Northern Cross’s application for judicial review was called “premature” by a federal court. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Federal Court dismisses Northern Cross claims against YESAB

Company argued review board was out of line giving Eagle Plains project extra scrutiny

The Federal Court of Canada has rejected Northern Cross’s application for a judicial review of the Yukon Socio-Economic Assessment Board decision to send the company’s Eagle Plains oil and gas exploration to a higher level of assessment.

In its final judgment, the court found that “Northern Cross’s application for judicial review is premature.”

“The Court’s intervention is not warranted at this time because the administrative process concerning Northern Cross’s project remains uncompleted. There are not exceptional circumstances to justify intervention.”

The court found that YESAB’s decision to send the application to higher level of review — as opposed to rejecting it outright — effectively gave the company a do-over, because it “provides Northern Cross with a second opportunity to demonstrate why its project should be recommended for approval.”

Northern Cross submitted an application to YESAB to drill up to 20 exploratory wells in Eagle Plains in July 2014.

In February 2017, YESAB determined the project’s application did not fully account for the potential effects on the Porcupine caribou herd, and referred the project to a higher, executive level of screening. This meant that Northern Cross would have had to resubmit either the same proposal or a modified version of it, effectively restarting the whole review process.

Crying foul, the company countered by filing the now-rejected request before the Federal Court in March 2017, asking that it find that YESAB acted beyond its jurisdiction and against standard procedure.

Richard Wyman, president of Northern Cross, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. A company spokesperson told the News Wyman was away until mid-July and that no one else was capable of commenting on the ruling.

Sebastian Jones, an energy analyst with the Yukon Conservation Society, said the society is “very pleased,” with the Federal Court’s decision.

“We’re pleased on a couple of levels that the court agreed with YESAB… and that this ruling strengthens the Final Agreements out of which YESAB comes,” he said.

Jones said the court’s decision is in keeping with established Canadian precedent.

“The court said Northern Cross’s case had no merit in the sense that, if you want a judicial review, you have to wait for (the full process of review) to actually happen,” he said.

“YESAB was just saying (Northern Cross is) missing steps in the process.”

With the judicial review dismissed, Northern Cross’s next “obvious” step, said Jones, is to resubmit their application to higher review, which is what YESAB recommended in the first place.

“If (Northern Cross) had been doing their due diligence, they’d have be much closer to a recommendation,” Jones said.

Northern Cross is currently involved in a $2.2-billion lawsuit against the Yukon government over what it calls the territorial government’s moratorium on fracking. The company argues an April 2015 decision by YG to close all of the territory to shale oil and gas development amounts to a ban on fracking.

Contact Lori Garrison at lori.garrison@yukon-news.com

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