Why are so many Yukoners concerned about fracking?
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"In communities like Fort Nelson, fracking has resulted in fragmented forests, frightened wildlife, decreased animal populations, and pollution of the water and air."
The Yukon's 8 sedimentary basins with the potential to host conventional and unconventional oil and gas reservoirs
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In 2012 the Yukon Government announced their interest to start fracking in the Whitehorse Trough basin. The plan was met with strong public opposition, in consideration of what oil and gas work has done to the Yukon's neighbours in northern B.C and Alberta. In communities like Fort Nelson, fracking has resulted in fragmented forests, frightened wildlife, decreased animal populations, and pollution of the water and air.
After significant public opposition and pressure by the Yukon NDP, the Yukon Government announced they would ban fracking from the Whitehorse Trough for five years.
Next, an all-party Committee to study the risks and benefits of fracking was created. The Committee was the government's answer to the insistence by the public and opposition parties that there be full public consultation and rigorous scientific review before fracking be allowed.
The Select Committee Regarding the Risks and Benefits of Hydraulic Fracturing was therefore formed, and a year and a half long process of public hearings and proceedings began. The major activities of the Committee included:
During the Public Proceedings, much of what the Committee heard from industry experts and affected First Nations did not paint a pretty picture about fracking. It wasn't a surprise then, that the Committee's Final Report revealed the group could not reach a consensus on whether fracking can be safely regulated and if it should be allowed in the Yukon.
What did come as a surprise, was the Yukon Government's next move: a number of leaked documents revealed their headstrong plans for going ahead with fracking, regardless of the non-existent consensus, public opposition, and warnings from industry experts.
How can we trust the Yukon Government to regulate fracking, if the Committee's Final Report deemed the territory not ready?
The decision to move forward with fracking is especially questionable, when you consider who the Yukon Government is turning to for mentorship - the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission. In February 2012, an agreement was signed with the Commission, outlining a commitment to share information and cooperate on common interests such as responsible regulation of industry activity. Can we trust this "best practice" agreement with B.C. will prepare the Yukon for safe regulation of fracking? During the Public Hearings, Yukoners heard Fort Nelson First Nation's Chief present a case whereby B.C.'s inadequate regulatory frameworks and consultation process resulted in adverse effects on their land, air, water and wildlife. This should be answer enough.
Regardless of opposition, the Yukon Government pushes on. There's been an announcement of their plan to move ahead with a "pilot fracking/science project" in the Kotaneelee gas field, located in the territory of the Liard First Nation. Ironically, the Liard First Nation are not members of the Council of Yukon First Nation who passed a unanimous resolution to ban fracking in their traditional territory. This leaves the Liard basin wide open for gas development.
With a soon to be complete Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) generator, which also met strong opposition by Yukoners, the Yukon Government is quickly opening the territory up to a local natural gas industry in the Yukon. Instead of making large-scale investments in renewable energy technology, the Yukon continues down a greenhouse gas intensive path.
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Fracking is the short form of the term “hydraulic fracturing”, which is a method of stimulating production in oil or gas wells. Well stimulation has been used in the petroleum industry for many years, however the use of hydraulic fracturing as a stimulus is much more recent. The “hydraulic” part of this method comes from the fact that large amounts of water are used under very high pressure to fracture the rock formation deep under the earth’s surface. Since most conventional oil has already been recovered, virtually all of the recent increase in production in North America has used the fracking process in order to recover remaining reserves.
It is worth noting that most of the petroleum-containing geology in the Yukon is in shale formations, which means that the recovery of oil and gas in the Yukon would require the use of the fracking process.