Fracking experts flood into Yukon

The Yukon Conservation Society has invited a hydrogeologist to come to the Yukon to speak about how fracking could impact the territory's water.

The Yukon Conservation Society has invited a hydrogeologist to come to the Yukon to speak about how fracking could impact the territory’s water.

Gilles Wendling runs an environmental consulting company that specializes in assessing water resources and determining the risk that development projects pose to them.

He will deliver a public presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.

He will also lead a technical workshop during the day for regulators and policymakers, said Sebastian Jones, energy co-ordinator for the Yukon Conservation Society.

Representatives from the water board, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, First Nation land departments, Environment Yukon and the territory’s oil and gas branch have all confirmed that they will participate, said Jones.

The goal of the workshop will be to come to a common understanding on what is known, what is unknown and what needs to be known about Yukon’s water resources before fracking should be allowed in the territory, he said.

We currently know very little, and monitoring programs are inadequate, said Jones.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial method of extracting natural gas from tight shale rock deposits deep underground.

The process uses a lot of water, and critics say it can threaten ground water supplies.

If you don’t know enough about ground water and underground water resources, drilling kilometres down into the ground can have unexpected consequences, said Jones.

Because of different levels of pressure in different aquifers, you can see water bubbling up from underground, or draining from the surface.

Both of these scenarios are bad, said Jones. You don’t want to lose surface water for obvious reasons, and sub-surface water is often salty and has the potential to be naturally radioactive.

Wendling will also present to the Yukon Legislative Assembly’s committee on the risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing while he is here.

That committee must present a report to the assembly this spring with recommendations on whether fracking should be allowed in the Yukon, and how it should be regulated.

It will host two days of public proceedings on January 31 and February 1.

Experts, industry representatives and regulators will be present, and there will be an opportunity for committee members to ask questions.

Members of the public will be allowed to submit questions in writing, which will be answered if time permits.

The proceedings will take place in the legislative assembly from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. The hearings will be broadcast on 93.5 FM and will be streamed from the legislative assembly’s website. Videos and transcripts will later be made available online as well.

For more information visit www.legassembly.gov.yk.ca.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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