First Nations promised a say on fracking

No fracking will be allowed in the Yukon without the support of affected First Nations, the Yukon government announced yesterday.

No fracking will be allowed in the Yukon without the support of affected First Nations, the Yukon government announced yesterday.

“We recognize that a key element is the support of affected First Nations,” said Resources Minister Scott Kent in an interview Thursday.

“Any proposed activity would require that.”

In addition, for now, it will only consider proposals to frack in southeast Yukon’s Liard basin.

The government announced its position on the controversial technique for natural gas extraction in response to the work of an all-party committee on the subject.

It has accepted all 21 of the committee’s recommendations, which were presented in a report in January.

The committee could not agree on some of the essential questions, such as whether or not fracking can be safely regulated, and whether or not it should be allowed in the Yukon.

But it did agree that fracking projects should have the support of the First Nation or First Nations with traditional territory where the project is being proposed.

That may be difficult to achieve.

Back in 2012 the Liard First Nation was in a very public fight with the Yukon government over plans to remove a legislative veto LFN had held over oil and gas development there. The amendment eventually passed.

The First Nation was vehemently opposed to fracking at the time.

Then-chief Liard McMillan accused Yukon Party politicians of being “too busy drinking their frack cola and pissing all over aboriginal rights and title to really pay attention to what the real issues are.”

Current Chief Daniel Morris has not publicly stated a position on the issue.

The Ross River Dena Council, B.C.-based Kaska nations and the N.W.T.‘s Acho Dene Koe First Nation all have overlapping traditional territories in the Liard basin.

The government has begun negotiations towards a reconciliation agreement with the Kaska nations, Kent said.

It will also begin government-to-government talks specifically on the subject of fracking with those potentially affected First Nations, he said.

The Kotaneelee gas project in southeast Yukon is majority-owned by EFLO Energy Inc. The company has stated an interest in fracking the area in the next five to 10 years.

The Kotaneelee has produced gas intermittently since the 1970s, and is connected to Outside gas markets by a pipeline to Fort Nelson.

Opposition parties have criticized the government for continuing to push for natural gas development in spite of First Nation and public opposition to fracking.

“I think the (select committee) report was perfectly clear that First Nation governments, the scientific community and Yukoners don’t believe that fracking belongs in the territory,” said NDP MLA Kate White earlier this week.

Kent said that developing Yukon’s resources is important to reducing the territory’s dependency on transfer payments from the federal government.

“We can’t rely on the hard work of residents of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan to carry the mail for us,” he said. “I think it’s important that we take advantage of what was given to us at devolution and responsibly develop these resources.”

The fracking committee also made a number of recommendations for the collection of baseline environmental data and for the further study of the potential impacts of fracking.

The government has agreed to implement all of those recommendations.

Those include conducting a detailed study of the potential economic impacts of an unconventional natural gas industry and collection of data on water, air, wildlife, land and human health.

Perhaps ironically, this work could lessen the regulatory burden on companies that may propose to frack in the Yukon in the future, by completing environmental studies that would otherwise fall on industry.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be undertaken and we certainly aren’t taking it lightly and we appreciate that there are a number of different benefits that could flow not only to Yukoners but also to the affected First Nations from this type of activity,” said Kent.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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