Fracking committee hits the road

The Yukon Legislative Assembly's committee on the risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing is touring Yukon communities this week.

The Yukon Legislative Assembly’s committee on the risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing is touring Yukon communities this week.

On Monday the six MLAs that form the group were in Watson Lake to hear the thoughts of residents on the controversial natural gas extraction method also known as fracking.

That meeting was important, because the southeast Yukon is the most likely region to see significant oil and gas development over the next decade.

EFLO Energy Inc., which owns a controlling interest in the Kotaneelee gas field near the N.W.T. border, told the select committee in January that it would like to frack the area in the next five to 10 years.

A few people at the Watson Lake meeting spoke passionately against fracking, and a few spoke passionately for welcoming the economic benefits that the natural gas industry would bring, said Anne Middler, energy co-ordinator with the Yukon Conservation Society.

Sarah Newton, lands manager for the Liard First Nation, presented a rap to the committee urging them not to allow shale gas development in the area.

“Get back to the dirt / Don’t frack with my habitat / That’s some gas we don’t need to tap / We need to move forward not back,” she rapped.

The committee met with Teslin residents on Tuesday.

“Every speaker today in Teslin spoke against fracking, very, very passionately,” said Middler yesterday.

Middler gave the committee credit for making the effort to travel to Yukon communities to hear from residents. But the format of the meetings left many wanting more, she said.

The committee chose not to present information about fracking at the meetings, but instead only to collect the views of those who wished to speak.

Many people came to the meetings thinking that they would hear from the committee about what they have learned so far, said Middler.

“I think people wanted more information. They wanted more time.”

Patti McLeod, the committee chair and MLA for Watson Lake, said the purpose of the meetings was to hear from Yukoners, not to share information.

“We’re not the experts, and really we want to hear what Yukoners think,” she said in an interview Wednesday morning.

All of the expert information that the committee has heard is available on the Yukon Legislative Assembly’s website, and that would be a good place for people to go if they want to learn more, she said.

Some residents are also worried about serious scheduling conflicts that are making it difficult for people to attend meetings, said Middler.

The Teslin meeting took place at 1 p.m., when many would be unable to attend, she said.

And this week’s meetings conflict with the Council of Yukon First Nations general assembly in Haines Junction, making it impossible for many First Nations leaders to attend.

Next month the committee will visit Ross River, Faro, Carmacks, Pelly Crossing and Mayo.

But those meetings are the same week of the trial against the Yukon government launched by the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun and the Tr’ondek Hwech’in over the Peel watershed land use plan.

That will make it difficult for the people of Mayo in particular to participate in the committee’s hearings, said Middler.

The select committee is in Old Crow today and in Dawson City tomorrow.

Scheduling conflicts are unavoidable, said McLeod.

“The sad thing is, is that everybody in the Yukon is kind of busy. To find a certain block of time where everybody is available would have been quite the challenge.”

Anyone who wants to share their views with the committee can also do so on the Yukon Legislative Assembly’s website, or by sending a letter or email, she said.

Hearings will be held in Haines Junction, Carcross/Tagish and Whitehorse in September.

The MLAs must produce recommendations to the legislative assembly by the end of the fall sitting.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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