Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for February 17, 2014

Tread carefully on fracking: climate expert

Climate change expert John Streicker says if the Yukon government is to permit hydraulic fracturing, it should conduct significant background research first.

By Chuck Tobin on February 17, 2014 at 4:04 pm


Photo by Whitehorse Star

John Streicker

Climate change expert John Streicker says if the Yukon government is to permit hydraulic fracturing, it should conduct significant background research first.

It should, for instance, have a clear understanding of the geological makeup of the territory’s natural gas fields, Streicker writes in a five-page submission to the legislature’s Select
Committee Regarding the Risks and Benefits of Hydraulic Fracturing.

Streicker emphasizes he was not making the submission as a member of Whitehorse city council, but as a scientist and professional engineer who is among “several climate change
experts in the Yukon.”

Knowing the geology would allow the government to impose regulations requiring minimum separations between gas pockets and fresh water aquifers before permitting exploration and development, he says.

Streicker insists the government must get a handle on the potential for natural gas escaping into the air during the exploration and production phases.

Being able to monitor fugitive emissions and having regulations establishing a ceiling for the tolerance of escaping natural gas would be wise, he says.

Natural gas, Streicker points out, is essentially methane gas which is 84 times more toxic than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, according to a report he cites by the United
Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He points out there is ample evidence indicating fugitive emissions of natural gas are common in the natural gas industry, and the amount of leaking gas is sometimes significant.

Reports often leave out fugitive emissions because they have not been measured, but the technology to monitor and measure them is improving, he says.

“Although there will likely remain some uncertainty about what level of emissions and pollution currently exist, this does not preclude the government from establishing acceptable
thresholds and putting in place a regulatory and monitoring regime which ensures that safety is maintained,” says the written submission.

“If government concludes that the risks are not acceptable, then it can conclude not to proceed. The opportunity for the Yukon is that it can consider the risks and take these decisions now before substantial development has occurred.”

Streicker goes on to conclude: “I note that industry proponents have stated to the select committee that they ‘would not want to do anything that is environmentally unsafe or insensitive.’

“With this statement, it is my hope that industry would be supportive of regulations regarding fugitive emissions.”

Along with leaking natural gas, Streicker said, a primary concern among fracking opponents is the potential for the contamination of groundwater.

The tolerance for groundwater pollution should be set a zero, he says.

Streicker says the government, for instance, should put in place regulations requiring that fracking of shale gas will only be permitted where there is a rock-solid layer between the area to be fracked and groundwater above.

Only then can there be any assurance that leaking gas and chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing cannot migrate upwards into freshwater aquifers, he says.

Streicker says companies should have to disclose the type of chemicals they’re using in the process.

Strict regulations should be adopted to ensure best methods are used to drill and cement in well casing, he adds.

The all-party committee on hydraulic fracturing was created last spring by Premier Darrell Pasloski to research the pros and cons of fracking and report its findings to the legislature this spring.

The committee toured Alberta briefly in early January to get a first-hand look at how the industry works and to hear some of the concerns.

It also held two days of public hearings in the legislature Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, during which it heard from scientists, industry representatives and opponents of fracking.

The proposal to use hydraulic fracturing in the Yukon has given rise to a huge anti-fracking movement, including resistance from the Yukon’s First Nations, which insist they will not allow the controversial practice until it is proved safe.

See related letter.

* * *

A story in Friday’s edition said Alberta resident Diana
Daunheimer’s letter to the committee outlining her concerns about fracking has not yet been posted on its website.

In fact, the letter is on the site.

CommentsAdd a comment


Feb 17, 2014 at 8:38 pm

The esteemed Councilor from Marsh Lake is hardly a “Climate change expert”. What peer reviewed papers on the subject has he written?

Max Mack

Feb 18, 2014 at 12:23 am

“Climate change expert John Streicker”?

With all due respect . . . how does Streicker’s engineering background qualify him as a “climate change expert”?

