Yukon letters

This week’s mailbox: YESAA and the Pope’s apology

On diesel generators in Faro

Want to avoid YESAA requirements? YESAB and Department of Environment can help!

Back in 2020, Yukon Energy installed six “temporary” 1.8MW rental diesel generators in Faro, increasing capacity by 10.8MW.

According to YESAA, an increase in capacity of more than 5MW at a fossil fuel-fired power plant requires an “Executive Committee” screening, an assessment that is much more thorough than the regular designated office assessment. And yet no Executive Committee screening was done. How did Yukon Energy get around this? With plenty of help from YESAB and the Department of Environment.

Here’s what happened:

In 2011, YESAB determined the total station capacity in Faro to be 10.6MW for the 2011-2014 pollution permit.

In 2014, in its most recent Decision Document, YESAB determined the total station capacity to be 8.15MW for the 2014-2024 pollution permit. Accordingly, 8.15MW was the standard applicable in 2020 when the additional rental generators were installed in Faro.

In 2020, Yukon Energy installed and began operating six rental diesel generators (1.8MW each), bringing 10.8MW of additional capacity to the Faro plant. It would seem simple that 10.8MW is greater than 5MW and would require an Executive Committee screening, but somehow that’s not the result.

Instead, Yukon Energy “derated” the capacity of the two installed generators from 8.15MW to 5.2MW and convinced the Department of Environment (the regulator) to ignore the most recent 2014 YESAB Decision Document and use the 2011 Decision Document in its place. This effectively allows the capacity of the 2 derated installed generators (5.2MW) and 3 of the 6 added rental generators (5.4MW) while “respecting” the 2011 10.6MW station capacity of the expired 2011-2014 permit.

Ignoring the most recent 2014 YESAB Decision Document and using a superseded document from 2011 with higher limits is not supported by YESAA. This is like re-activating a 10 year old fishing license, because the catch limits were higher. Does the Department of Environment support this? For Yukon Energy, the answer is yes.

One of the purposes of YESAA, according to the Act itself is (2) (h) to provide opportunities for public participation in the assessment process;

This project that was conceived, announced and undertaken in 2020, and by using the 2011 Decision Document the public participation for this portion of the project was completed in 2011. Is this what was intended by YESAA? Public participation, but only for those capable of time travel?

In August 2021, Yukon Energy initiated a YESAB assessment (2021-0115) for an additional 4.9MW (equivalent to 2.72 rental generators) raising capacity from 2011’s 10.6MW to a new capacity limit of 15.5MW. The YESAB Evaluation Report notes that the most recent assessment was for 8.15MW in 2014, but does not object to the regulator (Department of Environment) using the superseded 2011 assessment document of 10.6MW. If it was ok with everyone in 2011, it must be ok now too?

Using the assessed capacity from the current 2014-2024 permit would have led to a thorough Executive Committee screening as mandated by YESAA for capacity increases greater than 5MW. The same would be true had Yukon Energy included the capacity of 3 installed rental generators (5.4MW) rather than 2.72 (4.9MW). Can Yukon Energy run 2.72 generators without actually running 3? How does that work? And back to fishing, this would be like having a catch limit on lake trout of 2.72. Makes no sense when reality is considered.

All of the studies included in Yukon Energy’s 2021 YESAB application use the 2011 assessment’s 10.6MW as as baseline. The combination of two installed generators and three new rentals is referred to as the “permanent,” “permitted” or “existing” capacity and configuration. This despite the fact that this is a new configuration and this capacity has not existed or been permitted since 2014.

Overshadowing all of this, the YESAB Evaluation Report notes that the project was undertaken in 2020 and also states that

“… YESAB does not assess activities already undertaken and only assesses activities proposed to be undertaken in Yukon (Section 47(2))”

Yes, the Evaluation Report itself actually points to where to look in YESAA to see that YESAB has no authority to assess this (already undertaken) project or issue this Evaluation Report. It’s a bit circular, but comes down to this: A project cannot be undertaken until the YESAB assessment has been completed. The regulator failed to enforce this important aspect of YESAA, leading to all kinds of problems.

From YESAA, purposes of act:

(2)(b) to require that, before projects are undertaken, their environmental and socio-economic effects be considered;

Rather than pointing out that Yukon Energy and the regulator were in violation of YESAA, the Watson Lake YESAB office stepped outside of their mandate and produced an Evaluation Report for a project that had already been undertaken. Do three wrongs make a right? The Department of Environment, Yukon Energy and YESAB seem to think so.

So… If your business wants to increase capacity to what it was in some past year — and/or maybe you don’t have time for another YESAB assessment? No problem! The Department of Environment and YESAB will use an old assessment instead of requiring a new one! Do you have a new project operating – and you maybe forgot to have a YESAB assessment or failed to get permits updated before getting things going? No problem! Despite being outside the boundaries of YESAA, YESAB is now open to assessing projects after they have been undertaken!

At least if you are Yukon Energy.

First step going forward, these generators cannot be operated again until they go through the Executive Committee screening process specified by YESAA. It is, after all, the law. Is it too much to ask that YESAB, the Department of Environment and Yukon Energy follow it?

Ok, I think I’ve reached my 2.72 daily catch limit on this one.

Nathaniel Yee


A litany of sins

A heartfelt apology is a genuine and regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure. An empty apology is a reluctant acknowledgement of an offense or failure but only given for expeditious reasons. Too much time has passed, too many lies have been told, too much deception has occurred, too many lives have been ruined, too much pain has been endured, too many perverts have escaped accountability and too much pressure has had to be brought to bear for any apology by Pope Francis to be considered anything but hollow, insincere and self-serving.

Lloyd Atkins