Audit reveals scofflaw Environment Department

The Yukon Environment Act is out of date, says assistant deputy Environment minister Allen Koprowsky. It was created before devolution and is in…

The Yukon Environment Act is out of date, says assistant deputy Environment minister Allen Koprowsky.

It was created before devolution and is in need of a complete review, to “regain its relevance and effectiveness,” according to a June 2008 government audit.

The 18-page report also reveals several ways the government has broken the law.

Every three years, the Environment minister is supposed to deliver a Yukon Conservation Strategy to the legislature.

This hasn’t happened since 1990.

The strategy is supposed to provide long-term guidance to the territory about its environmental policies and practices and lay out commitments and recommend conservation and sustainable development initiatives.

The strategy “has not been revised and it’s not intended to be revised,” said Koprowsky.

By law, the government is also mandated to table a State of Environment report every three years.

But it has “not met the targeted dates for tabling these reports,” says the audit.

As well, a yearly interim report is supposed to be tabled, but the 2006 report has not been “initiated,” says the government audit.

“I don’t have the details on that,” said Koprowsky.

To create these reports, it’s “a process of gathering information to undertake the assessment, developing the report, reviewing the report, then having it approved,” he added.

“It takes the department two to three years to collect info and compile a report.”

For the last few years, the opposition parties have made regular requests to see current State of the Environment reports tabled in the legislature.

“The environment is a top priority for Yukoners and has been for many years,” said Liberal environment critic Darius Elias in 2007.

“They want to know about the issues and how development is impacting Yukon and they want to be involved.

“One of the ways that Yukoners keep on top of these things is the Yukon State of the Environment Report.

“It provides early warnings and analysis of potential problems for the environment and allows the public to monitor progress toward the achievement of the objectives of the Environment Act.

“Why has this report not been produced, as required by law?”

“As far as tabling the report, when there’s a report available and ready, that possibly could happen here in the house,” said then-Environment minister Dennis Fentie.

“The government is much more focused on actually going to work on our environment than tabling pieces of paper and reports,” he added.

“Yukoners are well aware of their environment and the state it is in.

“If the member opposite thinks a report is going to save Yukon’s environment, I would challenge the member opposite to prove that to Yukoners — that some report is going to save our environment.”

The last report tabled, this spring, was a 2005 report.

The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, created in 1988 to “encourage sustainable development in the Yukon,” has also “ceased to function,” according to the audit.

It has not met since 2005.

The council “lost its momentum mainly because there were no significant issues put before it,” says the audit.

Recycling Fund reports have been dumped as well, according to the audit.

The Environment minister is supposed to prepare an annual financial statement and report on activities of the Recycling Fund.

But the last report was tabled in March 2004.

The audit also recommends the government consider the environmental impact of its purchases, as required by law.

“There were no specific provisions related to the ‘environment’ in these documents that could directly affect the purchase of goods,” says the audit.

The audit unearthed a problem with Environment’s inspection policies, too.

None of the inspection authorities achieved the inspection coverage they planned to achieve, says the audit.

“It is from the monitoring and inspection function that the Yukon government in part gets its assurance of whether there is acceptable compliance with the regulations, and whether the threats to the environment are controlled to an acceptable degree,” says the audit.

Environment fell behind its planned schedule of inspections, according to the audit.

And Energy, Mines and Resources, which shares inspection responsibilities with Environment, only carried out one inspection in 2007.

There should also be a risk-based approach to inspections, says the audit.

Otherwise, if a disaster occurs there will be “resulting questioning of why the inspection process missed the warning signs,” it says.

The audit also highlights major problems with storage-tank regulations, affecting gas station permitting.

One station was closed and the tanks were removed without the proper permits, while another was operating but failed to notify the government.

Finally, contaminated sites regulations need an overhaul.

The “fairness criterion” is not being met, says the audit.

Environment created a public registry for contaminated sites, so the public most likely assumes it contains a list of all contaminated sites, and this is not the case.

And the public registry is not easily accessible. It should be, says the audit.

The number of contaminated sites listed in the public registry has not changed since 1998. It remains at five.

But since the last audit, 2000 through 2003, the number of potentially contaminated sites has grown from 104 to 167.

Although the audit points out a number of serious deficiencies in Environment, Koprowsky sees a silver lining.

“It’s quite a positive report if you look at the general findings,” said the deputy minister.

“The Environment Act is very complicated,” he added.

“A review is a big undertaking.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

Just Posted

Lorraine Kuhn is seen with one of the many volleyball teams she coached. (Photo submitted by Sport Yukon)
The Yukon Sports Hall of Fame inducts the late Lorraine Kuhn

Lorraine Kuhn became the newest member of the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame for her work in growing volleyball amongst other sports

File Photo
A Yukon judge approved dangerous offender status for a man guilty of a string of assaults in 2020.
Yukon judge sentences dangerous offender to indefinite prison term

Herman Peter Thorn, 51, was given the sentence for 2020 assaults, history of violence

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read