The Frackfree Yukon Alliance wants to hold a referendum on whether fracking should be permitted inside Whitehorse city limits.
The organization held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to denounce this week’s report to the legislature on hydraulic fracturing and discuss its future plans to push for a legally-binding referendum.
The report is weak.
As well, its summary misrepresents what the legislative committee heard, and it sidesteps the key question of whether fracking should be banned in the Yukon, Frackfree representatives told reporters.
In fact, they said, the report plays right into the hands of the oil and gas industry, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Products has already described the 25-page document as a good report.
Peter Becker said the review by the legislative committee and its report recommending further studies is a classic example of the strategy used by industry to keep the discussion going while industry gradually moves in.
The anti-fracking movement calls it talk and frack, or frack and talk, he said.
Becker said it’s happening in the Yukon right now.
While Northern Cross and EFLO Energy Yukon insist they have no intention at this time to conduct hydraulic fracturing in their exploration programs, their methods of exploration are used exclusively for fracking projects, he said.
Becker said their methods don’t fit with conventional oil and gas production.
The report to the legislature is simply buying time for the industry, said Jean-Francois Deslauriers.
The six-member, all-party legislative committee was struck in May 2013 to look at the benefits and risks of permitting hydraulic fracturing in the Yukon.
Yukon Party MLA and committee chair Patti McLeod delivered the report Monday morning.
NDP committee members said this week that division along party lines – three Yukon Party members versus two NDP and one Liberal – resulted in a stalemate on the question of whether fracking can be done safely, and whether it should be permitted in the Yukon.
A good number of the 21 recommendations call for more research to better understand its impact on water, air, wildlife and human health.
The Yukon Party government has indicated it will issue its response to the report once it’s had time to complete a thorough assessment of it.
“Frackfree Yukon Alliance holds that the tenor of the select committee’s report is focused on building a case for the eventual authorization of fracking, against the wishes of the individuals and groups of Yukon citizens who overwhelmingly, categorically and unequivocally communicated to the committee that they wanted a complete ban on the practice of fracking in the Yukon,” said Deslauriers.
He said the committee’s report speaks to the need for a greater understanding of the industry before Yukoners can make an informed decision.
“We don’t need more research,” he insisted. “The verdict is already in.”
There needs to be a ban on fracking in the Yukon if the territory’s pristine environment is to be protected. The committee did indeed hear much evidence about the dangers of fracking, the Frackfree representatives said.
“Dozens of other jurisdictions have conducted research much broader than anything the Yukon could afford to do, and many have enacted a complete ban on the practice,” said Deslauriers.
“France, Germany, Quebec, California, Texas, Hawaii, are just some of the big players who have chosen to ban fracking on their territory.”
He said the organization is drafting a proposed bylaw for Whitehorse residents to consider banning fracking inside city limits, and they encourage the other seven
communities covered by the Municipal Act to do the same.
Not only would it address fracking inside city limits, but it would also send a strong message with fewer than two years to go before the next territorial election, suggested the Frackfree representatives.
Deslauriers said Frackfree Yukon will be meeting in two weeks with its sister
organization, Yukoners Concerned About Oil and Gas Exploration/Development, to
discuss the referendum strategy.
Yukoners Concerned, he pointed out, has already compiled a Yukon-wide anti-fracking petition supported by some 8,000 Yukoners.
Under the Municipal Act, eligible Whitehorse voters can force a legally binding referendum if it can present a petition to city council supported by at least 25 per cent
of the electorate.
Rob Fendrick, the city’s director of corporate services, said today there were 12,763 names on the voters list in 2012. That would mean a petition supported by at least 3,190 voters is required to force a referendum.
The act, however, also states referenda can only be held on matters that fall within the city’s jurisdiction.
Fendrick said whether oil and gas activity inside city limits falls within city hall’s jurisdiction is unclear.
The proposal is hypothetical right now, so the city is just observing at this point, he said.
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