Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for December 19, 2013

Council’s pullout disappoints Yukon Energy boss

The Ta’an Kwach’an Council has pulled out of a potential business partnership with Yukon Energy and its plan to begin burning natural gas.

By Chuck Tobin on December 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm


Photo by Whitehorse Star

Left: DAVID MORRISON Right: LEAVING PROPOSAL – Chief Kristina Kane of the Ta’an Kwach’an Council announced the First Nation will not partner with Yukon Energy in its proposal to begin burning natural gas, because of potential for reliance on fracking as a source of fuel.

The Ta’an Kwach’an Council has pulled out of a potential business partnership with Yukon Energy and its plan to begin burning natural gas.

Ta’an Chief Kristina Kane explained this morning the Ta’an council was concerned that some day the source of natural gas would be hydraulic fracturing, either inside or outside the Yukon.

Both the Ta’an Kwach’an Council and the First Nation’s elders’ council passed resolutions previously opposing fracking inside the Ta’an’s traditional territory and inside the traditional territory of others as well, the chief pointed out.

Kane told the Star she asked the elders’ council to meet Tuesday to discuss the potential partnership with Yukon Energy.

The elders voted to withdraw from negotiations because of the potential for fracking as the fuel source.

The elders’ decision was forwarded to the general council at its meeting Tuesday evening. The council passed a resolution in support of the elders who serve as an advisory body, she said.

“As respectful stewards of our land and environment, the Ta’an Kwach’an really needs to ensure investment opportunities we go into are viable as who we are as a people,” she said. “Investment in a project that has the potential for fracking gas just was not in our interest.”

Kane said other issues arose in negotiations that Ta’an will sort out with Yukon Energy, but the driving force to withdraw was definitely the potential for reliance on hydraulic fracturing.

There is a worldwide segment of the population which believes hydraulic fracturing is extremely toxic to the environment, below and above the ground.

Yukon Energy is proposing in 2014 to replace two old back-up diesel generators with generators powered by natural gas.

The $34-million project involves the construction of a new generating plant and storage facility for the liquefied natural gas the corporation plans to truck up from Calgary.

In announcing the project last spring, Yukon Energy president David Morrison pointed out the corporation was discussing a potential business arrangement with Ta’an and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.

He also pointed out Yukon Energy has a five-year contract with Shell Canada to provide natural gas from its Jumping Pound facility, which is supplied by conventional wells and not fracking.

Morris said this morning he was disappointed to hear Ta’an was pulling out, though he declined to discuss the First Nation’s reasons for doing so.

The parties had signed off on a memorandum of understanding to begin discussions about negotiating an arrangement, he said.

“I’m disappointed,” he said. “We have been talking about this partnership for a long time between Kwanlin Dun and Ta’an.”

Morrison said he was, on the other hand, glad to hear Ta’an is still interested in pursuing future partnerships with Yukon Energy in other matters.

Kwanlin Dun Chief Rick O’Brien and deputy chief Ray Sydney were meeting this morning to discuss Ta’an’s decision, and were unavailable for comment.

The Ta’an chief said the uncertainty of supply for the new plant beyond the initial five years was a factor in the council’s decision.

“There is a big potential for that gas to be fracked,” she said of the source beyond five years.

Yukon Energy is hoping to begin construction next May in order to have the natural gas generators operational by the end of 2014.

The corporation maintains air emissions from natural gas are cleaner than those from diesel, and consumers would save millions of dollars in fuel costs.

Replacing the diesel generators with new diesel would cost $31 million because of the upgrades that would be required at the existing plant, the corporation maintains.

Diesel generators at the Whitehorse Rapids Dam are used for back-up to the hydrogeneration, which supplies 99 per cent of the power on the grid, according to Yukon Energy.

The diesels are occasionally called on to assist in supplying the base loads during cold snaps and periods of high demand, such as they have been over the last couple of days.

The proposal to convert to natural gas is currently under review by the executive committee of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB). The board is receiving public input until Jan. 10.

The territorial cabinet has also passed an order directing the project be reviewed by the Yukon Utilities Board.

Stephen Mills, chair of the assessment board, has emphasized the board is reviewing the project, not the source of natural gas.

It does not have the legal authority to assess activities outside the Yukon, just like it would not conduct an assessment of where wood products were coming from for new buildings in the Yukon, he has said.

Mills and fellow YESAB executive committee members Ken McKinnon and Dave Keenan hosted a public meeting last week to gather input from 100 or so members of the public who attended.

Many comments were directed around the source of the natural gas to power the plant, and whether it would involve hydraulic fracturing, despite the explanation from Mills.

It was said that Yukon Energy’s plan to burn natural gas in the Yukon will also encourage the production of natural gas in the Yukon to establish a local and less expensive fuel supply. Many insist the only viable means of future production of natural gas in the Yukon is through hydraulic fracturing.

YESAB has already recommended approval of the proposal by Yukon Electrical Co. Ltd. to convert its six diesel generators in Watson Lake to hybrid generators capable of burning both diesel and natural gas.

The company is awaiting final permits from the Yukon government. It is scheduled next summer to begin the pilot project of converting one of the six diesels next summer.

A spokeswoman from ATCO, Yukon Electrical’s parent company based in Alberta, told municipal leaders last spring there will be no way of determining the source of the natural gas it will be purchasing from Delta, B.C.

Once the gas is received at the bulk distribution plant, it’s impossible to distinguish if it was obtained through conventional wells or hydraulic fracturing, the municipal leaders were told.

CommentsAdd a comment

Ashamed taan Member

Dec 19, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Kristina Kane,  As my “chief”  I can’t believe you’re backing out of this deal.  Guess it’s better to be a welfare band.

now outside

Dec 19, 2013 at 6:05 pm

There is more to this than fracked gas, far more.

Frank Fister

Dec 20, 2013 at 12:06 am

If that gas was frack free what was the issue really.
And why did White Pass not want to lease their land.
Seems like Yukon Energy did not develop formal partnerships which is unfortunate.

Hauke Kruse

Dec 20, 2013 at 12:14 am

Good call Chief Kane. Ethics before profit. Yukon Energy: get off your duffs and develop some real clean energy sources. There are many example for you to follow. You can develop small scale hydro generation here and minimize environmental damage. Trucking gas - fracked or not - from Alberta to Yukon to generate electricity is not impressive.

Just Say'in

Dec 20, 2013 at 1:38 am

Why does everyone keep trying to team up with these bands. They don’t want to get anything done they just want to negotiate and talk about things forever. They agree on something and then one of these enviro terrorist organizations gets hold of them and says “OH you don’t want that” and then away they go in the other direction. Quit taking them seriously and get the job done. Oh I forgot ,if it is on “Their Turf” then they get a cut. Sounds like little Sicily to me. That is all thanks to our Land Claims Agreement.

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