Utilities board mulls LNG plan

Yukon Energy is in front of the Yukon Utilities Board this week making the case for its plan to replace aging diesel generators in Whitehorse with ones that burn natural gas.

Yukon Energy is in front of the Yukon Utilities Board this week making the case for its plan to replace aging diesel generators in Whitehorse with ones that burn natural gas.

Seventeen community members signed up to speak Monday night at a public session. All opposed the project, expressing concerns about climate change, the environment, safety, and cost.

“I ask you to oppose the construction of a new (liquefied natural gas) facility,” said Yukoner Mary Amerongen. “It does not make sense economically, but, much worse, tying the Yukon further into using fossil fuels does not at all make sense for living beings here or anywhere.”

Yukon Energy says the project will save Yukoners money on their electricity bills compared with replacing the generators with new ones that burn diesel.

Natural gas also releases fewer greenhouse gases than diesel when burned. However, the total carbon footprint of natural gas could be much worse than diesel if significant amounts of gas are allowed to escape through the production, transportation and storage of the fuel. Those fugitive emissions are difficult to track and currently unregulated in Canada.

Many Yukoners are also concerned about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, an unconventional process used to extract a growing percentage of North America’s natural gas.

Yukon Energy had promised a frack-free source of natural gas for its Whitehorse generators, but had to change its plans.

Shell Canada recently abandoned its plans to build an LNG plant at its Jumping Pound facility in Alberta, which is where Yukon Energy had planned to source its gas.

Now Yukon Energy plans to buy gas from FortisBC’s LNG plant in Delta, B.C. It is the same source that Northwest Territories Power Corporation currently uses to ship natural gas up the Dempster Highway to its LNG facility in Inuvik.

That plant gets its gas from a variety of sources, and it’s impossible to tell how much has been produced through fracking. More than half of B.C.‘s natural gas now comes from unconventional sources.

“Yukoners are concerned about where the proposed gas will come from, and this government can no longer guarantee a frack-free source of gas,” said NDP MLA Kate White in the legislature Monday. “Some Yukoners were nearly ready to give their support to the construction of the proposed LNG plant because of that promise of frack-free gas. This government was attempting to gain social licence for this facility by committing to a frack-free source of gas. That social licence is now gone.”

Energy Minister Scott Kent responded that the new source of gas will not affect the economics of the LNG project in a significant way. He also said that there are processes for those Yukoners with concerns about the project to express them.

The Yukon Utilities Board hearing continues at the Whitehorse Westmark hotel this week, although the opportunity for public comment has passed. Transcripts and documents related to the hearing are available at the board’s website.

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board is also in the process of assessing the project.

It released a draft screening report last month, and will accept comments on the proposed recommendations through April 22.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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