YESAB broke its own rules: Northern Cross

Northern Cross was in court April 24 and 25 arguing the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board broke its own rules when it referred the company’s Eagle Plains oil and gas project to a higher level of screening.

Northern Cross was in court April 24 and 25 arguing the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board broke its own rules when it referred the company’s Eagle Plains oil and gas project to a higher level of screening.

The company is asking Canada’s federal court to send the project back to an earlier stage of assessment.

In early 2016 YESAB’s designated office ruled it couldn’t determine how exploratory drilling would affect the Porcupine caribou herd and referred the project to an executive committee screening.

Northern Cross’s lawyer Brad Armstrong said the company was surprised by the designated office’s final report.

While Northern Cross specified the area affected would be 325 square kilometres, the report defined the scope as 700 square kilometres.

Armstrong said YESAB breached its own rules.

“(They) must conduct assessment in accordance with the scope,” he said.

The final report also listed six areas where “additional information would have been helpful,” Armstrong told the court.

But he criticized YESAB for not asking Northern Cross for that information.

He also criticized the fact the YESAB evaluator relied on 12 documents he found though his own research that were not on YESAB’s public record.

“All the information has to go on the registry,” he said. “It’s a breach of the rules of procedural fairness.”

The company also took issue with the fact the Porcupine Caribou Management Board was allowed to file a report after the December 2015 deadline and the company wasn’t asked to provide comments about the report.

But Suzanne Duncan, lawyer for the federal government, said there were no surprises.

“All these issues were addressed throughout process — it shouldn’t come as a surprise.”

Throughout the 19-month process, YESAB made four different information requests because it wasn’t satisfied with some of the answers the company gave.

Eventually the designated office had to end the process, because of time constraints set in the act and information it didn’t get, Duncan said.

“It wasn’t satisfied with the answers and felt a more thorough process was required,” she said.

The executive committee has longer timelines to make a decision but also other tools the designated office doesn’t have, for example sharing draft reports with the those involved in the project.

Two recurring concerns were how the company was going to deal with caribou activity near the work sites and how hunting rights would be affected.

During the process the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation expressed concerns about hunting rights after the Northern Cross’s CEO filed an affidavit saying that the “First Nation could hunt elsewhere (in the traditional territory).”

The First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun was concerned about the company eliminating a technical working group about mitigating the impact on the herd.

There were also concerns about how the company was going to monitor the herd’s movements. It didn’t want to use aerial survey but rather track via GPS movements of collared caribou.

The mitigating plans to deal with caribou coming near the drill site included measures to reduce and slow down traffic but the drilling wouldn’t be stopped, Duncan said.

Those plans mentioned “adaptive mechanisms” to deal with caribou but there were no precise descriptions of those mechanisms, she said.

On the issue of the scope of the project, Duncan said it was up to YESAB to determine what the scope of the project was based on the activities proposed.

There were two drilling wells outside the border shown in maps Northern Cross filed to the board, she said.

But for Armstrong, it was crucial for the company to respond to the PCMB report because it contained new information.

The report described that in November 2015, about 50,000 caribou were seen migrating through part of the project area.

Justice Keith Boswell reserved his decision.

Even if the federal court sides with the Northern Cross, it’s not clear what will happen given that the company is also suing the Yukon government claiming it can’t drill in Eagle Plains because of a fracking moratorium.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at

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

Just Posted

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read