Dave Paquet

Feb 18, 2014 at 5:07 pm

I don’t think questioning someone’s credentials furthers this discussion.  A most basic knowledge of geology, hydrology and BASIC physics would lead one to think that maybe Mr. Streicker has a valid point. Maybe without some base knowledge of any of these subjects one might want to reserve criticism lest one looks like a fool.
Maybe we should let our political leaders make uninformed decisions based purely on short term economics! I’d rather not.


Feb 19, 2014 at 5:24 pm

The esteemed Councilor from Marsh Lake makes very good points. Solid engineering credentials carry far more credibility than “Climate change expert”.  It’s good to see professional agreement with what many have stated: that stringent regulations with strict uncompromising enforcement is required for any petroleum development in the territory.  It’s good to see the strong environmental perspective of someone who lives in a rural area not an urban neighborhood.


Feb 19, 2014 at 9:26 pm

After havng to unfortunately deal with city staff as well as mayor and council I say be very carful when dealing or listening to them.

B. Foster

Feb 20, 2014 at 10:23 am

Strict uncompromising enforcement?? That’s like a chihuahua taking a run at a pack of wolves because they took turns pissing in his kibbles after he told them not to “or else”.
That’s the kind of impact a territory with a billion dollar annual budget would have on a company with annual “profits” of 20bn or so, like shell for instance, when push comes to shove.
Go ahead, let the big dogs in and try to “enforce” the strict regulations. Ever throw a party when you were a teen? Remember the feeling when the “big” kids showed up and things got suddenly real?


Feb 20, 2014 at 5:57 pm

I fully respect the anti-oil views of those who live off-grid like the Amish and avoid using any petroleum products in their lives.

For all of us living a normal life, why shouldn’t some of the petroleum to continue powering our warm comfortable lifestyle, come from here in the Yukon instead of being hauled thousands of kilometers from somewhere else at great expense to our local economy and the environment?  Most Yukoners would like to be more self-sufficient and take personal responsibility for their energy use.  We have the power to ensure it’s done responsibly.

Use that power wisely to make reasonable demands for the best petroleum regulations in the world.

Werner Rhein

Feb 20, 2014 at 9:16 pm

This is all empty rhetoric. Mr. Streicker is the perfect politician he can talk or write for ever and say nothing. He never makes a concrete statement. He is hiding behind a title.
We as human beings have to stop the insanity of destroying our planet and doing so to keep a wasteful lifestyle doesn’t give anybody the right to do so. It is not done so the average Jo could have a better life, our forefathers had a good life too. The destruction is done so a very few could get stinking rich.
We could even maintain a life close to what we have by going to alternative energy sources, because this type of energy provide three to five times the jobs for the same amounts of money invested. But the fuel sources for these types of energy are free and that would leave the top 1% on this earth high and dry. As soon as these greedy people could find a way to charge us for sunshine or wind they would switch.
For us as people in Yukon we have to get rid of these greedy people and let people who care about life and the future of this planet lead us.
Goodby Pasloski and Co.

Sandy Helland

Feb 22, 2014 at 4:07 pm

The Yukon needs to be different from Canada in order to save Canada.
Run-of-the-river electric power will provide everything our comfortable lifestyles desire.
Run-of-the-river electric power will preserve Canadian fresh drinking water for all Canadians, not just Yukoners. There is an economy in drinking water.
Underground power lines ensures reliable electricity; the last frontier for continuous electricity, not to mention leaving more wildness undisturbed by thousands of kilometers of hydro poles.
Fracking? Stand anywhere in Rimbey Alberta and try NOT to breathe methane gas. A ruined township with irreversible air and ground destruction.
Compared to the other provinces, the barrels of fossil fuels consumed in Yukon are a mere drip. It’s not worth forfeiting the Yukon’s self-sufficient capabilities.
We need to expand our ‘recession/depression-proof’ territory self-sufficiencies with indoor farming as well as electric vehicles, electric heat and revive the pressure cooker steam engine.
Fossil fuels are going the way of the fossil.
Let the rest of Canada play with fossils because when they run out, Canada will look to the Yukon, a small place with enviro-friendly big power.

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