A Porter Creek resident is raising concerns that his local NDP candidate may be giving constituents inaccurate information about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the territory.
Terry Kerr said Francis van Kessel, the NDP candidate for Porter Creek North, told him while she was canvassing his neighbourhood that radioactive waste from a fracking operation on the Dempster Highway had been dumped in Whitehorse.
That is not true, as there is no fracking currently happening in the Yukon. Kerr said he was most concerned about van Kessel telling people there is fracking happening in the territory when there is not.
“She was very clear on saying there was fracking going on up on the Dempster Highway,” he said. “I told her that I’ve never heard of any fracking happening up here.… It’s going to scare a lot of people who don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Kerr said he used to work for a well-servicing company based out of Red Deer, Alta., and has worked on fracking operations across North America. He is in favour of fracking in the Yukon and is a Yukon Party supporter.
He said van Kessel also told him there is fracking taking place in the Liard Basin. There is some fracking in the Liard Basin in British Columbia, but not in the Yukon. However, the Yukon Party government does support hydraulic fracturing in the Liard Basin.
“I honestly just don’t think she knew kind of what she was talking about,” Kerr said.
In an interview with the News, van Kessel denied telling Kerr or other residents that there is fracking happening in the Yukon, but only after being asked about it several times and seeming to avoid the question.
“I don’t think so,” she said eventually. “I think that probably it was misunderstood.”
However, at one point during the interview, van Kessel seemed unclear about whether Northern Cross’s drilling near the Dempster Highway constituted fracking. Later, she clarified: “There’s not fracking happening in the Yukon. There’s drilling happening.”
She also clarified what she meant about drilling waste that was disposed of at the Arctic Backhoe land treatment facility in Whitehorse, which has not been proven to contain dangerous levels of radioactive material.
“What I meant to say is that there could very well be radioactivity in the waste at Arctic Backhoe because it’s never been tested,” she said. “And this is really troubling to me.”
She later referred to that waste as “radioactive,” before correcting herself to say “possibly radioactive.”
Northern Cross did dispose of 225 tonnes of drilling waste at Arctic Backhoe three years ago from its drilling program in the Eagle Plain basin. Those cuttings were contaminated with hydrocarbons.
The NDP has previously argued that the Yukon doesn’t have proper regulations for dealing with radioactivity. And questions have been raised about whether the cuttings delivered to Arctic Backhoe were sufficiently tested for radioactivity.
But there is no conclusive evidence that the cuttings contained dangerous radioactive waste. The Yukon government has maintained that naturally occurring radioactive materials are present in very low concentrations around Northern Cross’s drilling operations.
Van Kessel said she doesn’t need to change what she’s telling people on their doorsteps.
“I don’t think I’m saying the wrong thing,” she said. “Most times I’m saying that the Yukon NDP’s going to ban fracking across the Yukon.”
After the initial version of this story was published online, van Kessel released a statement about the incident on her Facebook page.
“(Kerr) misunderstood what I meant and, instead of coming to me or the Yukon NDP for clarification, he went to the media,” it reads in part. “He is a Yukon Party supporter and a fracking proponent, so his motive was likely to discredit and embarrass me.”
Contact Maura Forrest at email@example.com