Approximately 15 members from Yukoners Concerned met with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources (EMR), Ranj Pillai, in early April to understand the new government’s energy priorities over the coming years. He was also joined by Minister of Community Services, John Streicker, and EMR Deputy Minister, Stephen Mills. We were very pleased to have this opportunity for an open line of communication, given the previous government’s unwillingness to meet with us. The 90-minute meeting was a chance to explain the core motivations of our passionate group of citizens: protecting the Yukon’s land and water and ensuring that the Yukon is part of the solution to climate change rather than the problem.
We were pleased to get a re-affirmation from Minister Pillai of the government’s election commitment that there will be no fracking in the territory. The minister was unequivocal on this point. However, we were disappointed to learn that the government intends to support conventional oil and gas development. Based on the best available research and the testimony of fracking expert, Anthony Ingraffea, there are no viable volumes of oil and gas that can be extracted without fracking in the Yukon because our geology is primarily shale. We know that for environmental and economic reasons, oil and gas development is not a road worth going down for the Yukon, and we are hopeful that the new government will soon realize this as well.
According to Minister Pillai, the focus of the government is on renewable energy and they are looking at a number of different projects to get off the ground, as well as the potential for more clean energy based space heating. Minister Pillai also tempered our disappointment with the Resource Plan recently produced by Yukon Energy, which is heavy on diesel and LNG. He stressed that it is very much a draft plan.
We provided Minister Pillai a number of questions on issues such as Eagle Plains, the wintering range of the Porcupine Caribou, and how the government defines conventional and unconventional development. We look forward to receiving those answers in the coming weeks. Overall, the meeting left us feeling cautiously optimistic about the direction the new Yukon Government aims to take us. We will be working hard to hold them to their promise on no fracking, and to encourage them to take the path of renewable energy rather than fossil fuels, for the sake of our environment and future generations.
Questions provided to Minister Pillai
1. In YEC's 20 year plan, the only option for wind power is dependent on at least two large mines coming online. In the final Whitehorse public meeting, Andrew Hall stated it would take government direction to change this plan. When is the Government planning to direct YEC to build a wind farm and give them enabling support?
2. Does the Yukon Liberal Government support the recent First Nations plea to protect the Porcupine Caribou Herd from drilling in the ANWR? If so, how does the Yukon Liberal Government justify expansion of drilling in the Yukon portions of the PCH habitat? Do you think that promoting oil and gas development in Eagle Plains supports arguments to ban drilling in ANWR?
3. We would like to ask the Liberal Government what they deem as the definition, boundaries - parameters of the act 'to frack' and with the understanding 90% of Yukon would require some form of fracking what is their end goal in their pursuit to promote oil and gas development in our Territory?
4. What is Minister Pillai's strategy to replace the $200M/year leaving the Yukon to import fossil fuel that is presently being used to feed our electrical, space heating and transportation needs. How does he plan to engage groups like Yukoners Concerned and work together with Yukoners to rollout this strategy?
5. It is imperative that all Canadian jurisdictions immediately implement policies to reduce our combustion of fossil fuels. Here in the Yukon, 25% of our fossil fuel consumption is for space heating. The conversion of at least 40% of that space heating to electrical heat is both practical and would give an immediate 10% reduction in the Yukon's use of fossil fuels. What is preventing the Yukon government from moving on this low political risk policy as soon as possible?
6. Recently the Auditor General’ office reported on high radon levels in some Yukon schools. How high was the radiation in Bq/cubic m in the schools and day cares in 2008 to be called ‘ unacceptable levels? Did any Yukon department follow up with mitigation? Radon radiation is a major problem in some parts of the Yukon. What long term mitigation programs are being planned to ensure that Yukon homes are safe?
Yukoners Concerned meets with EMR Minister, Ranj Pillai
April 15, 2017