Utilities board approves Whitehorse LNG

The Yukon Utilities Board has approved Yukon Energy's Whitehorse liquefied natural gas plant with no conditions.

The Yukon Utilities Board has approved Yukon Energy’s Whitehorse liquefied natural gas plant with no conditions.

“The board is of the opinion that the public benefit of the project is significant and that the project should be approved because there is a public need,” states the letter from chair Bruce McLennan.

Protestors lined Robert Service Way, where the new facility will be built, on Thursday morning in opposition to the decision.

They erected a billboard, reading “What we need is clean green power.” It stood in contrast to the sign on the Yukon Energy building, which reads, “Your needs power what we do.”

Those is opposition to the project argue that investing in LNG infrastructure will ultimately delay the move away from fossil fuels in the territory.

But Yukon Energy is mandated to have a reliable backup system, which at this point can only be delivered through oil or gas generators. This project will replace diesel generators that have reached the end or their usable life.

The corporation argues that, given the cheap price of natural gas compared to diesel, investing in LNG makes good financial sense.

The Yukon Utilities Board agrees.

According to forecasts provided by Yukon Energy, “the resultant significant fuel cost savings over the next four years will offset all of the additional capital costs incurred for the LNG option as compared to the diesel option,” the board wrote in its decision.

Interveners raised concerns about the future price of natural gas but could not provide official forecasts that support their position, according to the board’s report.

“The board is of the opinion that the public benefit of the project is significant.”

Both opposition parties have raised objections to the project over this sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.

“There are ways to meet and manage peak demand and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In this age of climate crisis, how does the Yukon Party justify choosing an increased dependence on fossil fuels to manage peak demand?” asked NDP MLA Kate White on Thursday.

“When it comes to fossil fuels, obviously we want to minimize their use,” responded Scott Kent, the minister responsible for Yukon Energy. “There is demand-side management. There are other opportunities to use renewable energy to offset that. But again, when it’s 40 below in the winter and the lights go out, we want to ensure that reliable backup is there so that those lights can stay on and our furnaces can continue to work.”

Liberal Leader Sandy Silver asked why the government was able to spend $17 million on the project, including $8 million for the generators themselves, before it had received regulatory approval.

Kent responded that the generators had to be ordered in advance in order to make sure that the project went ahead on schedule.

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board is working on its final recommendations on the project.

Its draft recommendations suggested that the project should go forward.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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