Peel plan will not be accepted by government: oil and gas officials

The Peel Watershed draft land-use plan isn't worth criticizing because the Yukon government will never accept it, say senior Energy, Mines and Resources officials.

The Peel Watershed draft land-use plan isn’t worth criticizing because the Yukon government will never accept it, say senior Energy, Mines and Resources officials.

“We do not believe that government will support the plan in its present form and therefore it would not be a good use of our time to comment on these sections,” reads a May 29 e-mail from the department’s oil and gas branch, leaked to the News.

The oil and gas branch was preparing its share of a government review of the plan for the Peel Watershed Planning Commission.

But oil and gas didn’t bother reading half of the 307-page plan because it was a waste of time, according to an internal e-mail from oil and gas business development assistant manager Ron Sumanik and rights and royalties assistant manager Deb Wortley.

“We have not commented on either the recommendations, general management direction, landscape unit descriptions nor the plan implementation/revisions sections,” says their e-mail, sent to higher-ups in the department.

Wortley and Sumanik went on to chastise the commission for favouring wilderness tourism and preservation.

The commission’s draft plan, released on April 28, is biased for not taking oil-and-gas extraction seriously, says a two-page critique attached to the e-mail.

And the commission doesn’t understand First Nations’ land claims, they say.

“The (draft) plan seems to imply that in order to provide a livelihood for First Nations and protect their relationship with the wilderness environment, the precautionary principle that should be implemented is preservation of the total land base,” reads Wortley and Sumanik’s comments.

“This is just another example of the commission’s lack of understanding of land claims, bias towards preservation, against development and their lack of impartiality.”

The oil and gas specialists also tear down the commission for thinking sustainable development is possible in the Peel Watershed.

“The commission states that the ‘general public’ has expressed a strong desire for a plan that will respect the land while allowing for sustainable development,” says Wortley and Sumanik’s summary. “We challenge the ability for any sustainable development (with the exception of wilderness tourism).”

And the commission is catering to special interest groups in its draft plan, says their e-mail.

“We also question the definition of ‘general public’ and suspect that it means conservation groups and portions of the First Nations with strong conservation leanings,” according to the oil and gas summary.

Wortley and Sumanik repeatedly refer to the commission’s bias toward conservation. They claim the commission set out to protect 96 per cent of the Peel from the start.

“This plan was not written as an impartial document,” they wrote. “This is very clear from the statement of intent and the letter from the commission.”

“The plan is very successful here in meeting its primary goal of creating a protected area over 96 per cent of the planning area with no, or extremely difficult access, to the remaining four per cent,” reads Wortley and Sumanik’s summary.

But the 96 per cent figure cannot be found in the draft plan. In the commission’s words, the plan protects 59 per cent of the Peel from development. Mineral staking and oil and gas extraction would be allowed in 37 per cent of the Peel.

Wortley and Sumanik’s remarks were forwarded up the chain of command, according to e-mails. Their statement that the government would never accept that draft plan was sent to Brian Love, executive director of oil and gas resources, and Greg Komaromi, the assistant deputy minister and head of the oil and gas and mineral resources division.

There is no indication Wortley and Sumanik were asked to go back and finish reading the draft plan in the e-mails.

Their views are not shared by the department and are not the official position of the department, said Energy, Mines and Resources spokesperson Brigitte Parker.

But Parker did not know if Wortley and Sumanik were reprimanded for their comments. Love and Komaromi are both out of town, she said.

Public comment on the Peel Watershed draft plan closed on June 30 and government submissions must be in by July 30.

The commission will then table a final recommended plan to cabinet by September 30.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com.

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