Government is prepared to regulate fracking: EMR

The Yukon government is ready for a natural gas industry that uses fracking, according to a top official with Energy, Mines and Resources.

The Yukon government is ready for a natural gas industry that uses fracking, according to a top official with Energy, Mines and Resources.

“We are equipped to regulate hydraulic fracturing responsibly in the Yukon, so if an application came forward tomorrow, we’d be prepared to review it,” said Ron Sumanik, director of oil and gas resources, in a media briefing on Friday.

Last week the Yukon government released its formal response to the select committee report on the risks and benefits of fracking in the territory.

It said that, for now, the focus is on potential hydraulic fracturing in the Liard basin in southeast Yukon, and that a fracking industry would have to have First Nation support.

Yukon already has the laws and regulatory structures in place to safely manage hydraulic fracturing activity, said Sumanik.

“All of these regulations work in concert … to minimize risk to human health and the environment, and at the same time hopefully optimizing or maximizing benefits to society,” he said.

“With anything in life comes risk, and with the regulation of oil and gas development and production, our task is to minimize that so that workers come home safely, people living near the activity are safe and the environment is safe.

“It’s not just hydrocarbon extraction. We all took a risk driving into this briefing this morning, and through a set of responsible rules and some legislation, society obviously feels we’ve minimized that risk, so we’re able to make the choice and decision to use use vehicles to get us to where we need to go.”

Sumanik noted that Yukon has an agreement with the BC Oil and Gas Commission that allows the territory to rely on its expertise. It has done so recently on applications for work in the Liard basin and the Eagle Plain basin, he said.

“It’s basically a sober second thought, a second opinion of how we propose to regulate an activity.”

The government has committed to a number of further studies specific to potential fracking in the Liard basin.

It has promised to commission a study to look at the probable economic impacts of an unconventional natural gas industry, and to collect more baseline data on the water, land, air, wildlife and human health.

The government has been collecting this sort of data in the Yukon for 30 or 40 years, said Ed van Randen with Yukon Environment.

“One of the things we always do, though, as a department, is we try to look forward and think about, OK, what are the pressure points coming at us?”

The goal is not to do work that would normally fall to a proponent, but to have a general sense of the issues that exist in an area, he said.

“We want to be prepared, understand what we’re dealing with in the first place in an area … but we’re not trying to have it all done and queued up for any specific project,” said van Randen.

“That’s not our job. If they have an interest economically, that will end up going to them.”

The studies that the government has promised with respect to fracking in the Liard basin has not committed it beyond what the government would contribute in another area, he said.

“Our work is done to help us prepare to give them advice around what we think they’ll have to do to be ready.”

The Liard basin is home to Yukon’s formerly producing gas wells.

EFLO Energy Inc. currently owns controlling interest in the Kotaneelee gas project there, and has recently completed an environmental assessment to rework two wells and get them back into production. That proposal does not include the use of hydraulic fracturing.

The company told a Yukon legislative committee last year that it hopes to begin unconventional production in the Kotaneelee in the next five to 10 years.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at