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.