NDP members of the legislative committee on fracking say the committee was divided along party lines when it came to the question of whether the practice should be permitted in the Yukon.
MLAs Lois Moorcroft and Jim Tredger held a press conference this morning to discuss their involvement on the all-party committee and its report along with 21
recommendations delivered to the Speaker of the House Monday morning.
The two MLAs said it’s clear there is no science available that says hydraulic fracturing can be done safely, and it’s also evident the vast majority of Yukoners do not want to see
fracking in the territory.
Yet the committee could not agree on the question of whether it could be done safely, said Moorcroft.
Nor could the committee agree that the approval from Yukoners – social licence – should be required before fracking is allowed, Moorcroft added.
She said governing Yukon Party members on the committee would not agree to a recommendation requiring social licence, nor would they agree to a finding that there is no evidence fracking can be done safely.
It was a victory to have the committee recommend fracking should not go ahead without the approval of Yukon First Nations, Moorcroft told reporters.
The Copperbelt South MLA said what remains to be seen, however, is whether Premier Darrell Pasloski and his caucus accept the committee’s recommendations.
The government did form the legislative committee in May 2013 for a purpose, and presumably it did so to receive valuable insight and direction, she said.
But Moorcroft also expressed apprehension about the future of the recommendations.
While the committee did agree on 21 recommendations largely addressing the need to gather more information about fracking, it could not concur on the fundamental question of whether it should be permitted in the Yukon.
“The inability of the committee to reach a consensus despite a severe lack of scientific knowledge about fracking and the staunch public opposition goes a long way to show that the government remains determined to put rose-coloured goggles on this report and dismiss the concerns raised by hundreds of Yukoners,” she said.
But Yukoners are watching, and they’re watching closely, Tredger insisted.
“I think we have awakened a sleeping giant,” said the Mayo-Tatchun MLA.
“Yukoners are clearly involved, they are engaged and they want a participatory, responsive government, they want their land and water looked after and they want to be listened to.”
Moorcroft said there is no question the issue of hydraulic fracturing will be an election issue, whether Pasloski decides to go with an early election this year or wait until the end of his five-year mandate next year.
In addition to recommending fracking should only occur with First Nation approval, the committee also recommended the government respect existing aboriginal land claim
agreements, and obligations to First Nations without agreements.
It has recommended base line research be conducted to collect data on the territory’s ground water and surface water resources, along with base line data on air, wildlife and
The committee recommended extensive research be undertaken to fill in knowledge gaps regarding several aspects of hydraulic fracturing and its impacts before any
consideration is given to whether it should be allowed here.
Base line water data is the type of information Yukoners should have in any case, Tredger and Moorcroft explained.
Both the Yukon Conservation Society and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society have likened the recommendations to a moratorium on fracking, given the research called for along with the requirement for First Nation approval.
Most Yukon First Nations have clearly stated their opposition to hydraulic fracturing unless it can be proven to be safe.
Moorcroft and Tredger agreed the research recommended by the committee is exhaustive but necessary, though again it all comes down to how the government treats the report and its recommendations.
They acknowledged there is not a lot about the economic benefits versus the negative impacts of fracking because there is not a lot of reliable information available to create a
sound risk-benefit analysis, they explained.
The committee, said Moorcroft, has recommended a thorough study to determine exactly what the economic benefits would be to the Yukon.
Tredger said the equation must include the impact the industry would have on the land, the impact it would have on communities.
Often, he said, communities are left to picking up the pieces, dealing with the negative left behind in exchange for a few fly-in camp jobs, while all the profits fly south.
“What I heard from Yukoners is they are not willing to degrade their landscape for short term gain.”
Tredger said he was impressed by the depth of information he received from scientists, experts and all those who provided input to the committee.
Despite all their efforts, there remain many gaps in the knowledge base that prevents a complete understanding of hydraulic fracturing and its impacts, he said.
“It became increasingly evident that more scientific research is needed to identify risks and make decisions,” Tredger told reporters.
“Every day, new information and research is available raising more concerns and identifying further potential harms and unintended consequences of fracking.
“It is clear that there remains undetermined risks, potentially long-term consequences for our health, our water, and our wildlife.”
The Select Committee Regarding the Risks and Benefits of Hydraulic Fracturing was chaired by Yukon Party MLA Patti McLeod of the Watson Lake riding.
Other Yukon Party members were Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias and Copperbelt North MLA Currie Dixon. Liberal Leader Sandy Silver of the Klondike riding was the other
Silver is expected to comment on the report Wednesday.