Streicker strikes back on fracking

The benefits of fracking are not worth the risks, says John Streicker, the Whitehorse city councillor and climate change expert.

The benefits of fracking are not worth the risks, says John Streicker, the Whitehorse city councillor and climate change expert.

Streicker is a professional engineer and scientist who has been researching and lecturing on climate change for more than 20 years.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of natural gas extraction that requires pumping a pressurized slurry of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to release gas trapped in the rock.

Yukon’s legislative assembly currently has a committee tasked with assessing the risks and benefits of allowing fracking in the territory.

Streicker has come under fire from some in the anti-fracking camp for a submission he made to that committee earlier this month.

The brief submission suggested that the Yukon government must carefully monitor and regulate any natural gas development that is permitted to occur in the territory. Left unchecked, methane leaks from gas production could result in far worse consequences for climate change compared with other fossil fuels.

Given this as evidence, Peter Becker wrote a commentary in the Whitehorse Star alleging that Streicker is “continuing a multi-year lobby campaign in favour of gas fracking in the Yukon.”

But Streicker does not support fracking in the Yukon or anywhere, he told the News in an interview this week.

Based on the science he has seen, the risks of fracking are greater than the benefits, in the short, medium and long term, he said.

In the long term, the environmental risks are the greatest, said Streicker. In the medium term we need to focus on getting away from fossil fuel energy. In the short term, the environmental risks are too high and evidence suggests that natural gas may not be a better alternative to other fossil fuels in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, he said.

There are three main areas of risk with fracking, said Streicker.

The first is the amount of water used in the process. Hydraulic fracturing requires large volumes of water, which are ultimately removed completely from the water cycle.

“That’s a big concern. If we had a lot of wells, that’s probably too much water. But that’s what you have to figure out. How much is too much?”

The second risk is the potential for groundwater and surface water contamination.

“The chemicals that you tend to use in a frack job often have some toxic and even poisonous elements to them – biocides and other things that are there in small quantities, but it doesn’t much matter because they’re toxic.”

Industry proponents say that the risk of contamination is small, but Streicker says there are too many ways that things can go wrong.

Plugging wells after production has stopped is not a long-term solution, he said.

“Those plugs, they need to last forever. If the plugs go, if the wells deteriorate over 50 years, 100 years, they’re a liability.”

The third risk is that methane leaks through the production, distribution, storage and use of natural gas could result in far worse climate change consequences than other fossil fuel options.

Methane is a greenhouse gas 80 to 85 times more potent that carbon dioxide over a 20-year horizon, according to the International Panel on Climate Change.

If methane leaks, or fugitive emissions, are any higher than 0.4 per cent of production, natural gas is no better than other fossil fuel alternatives, according to Streicker’s submission to the committee.

He noted that while fugitive emissions are hard to track, academic studies in the U.S. have measured leakage rates between 1.5 and 11.7 per cent.

A study out of Stanford University published this month in Science magazine found that, due to higher than previously estimated methane leaks, natural gas is worse than diesel as a transportation fuel in terms of climate change.

No jurisdiction in North America, to Streicker’s knowledge, has any regulations about acceptable thresholds for methane leaks, he said.

His key message to the committee is that, before any natural gas activity is allowed to occur in the Yukon, baseline data must be collected and regulations must be in place setting limits for fugitive emissions.

If regulating and monitoring the industry and holding it to those standards is to cumbersome, then that’s further evidence that “we shouldn’t be doing it,” said Streicker.

Those regulations need to be in place whether or not fracking is allowed in the territory, because methane leaks from conventional natural gas production poses the exact same risk, he said.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Whitehorse musher Hans Gatt crosses the 2021 Yukon Journey finish line in first place at approximately 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 26. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Hans Gatt wins inaugural 2021 Yukon Journey

The Yukon Journey, a 255-mile race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, kicked off on Feb. 24

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities