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Put the fracking moratorium in legislation, Mr. Premier

February 24th, 2017 (appeared in both the Yukon News and Whitehorse Star)

Three months after forming government, the Yukon Liberals have been very quiet on one of their cornerstone campaign promises: keeping fracking out of the Yukon. In newspapers, radio ads and election forums, the Liberals said they had an unequivocal position on the issue. “No Fracking. Period,” we were told. The platform (still available at www.ylp.ca) states that an “an immediate, long-term moratorium on fracking” would be one of the first orders of business of a Yukon Liberal Government.

So why the silence thus far? Well, there was a glaring contradiction in the Liberals’ energy platform. Their opposition to fracking was incompatible with their support for oil and gas development in Eagle Plains and elsewhere in the territory. Studies have shown that the vast majority of Yukon’s fossil fuel reserves are locked in shale, and the only way to unlock these climate change aggravating extreme energy sources is to blast them out with the high-pressure, water-intensive, toxic process known as fracking. There are no alternatives. Going down the road of oil and gas development anywhere in the Yukon means going down the road of fracking.

For now, the Liberals won’t need to choose between these conflicting positions. The prospect of drilling in Eagle Plains appears weak, with the Chinese Government (China National Offshore Oil Corporation - CNOOC) pulling its investment out of Northern Cross. But if the project attracts new investors, the Liberals could be forced to show their hand when it becomes apparent that fracking will be necessary to get any viable amount of oil or gas out of Eagle Plains. Unfortunately, the Liberals have already shown that their campaign words are not set in stone with their early handling of the Peel file.

The Premier’s mandate letters make only a single mention of fracking. EMR Minister, Ranj Pillai, is directed to “promote oil and gas development outside the Whitehorse trough and without fracking.” But nowhere in the letters is the much championed moratorium on fracking, a position the Liberals said was indistinguishable from the NDP plan to ban fracking altogether.

There is plenty to be optimistic about in the mandate letters, including the $30 million annually for energy retrofit programs and a directive to increase the availability of renewable energy solutions. But it was fracking that made headlines during the campaign, and the Liberals rode to power saying there would be no fracking in the Yukon. Period. Only a piece of legislation can provide Yukoners with the confidence that the Liberals meant what they said. So, it’s time for real action. Let’s see the moratorium in writing.

Letter to Premier Sandy Silver and EMR Minister, Ranj Pillai