Government’s draft fracking response leaks

The Yukon government's planned response to the recent legislative report on fracking has been mistakenly made public. A CBC journalist received copies of a PowerPoint presentation and draft ministerial speaking notes.

The Yukon government’s planned response to the recent legislative report on fracking has been mistakenly made public.

A CBC journalist received copies of a PowerPoint presentation and draft ministerial speaking notes that outline the government’s position last week.

According to a response from Energy, Mines and Resources, the leak was an accident.

“The reporter was advised by EMR staff of the error and that they were not the intended recipient of the email,” according to a news release.

The documents themselves show the department’s intention to continue to study the issue of hydraulic fracturing in the territory, consider potential regulatory issues and work on increasing public and First Nation support for unconventional natural gas development.

The 12-page presentation recommends that the government focus on “multi-stage horizontal fracking.” That’s the intensive, modern version of hydraulic fracturing that has been the subject of much controversy over the past decade.

One of the first points in the document is that the select committee report “does not recommend a ban or a moratorium on fracking.”

It recommends continuing to implement Yukon’s energy strategy, which supports the development of the territory’s oil and gas resources as a replacement for imported diesel fuel.

The presentation was prepared for the Yukon Party caucus by Shirley Abercrombie, the acting assistant deputy minister for oil, gas and mineral resources.

According to Energy, Mines and Resources, the caucus has not yet seen or approved the contents of the presentation.

An interview request with EMR Minister Scott Kent was declined. A cabinet spokesperson said that the minister will not comment on the documents until he has seen the finalized versions.

Opposition parties have criticized the government for continuing to promote a local fracking industry in the face of intense public and First Nation opposition.

“No one seriously believes that the Yukon Party government had no role in giving EMR the policy bearing that anchors these documents,” said NDP Leader Liz Hanson in a news release Monday morning.

“It’s deeply disappointing that the Yukon Party government is quietly planning to bring fracking to Yukon just weeks after an all-party committee tabled a report reflecting serious concerns about fracking, both from the scientific community and from the Yukon public,” she said.

“The content that was found in the draft documents confirms the Yukon Party is planning to completely disregard the work done by the select committee over the last year and a half,” said Liberal Leader Sandy Silver in a release Monday morning.

“Committee members heard overwhelmingly from Yukoners that the social licence for hydraulic fracturing is not there. The government is taking great creative licence with its reading of the report suggesting the committee is implying support because the recommendations do not ban fracking.”

There are currently no proposals by industry to start fracking in the Yukon, although companies operating in the Kotaneelee and Eagle Plains basins have indicated an interest in potentially using the technique in the future.

The two First Nations most likely to be affected have both expressed strong opposition to fracking.

The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has passed a resolution opposing fracking in its territory until the practice can be proved 100 per cent safe.

The Liard First Nation has indicated that it will oppose all fracking in its territory.

The leaked presentation recommends that the government continue to engage with First Nations on the issue, explore potential partnerships and “determine what support is needed if oil and gas projects occur within their traditional territories.”

It also recommends establishing a panel of independent experts to continue to study the issue.

“The goal is to help build public trust.”

According to the presentation, “fracking is so controversial that most people cannot evaluate the merits of the conflicting information available and find it difficult to reach an informed conclusion about the risks and benefits of fracking.”

The leaked documents are available on the CBC North website, and have also since been posted online by the Yukon government.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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