Category: Scott Kent Letters

Yukon’s Oil and Gas Resources – Options for Yukon’s Future

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthAs Submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, November 13, 2015
by Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines & Resources

Diversifying Yukon’s economy is one of the key goals of our government. The reason is simple. A strong economy helps to make life better for Yukoners.

Because of that goal, we’ve spent time, money and energy investing in a number of sectors that provide jobs, business opportunities, economic growth and diversity for Yukon. One of them is oil and gas.

While the oil and gas industry has been active in Yukon for decades, over the past few years, it’s become clear that the idea of oil and gas development in our territory makes some Yukoners uneasy. This uncertainty is understandable, since most of us do not have direct experience with a modern oil and gas industry. That is why our government is investing in education, research and public engagement.

This government’s approach is to proceed carefully. First and foremost, it is important that we have the support of First Nations and work in partnership with them in the development of this industry. We are also taking the time necessary to gather important baseline information and conduct research before further decisions are made.

Responsible oil and gas development remains a part of our economic diversification plan. We see this sector as a way to provide significant opportunities for Yukoners and First Nations, whether it’s those working directly in the industry or businesses and individuals who benefit indirectly. For example, it is important to recognize that the Kotaneelee wells in southeast Yukon have contributed millions of dollars in royalties since 1993, which have benefited all Yukoners.

Beyond these benefits, we also know that domestic oil and gas could become a major contributor to our energy needs for many decades to come.

A key component of responsible development is a public that is well informed about the oil and gas sector and how it is regulated in Yukon.

We believe citizens want accurate, readily available information that takes sustainability, safety and economic concerns into account. They also want projects that bring benefits to every community while minimizing environmental impacts.

We are hearing that people expect both industry and governments to proceed slowly, with a view to minimizing the environmental footprint and ensuring the largest social and economic benefits. The Yukon government is listening and being guided by these interests.

During the work of the all-party Select Committee Regarding the Risks and Benefits of Hydraulic Fracturing, you may remember that testimony to the committee was often at odds on the same topics. Despite that, the committee was able to agree on 21 recommendations, all of which were accepted by the Yukon government, including one calling on the government to lead an informed conversation on oil and gas.

We will be encouraging this dialogue through the use of various tools, but primarily through the Yukon government’s oil and gas website and later on a new Facebook page, with moderated topics on a wide range of oil and gas, innovation and self-reliance topics.

As Minister of Energy Mines & Resources, I will also be talking about oil and gas development options at the upcoming Yukon Geoscience Forum, specifically, discussing exploring options for powering Yukon mines.

We want Yukoners to be equipped with knowledge, so that they can develop informed opinions. There is plenty of information on impacts and best practices, but lots of contradictory information too. With so much variation in sources, it can be difficult for individuals to make informed decisions.

The Yukon government is committed to providing research and information that is built on fact. Yukoners deserve an opportunity to make informed choices with unbiased information based on local conditions. Our goal is to lead a discussion that is tolerant, respectful, and inclusive of all views, where all Yukoners have an opportunity to participate in the process. We will work to build understanding between the disparate views that exist among Yukoners.

In addition to the upcoming public discussion, our government has a plan to fulfill other related commitments. We will continue to collect more baseline environmental data on areas of concern to Yukoners such as water quality, water quantity and seismic activity. We will work government-to-government with First Nations to discuss their concerns around oil and gas development as well as the opportunities that development could provide for their communities. And, we will continue to review and improve the regulatory regime for oil and gas development.

Yukon is in a fortunate position in a number of ways. Devolution has afforded us the opportunity to step up and determine our own future. With new and updated laws we have set the stage to harness our resource advantages.

We are also fortunate to be a late entrant to energy resource development. This gives us the luxury of benefiting from best practices and the latest technology to ensure we proceed in a safe and responsible manner.

I look forward to the discussions to come.

Yukon government investing in technology & telecom to meet Yukon’s needs

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthStacey Hassard, MLA for Pelly-NisutlinAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, November 6, 2015
by Stacey Hassard, Minister of Economic Development
and Scott Kent, Minister of Highways & Public Works

For the past four plus years, our government has been focused on making investments to create an environment that allows Yukoners to succeed in their business ventures and make life better in the territory.

Last week, we continued to build on that record with the announcement of two more major investments in Information Technology (IT) infrastructure and services. These most recent investments help diversify the Yukon economy and create new opportunities.

While investments in traditional infrastructure – like roads, bridges and buildings – remain a cornerstone of our economic strategy, IT investments will help the territory grow beyond the traditional sectors of government, tourism and mining.

