Oil and gas opponents stay vigilant

Former MLA Don Roberts wants to ensure the Yukon government keeps its commitment to keep oil and gas development out of the Whitehorse Trough.

Former MLA Don Roberts wants to ensure the Yukon government keeps its commitment to keep oil and gas development out of the Whitehorse Trough.

In April, Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers announced the government will ban such development in the area, which stretches from Carcross to Carmacks, for five years.

This came after two months of public meetings in which opposition was expressed by residents who feared that oil and gas exploration would sully the environment, scare wildlife and possibly poison water supplies.

Cathers’ decision came as a pleasant surprise to Roberts, chair of Yukoners Concerned About Oil and Gas Development. Since forming in March, the group has more than 100 people on its email list.

The government’s decision shows there are many unanswered questions about the issue and a lack of public support, said Roberts.

The government “wouldn’t have cancelled something like this if Yukoners supported it,” he said.

The issue isn’t going away, said Roberts.

His group wants the government to release its report from last spring’s public meetings, and is drafting a petition to call for this.

Roberts also wants fracking banned in the area. The practice involves blasting pressurized water, chemicals and sand underground to extract gas from shale.

It has contributed to mining booms in the United States. It also has conservationists concerned about water quality after chemicals are put into the ground.

Roberts’ group wants legislation requiring any company drilling for oil and gas to test nearby water before and after they begin drilling, and to pay for these monitoring costs.

Yukon Energy expects to run out of surplus energy next year. Alternative energy sources, like wind or solar energy, have not been fully explored, said Roberts.

He admits no simple solution for the problem exists.

“Most people, and I include myself, are blind about how we get energy,” he said.

Yukoners Concerned About Oil and Gas Development meets next on June 23, at the Whitehorse Public Library, at 6:30 p.m.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com