Deadline looms to comment on Eagle Plains oil plans

Conservationists are urging Yukoners to express their concerns about the possibility of hydraulic fracturing being done in the Eagle Plains area.

Conservationists are urging Yukoners to express their concerns about the possibility of hydraulic fracturing being done in the Eagle Plains area.

The deadline for public comments on Northern Cross’ proposal for two oil-and-gas wells near the Dempster Highway is this Friday at midnight. The company has indicated it might use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, during the wells’ operation.

The Yukon Conservation Society wants to see all fracking banned across the territory.

“This isn’t just about Northern Cross,” said Anne Middler, energy co-ordinator for YCS. “This is about this practice happening in the Yukon.”

As far as she knows, fracking has never been used in the territory, said Middler. If it is used, it should require a separate assessment by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, she said.

Fracking has been approved in the Yukon before, said Shelby Jordan, the board’s manager at Dawson. But assessors are looking to see if the practice has actually been undertaken here before.

The assessment process normally includes 14 days for public comments. For this proposal, that period was extended to 21 days.

It’s still not enough, say conservationists. The amount of time for comments should be stretched to a few months, said Middler. It should involve a public discussion with information about the benefits and costs of fracking, as well as public tours.

Conservationists worry that allowing Northern Cross to use fracking will open the door for other companies to use the method for other projects.

This discussion needs to happen about fracking in general, said Middler. Methods of coal-bed methane extraction should also be discussed, she said.

Fracking involves pumping pressurized water and chemicals into the ground. It has contributed to a mining boom in the United States. It has also been linked to water contamination and earthquakes.

In April, the Yukon government banned it in the Whitehorse Trough for the next five years. Public opposition to the technique was the greatest factor in the decision, Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers said at the time.

Northern Cross has plans to drill six oil-and-gas wells by the middle of April.

People can submit their comments to the assessment board’s Dawson office under project 2012-0140. The board will review the comments and make their recommendations to the Yukon government.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com

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