In our next budget, we will increase the amount of capital spending on IT initiatives. Our annual investment will go up by $2 million, bringing the total yearly investment to $8.5 million, a 30 percent increase.

This means that people and businesses working in Yukon’s IT sector will have more opportunities for contracts and jobs. Examples of what Yukon IT firms have delivered on in the past include expansions to fibre optic networks and mobile radio systems, as well as development and maintenance of government IT systems.

What many people might not realize is that our IT sector is a significant contributor to our economy. We are proud of what our IT sector has already accomplished and we believe this new investment will support even more growth and exciting new opportunities.

By spending more on IT infrastructure projects, we accomplish two goals: 1) to provide better connectivity, mobility and overall improvements to government programs and services, and 2) to enhance opportunities for local IT businesses to bid on projects, help businesses grow and create jobs in the IT sector.

We also recently announced the route for a new fibre optic project to provide backup (or redundancy) to our critical telecommunications services. Everyone remembers the disruptions that occur during significant Internet outages, such as the one last September 23, and no one wants to see that repeated.

The recently-announced project will see the connection of Yukon’s existing fibre optic system to the NWT government’s Mackenzie Valley fibre optic line to Inuvik. This will create a fibre loop which will protect Internet, telephone, cellular and credit card services as well as government and emergency 911 services where available. It will mean data can flow in another direction, if the line is damaged at any point by fire, road equipment, or other causes.

Every Yukon community will benefit from this increased redundancy, with 10 Yukon communities along the fibre line gaining full redundancy.

Northwestel, as our partner in the project, will contribute funds to strengthen fibre infrastructure in Yukon, including extending the existing fibre line from Stewart Crossing to Dawson City. This means that in addition to redundancy, there will be an increase in the number of communities with reliable fibre service.

This enhanced reliability will provide the confidence for businesses to invest and expand, which opens up some very exciting opportunities.

By choosing this route, our government is also demonstrating that we believe the ownership and operation of internet fibre within Yukon is best left to the private sector, which has both the capacity and innovative spirit to make it happen. In the future, if there is a business case to be made, the private sector is able to bring yet another fibre route to Yukon.

This fully redundant fibre loop, along with our substantial investment in IT procurement, will set the stage for even more growth and opportunities for Yukon. It will continue to strengthen our territory as the best place in Canada to live, to work, to play and raise a family.

Working together to improve the Alaska Highway

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthAs Submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, April 17th, 2015
by Scott Kent, Minister of Highways & Public Works

I write this letter to clarify misinformation and rumours surrounding the Whitehorse Corridor Draft Functional Plan for the Alaska Highway. I want to ensure that people have the facts so they can participate fully in this significant planning project.

This section of highway is one of our most significant stretches of road. It is used by virtually everyone who travels in Yukon. It serves local, tourist and commercial traffic. Our government works hard to provide a safe and reliable transportation system, and the Whitehorse corridor is a crucial part of this network.

With this in mind, the Yukon government contracted a professional engineering firm to develop a long-term functional plan for 40 kilometres of highway. The objective is to develop a solution to address existing and anticipated safety and capacity issues.

The short-term improvements needed over the next 5 years are estimated to cost about $52 million. The plan also identifies larger budgetary figures that are connected to medium- and longer-term improvements, but those would only be implemented if population growth and usage required. It makes sense to plan for future needs; it allows us to be proactive in responding and managing the highway.

Right now, the plan is draft. It was prepared to meet technical guidelines and standards currently used in Yukon and throughout Canada. It presents one possible solution to improving safety and traffic flow. We are now looking for feedback from individual, business and public perspectives in order to refine and improve the plan.

The draft plan does not require the Airport Chalet building to be moved, demolished, renovated, or otherwise changed. As currently proposed, the highway would be closer to the building. The draft plan shows a blue line crossing the building which represents the multi-use trail. During detailed design, the trail location will be adjusted, but it will not be through the building. How we allow for a multi-use trail in this area is just one of the issues we look to the public to help us solve.

Under the Highways Act, highway right-of-ways are extensions of the highway on either side of the road. The bulk of the improvements will be accommodated within the right-of-way. While Yukon government does license some uses of the right-of-way, this comes with the condition that usage is temporary and may not be continued if the land is required for road improvements. Any business or property owner who currently has a license to use the right-of-way is aware of this.

We have been in contact with all business and property owners along the Whitehorse corridor. Businesses were first contacted in February 2014 to inform them of the project and to improve our understanding of any of their concerns or future development plans. Representatives met with them again in February 2015 to review the proposed improvements and potential impacts and to identify possible areas of refinement. Forty individual meetings have taken place since February, and we are more than willing to meet with anyone with concerns or ideas they would like to discuss.

