Beware citizens! Barbarians are at our Yukon gate

A.P. McGuire I would like all Yukoners to please wake up and smell the freshly brewed coffee (or gas). The issue of opening the Yukon to liquified natural gas (LNG) is more real than one can imagine.

COMMENTARY

by A.P. McGuire

I would like all Yukoners to please wake up and smell the freshly brewed coffee (or gas). The issue of opening the Yukon to liquified natural gas (LNG) is more real than one can imagine.

I attended the Yukon Energy meeting on July 8 at which approximately 60 people were present. With such a low number of people attending, I’m guessing that the will of Yukon citizens is not there to help save the Yukon from the inevitable exploitation of LNG industries.

Firstly, speaking as an individual Ta’an Kwach’an elder, I want to apologize to Mr. Werner Rhein and all the other people who were turned away from the July 2013 Yukon Energy meeting that was set up for TKC citizens. I do question if the person asking people to leave this particular meeting was, in fact, a TKC councillor.

I was born in the Yukon, spending three quarters of my long life here and the rest in the oil and gas fields of British Columbia, and I know first hand of the value of living in as beautiful and unspoiled a land as Yukon.

I want to draw public attention to what is happening in an area of northern British Columbia, where drilling, fracking and draining of lakes and ponds is a free-for-all for the gas and oil industries, from the N.W.T. border through to the Alberta border. Looking at a map of the area one can see the destruction of this once-beautiful land, the devastating loss of animal, bird and human habitat. It is well-documented that holding ponds of contaminated water kill animals and waterfowl in great numbers. This land is covered with fracked gas wells, with massive amounts of small raw gas pipes leading off to larger transport pipes. Up to 10 gas plant sites are planned for this area. Hopefully, we won’t see the same horrific and barbaric destruction of land in the Yukon, at least during my lifetime.

On Yukon Energy’s plan to ship LNG to Yukon to fire back-up generators for cheaper installation and electrical output, I know that using LNG means cheaper electricity to light and warm our homes, but what price are we willing to pay for such a commodity? The big question is how will new back-up generators, which are not used very often, lower the diesel-fired electrical cost to consumer?

One must realize that what the plan actually does is open the Yukon gate to big industries such as Shell Canada. Yukon Energy is already contracted to Shell Canada to buy its so-called conventional gas (not fracked). Conventional gas comes out of preferred wells and pipes, I’m guessing. One must commend the Yukon government’s Yukon Energy Corp. on their back-door approach in opening the front door to all aspects of LNG in Yukon, be it transporting and exploration which in turn will eventually lead to discovery and fracking of LNG. Mr. Don Roberts was spot on when he made that prediction.

Before commencing on its plan, Yukon Energy had several hurdles to overcome to satisfy the gas and oil regulators, which includes YESAB and various other agencies, engage in consultation with the general public and get the approval of at least one First Nation government to complete their required consultation.

After Yukon Energy wined and dined First Nations, namely the Ta’an Kwach’an Council in order to make a deal to lease TKC settlement lands adjacent to the Yukon Electric plant to install Yukon Energy’s LNG storage tank failed, Yukon Energy then chose a site abutting Schwatka Lake, and a short distance from the Whitehorse dam to install the LNG storage tanks.

I’m guessing that no thought was given to the risk factors of a possible explosion of the gas in storage, which has happened many times in various parts of North America over the years. With the installation of liquid natural gas storage tanks in the upper part of Whitehorse, one can only imagine the devastation of downtown Whitehorse if the full water reservoir and/or the Whitehorse dam are disturbed should an explosion occur in the vicinity.

Prevention and safety are not guaranteed. At a previous LNG meeting, when asked about such an accident occurring, Yukon Energy spokesperson David Morrison said that the Whitehorse Fire Department is fully equipped to handle explosions and/or fires and there is also an alarm system in place. So, if you folks downtown hear an alarm going off and the clang of fire trucks be prepared for a wall of water engulfing you. Hello! Common sense tells me that LNG facilities of any kind should not be situated in populated areas.

Citizens should go online and pay attention to our neighbours down south, in Canada and the US, who are plagued with health problems caused by gas and oil plant operations. Exhaust from burnt LNG produces highly toxic fumes that have been known to create smog and other toxic pollutants that cause breathing problems and damage to sensitive ecosystems.

I will end by saying that Environment Minister Currie Dixon made no excuses about where his heart is, choosing his Yukon Party’s election promise to open Yukon to gas and oil exploitations over keeping our air pure, our water clean and the overall environment intact for the next generation. Thank you, Mr. environment minister, I’ll be sure to vote for you and your party the next time around.

While I realize that Yukon citizens cannot slake the Yukon government’s thirst for gas and oil, we can demand some measures for safety and preservation.

Folks, lets make some noise!

A.P. McGuire is an elder of the Ta’an Kwach’an First Nation and lives in Whitehorse.

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