Fracking review committee formed

The government has established a committee to review hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, before it is permitted in the Yukon. The motion to form the group passed unanimously Monday.

The government has established a committee to review hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, before it is permitted in the Yukon.

The motion to form the group passed unanimously Monday.

The committee is composed of three Yukon Party MLAs – Patti McLeod, Currie Dixon and Stacey Hassard – plus the NDP’s Jim Tredger, the Liberal’s Sandy Silver and Independent member Darius Elias.

McLeod is the chair.

The Yukon Party says the 50/50 split of government and opposition members will ensure a fair process and a balanced outcome.

But both the Yukon Party and the NDP Opposition have accused the other of having its mind made up on the issue.

The NDP’s Jim Tredger has been outspoken in his opposition to fracking, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals underground to extract natural gas.

The Yukon Party, meanwhile, has touted natural gas as the solution to energy shortages, and has championed the potential of local natural gas development.

The NDP has raised concerns about the composition of the committee, arguing that it should be based on a consensus model.

The way it is currently structured, decisions will be made by majority vote.

Yukon Party members will have to get at least one opposition member on their side to pass an issue.

The NDP has asserted that the five select committees established over the past 10 years have operated on a consensus model. But, in fact, only two of the five had the requirement of consensus written into their constitutions.

Energy Minister Brad Cathers has argued that requiring consensus would equate to giving each member a veto.

“We are not going to give a veto to any member of that committee,” Cathers told the legislature. “All that the member for Mayo-Tatchun, the NDP member, needs to do is convince three other members of the committee to agree with him. He can’t just get his way by exercising a veto.”

But previous committees operated on a de-facto consensus, since items that were not supported by all members were excluded from the group’s recommendations.

For example, the committee on safe off-road vehicle use did not recommend mandatory helmet laws because Cathers did not support it. All the other members of the committee were in agreement.

The Yukon Party, Liberal and Independent members voted down a proposed amendment to require consensus on the fracking committee.

The group has been instructed to consider the risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing using scientific information and public consultation. It will make policy recommendations on whether the practice should be allowed in the Yukon, and what regulatory controls should be in place.

The committee has been asked to present a report to the legislature by the 2014 spring sitting.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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