In recent public discussion of this project, focus has been directed on the traffic flow benefits of these improvements, but the safety benefits – improving intersections, reducing collisions and accommodating pedestrians and cyclists — have been overlooked.

I encourage all Yukoners to become involved with the public review process. Learn about the plan by visiting the project website www.placespeak.com/whitehorsecorridor or by attending one of the upcoming Open Houses at the Yukon Transportation Museum on April 22, 23, 24 from 4 to 8 pm and April 25 from 11 am to 3 pm. You can also contact the project information line, and submit comments by email or by filling out a hard copy of the survey and mailing it in.

Get informed, get involved and help Yukon government refine the plan to shape this important road. Feedback and comments are being accepted until May 15, 2015.

NDP obviously don’t drive the Campbell Highway

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthAs Submitted to Yukon newspapers on Friday, April 17th, 2015
by Scott Kent, Minister of Highways & Public Works

The NDP continue to misinterpret budget documents and draw incorrect conclusions. A recent letter to the editor and press release claimed that the Yukon government had spent $7.25 million in 2012-2013 to reconstruct the Robert Campbell Highway to kilometre 190 for the benefit of Yukon Zinc only. This is wrong and out of touch with reality. If the NDP drove the road, they would see the current work does not end at Yukon Zinc’s access road as they have asserted.

The Yukon Party made an election commitment as far back as 2002 to improve the Robert Campbell Highway for all users, including residents, tourists and the resource and exploration industry. Since that time, the government has budgeted more than $70 million for reconstruction work on both the north and south portions of the Robert Campbell Highway. This includes portions heading north from Watson Lake and from Carmacks to Faro, providing benefit to a wide range of users.

The initial functional plan for the South Campbell Highway was done from kilometre 10 to kilometre 190. Any work budgeted between these points is listed in the budget using the placeholder “to km 190”. The actual work completed remains well short of this location. In fact, planning is underway for the upcoming three construction seasons which will see work on the south portion extended as far as the Nahanni Range Road intersection, well south of the Yukon Zinc turnoff.

The Yukon government has an extensive highway maintenance and construction budget for the benefit of all our travellers. This year’s transportation budget is more than $60 million and includes work all across the territory. It also includes functional planning from the Yukon Zinc turnoff to the Faro cutoff, or kilometre 190 to kilometre 414 of the Robert Campbell Highway. This work creates jobs and opportunities for Yukoners and their families.

Placer Mining and Reality TV

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthAs submitted to Yukon newspapers on Monday, March 23rd, 2015
by Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources

Dear Editor,

Last week, a letter to the editor was published from Stuart Schmidt, a well-regarded Yukon placer miner and president of the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association. Mr. Schmidt expressed his grave concern about the impression created by a popular television program purportedly depicting placer mining activity. He observed that the alarming televised images bear little resemblance to the responsible and progressive practises of genuine Yukon placer miners.

I share the KPMA’s concern about the inaccurate representation of typical placer mining activities. The Yukon government has enjoyed a long and productive relationship with the industry, the most recent example of which is a robust and modern regulatory regime, integrating requirements under the Waters Act, Placer Mining Act, and the federal Fisheries Act. This government continues to work with the industry and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to ensure the regime is adaptive, and respects modern environmental standards.

The placer mining industry has been active in Yukon since before the Klondike Gold Rush. Often, the imagery presented on television programs shows evidence of works that occurred in previous, unregulated eras. Modern placer miners must adhere to strict conditions, and activities that demonstrate this are seldom depicted on television.

Generally speaking, these television programs do not accurately portray features and activities common to every placer mine, such as waste water treatment facilities, effluent conveyance structures, land reclamation, stream channel restoration, and the clean-up work that is mandatory at these sites. Required licences, authorizations, approvals and permits outline the terms and conditions for operations, including effluent discharge standards, design standards for works on site, spill plans, reporting requirements, and seasonal and final reclamation standards.

The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources supports this regulatory regime through a pro-active compliance monitoring and enforcement program, and conducted 415 inspections of operating placer mines in 2014. In addition to inspecting conventional placer mining operations, our staff monitor the sites depicted in the television shows.

We have received numerous complaints about the activities shown on these programs since they began. Our inspection staff always respond by following up appropriately. Some of the incidents shown on television broadcasts this season are under investigation.

As president of the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association, Mr. Schmidt’s open letter raises important issues about the depiction of resource industries in Yukon and across the North. I’d like to thank Mr. Schmidt for putting a spotlight on the Yukon government’s inspection and enforcement efforts, and for his contributions to Yukon as a placer miner and representative for his industry.