Barlow to speak against fracking in the Yukon on May 4

Event poster

On Monday May 4, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be speaking at a rally on the steps of the Yukon Legislative Assembly in Whitehorse against the Yukon Party government's decision to allow fracking in the Kotaneelee gas fields in the Liard basin in southeast Yukon.

Houston, Texas-based EFLO Energy Inc. has stated it wants to frack in the area in the next 5-10 years. Their website notes, "The company currently has a 53.65% general interest in the Kotaneelee Gas Field and a 100% interest in one gas well. The experienced management and technical teams are planning further exploration in the Kotaneelee Gas Field and are seeking to increase the company's share of the project to as high as 68%. [Houston, Texas-based] Apache Corp. owns another 32% of the project."

In January, an all-party legislative committee issued a report on fracking in the territory, but were unable to agree on whether fracking should be permitted or even it could be safely regulated. The Council of Canadians Yukon chapter had called on the committee to recommend a permanent ban on fracking in the territory and has organized two cross-territory tours, numerous protests, a benefit concert, written letters to the editor, gathered signatures for an anti-fracking petition and much more toward this end. They continue to call for a ban on fracking in the territory.

Earlier this month, the Whitehorse Daily Star reported, "A copy of an email circulated by the New Democrats has deputy minister George Ross of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources discussing a 'pilot fracking/science project' in the Kotaneelee gas field with EFLO Energy Yukon. It discusses the need to enter into an oil and gas agreement with the Liard First Nation. The email says it’s not the government’s intention to say it is proceeding with hydraulic fracturing. ...[NDP Environment critic Kate] White said EFLO Yukon, which purchased the Kotaneelee gas field in 2012, is on record as saying it wants to explore opportunities in the gas field using unconventional drilling methods – fracking."

More recently, the newspaper has reported, "Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Scott Kent is unequivocal on the potential benefits of fracking and the key role First Nations would play in the lead-up to possible exploration or development. 'The Yukon Party stands for responsible resource development and a robust oil and gas industry, and the opposition parties clearly do not', he said... Kent referred to the government’s announcement that it will open the door to fracking proposals – for now, only in the Liard basin in the southeast corner of the territory."

The Liard First Nation, the Ross River Dena Council, Acho Dene Koe First Nation and the Kaska nations have traditional territory in the Liard basin. While the Liard First Nation has been formally opposed to fracking in the past, it's not clear the position current Chief Daniel Morris has taken on the issue. That said, the Liard Fist Nation's Society Group to Protect Land and Resources has called on Yukon premier Darrell Pasloski to ban fracking and members of the Liard First Nation will speak at the rally alongside Barlow to highlight that the community does not approve of fracking.

Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui, who will travel to the Yukon with Barlow, has also noted, "The Council of Yukon First Nations, an organization of fourteen First Nations, unanimously passed a resolution in July 2013 declaring traditional territories 'frack-free', Shortly after, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation voted to ban fracking until it could be proven safe. Kaska First Nation has also come out against fracking."

Barlow is travelling to the Yukon to speak at a three-hour workshop that morning "on helping Yukoners create or improve campaigns on issues relating to water that are important to them" and to give a public presentation at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre that evening. For more on those two events, please see this Facebook page and information from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) here and here.

CPAWS campaigner Amber Church says, "There are so many issues going on in the Yukon right now with direct links to water, and such a diverse set of Yukoners who are trying to create positive change in the sector, that we felt it was really important to bring Barlow to help bolster the capacity of the community in this area. The response to the news that she is coming has been utterly overwhelming. The free workshop for the community we are hosting with her filled instantly and has a lengthy wait list; and we've been hearing a lot of excitement from the public about the evening lecture."

Further reading
Maude Barlow & First Nations Rally (Yukoners Concerned newsletter)
To frack or not to frack in the Yukon? Herein lies the nation's future (September 2014 blog by Brigette DePape)
Yukon chapter expects recommendations on fracking by select committee soon (December 2014 blog)