WHITEHORSE—Yukon’s energy minister says the territory needs to stop allowing British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to oil and gas.
“I think it’s important to be a net contributor to the country,” Scott Kent said.
“We shouldn’t rely on the hard work of residents of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.”
The territorial government recently announced plans to pave the way for fracking in the Liard basin in southeast Yukon, saying it will focus on the area “for further research and possible shale development.”
The announcement was part of its response to a January report and comes in the wake of a divided legislative committee on fracking and internal documents that suggest a pre-emptive push toward the controversial gas extraction method.
Kent said the Yukon Party “stands for responsible resource development and a robust oil and gas industry.”
He stressed the potential for jobs, royalties and the economic ripple effect of exploration and production. He has also emphasized First Nations’ participation in the resource development process.
Kent said the discussion has to be broader than just consent and that fracking will only occur with the support of affected First Nations.
The Ross River Dena Council, Northwest Territories’ Acho Dene Koe First Nation and B.C.-based Kaska nations have traditional territory in the Liard basin.
But Liberal Leader Sandy Silver called the government’s turn toward a more First Nations-friendly approach “a significant flip-flop.”
In 2012, the territory passed legislation that stripped the Liard First Nation—opposed to fracking at the time—of its veto over oil and gas development in the area.
Yukon NDP Leader Liz Hanson also criticized the decision and said it “exemplified how this government has misused the whole public consultation process.”
Sebastian Jones, an energy analyst with the Yukon Conservation Society, called fracking “massively destructive and dirty” and noted virtually unanimous opposition by residents at a number of public hearings last year.
The Liard basin extends well into British Columbia, with several wells already in place South of 60. It contains 176 trillion cubic metres of gas in the B.C. portion alone, with more than one-third of that recoverable, according to experts.
The shale deposits sit in two reservoirs running between one and four kilometres underground.
Don Murphy, head of regional mapping at the Yukon Geological Survey, called the Liard deposit world class and said the government plans to undertake the “first systemic attempt to characterize unconventional hydrocarbon resources in Yukon.”
Fracking in the Yukon came into the spotlight last month when a bureaucrat at the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources accidentally emailed a reporter the draft of a presentation intended for the assistant deputy minister to deliver to caucus and a speech bound for the minister’s desk.
The internal presentation discussed “moving forward” on “multi-stage horizontal fracking,” particularly in the Eagle Plain and Liard oil and gas basins.
The department later released a statement that said it regrets the error.
Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground—usually about 2,000 to 3,000 metres—to release natural gas trapped within the shale rock.
Over the last 60 years, roughly 215,000 fracking wells have been drilled in Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan.