The recent criticism of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board by Northern Cross, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Yukon Chamber of Mines and Economic Development Minister Stacey Hassard demands a response.
While it might be expected that the chambers would be critical of YESAB, Mr. Hassard’s views further illustrate the government’s lack of support for YESAB. The government appears to be determined to weaken YESAB, a process that began with the four controversial amendments to Bill S-6.
The Yukon Party government regards the YESAB process as an impediment to the rapid approval of resource extraction, rather than a safeguard to ensure that development may occur after consultation with affected First Nations and with protections for Yukon’s water and wildlife in place.
The issue that prompted these attacks is YESAB’s decision to send Northern Cross’s application to drill 20 wells in the Eagle Plain basin to YESAB’s executive committee for review. There were numerous concerns submitted about the lack of detailed information about such things as: the project’s impact on the Porcupine caribou herd’s migration and over-wintering habitat; waste disposal sites; water availability for the 20 drill sites and lack of baseline studies relating to water and, permafrost; radioactivity in drill waste; and the mitigation of roads and cut lines.
As the assessment unfolded, YESAB also determined that Northern Cross’s application was incomplete. Four times YESAB requested additional information to address inadequacies in Northern Cross’s application. Northern Cross itself took a year to respond to one of YESAB’s information requests. So the notion that YESAB is solely responsible for excessive time spent on this assessment is a misrepresentation of the facts.
Assessing a project of this magnitude with its possible severe repercussions for the Vuntut Gwitchin and their dependency on the caribou, and the immediate and cumulative impacts on the herd, the water and the permafrost requires scientific studies and time.
We surely don’t want to end up with another Faro catastrophe. We must protect our environment from ill-conceived approvals, today and for future generations.
Donald Roberts Yukoners Concerned About Oil/Gas Development and Exploration