one need only reference West, Texas, or, considering another petroleum product, the damage left in Kalamazoo, Michigan, by the Enbridge pipeline spill.
Finally, there is nothing in the draft regulations that speaks to how the gas arrives at the processing plant and what regulations will be necessary to govern its safe transport. The draft regulations seem to assume that LNG is simply in situ.
The implications of oil and gas development in the Yukon are manifold and will impact the population, the wildlife, the land and air and especially Yukon’s water. Yet the Yukon government has not deemed this issue worthy of full public discussion. No hearings, no presentations, no forums. A responsible government would have seen the need for and the value in having an informed public.