Two hour speech in the Yukon Legislature on the precautionary principal and some of the science showing significant risks to society, health, environment, wildlife, water and the public interest from hydraulic fracturing

Two hour speech in the Yukon Legislature on the precautionary principal and some of the science showing significant risks to society, health, environment, wildlife, water and the public interest from hydraulic fracturing by Jim Tredger, November 21, 2012, Yukon Legislature Hansard
Clerk: Motion No. 275, standing in the name of Mr. Tredger; adjourned debate, Mr. Tredger.
We in this Legislature have a trust with the public, a trust that must always inform our decision-making. The public expects that trust to be honoured. In this case, honouring that trust means that we as a Legislative Assembly must ensure that Yukoners are heard and given an opportunity to participate in what may become one of the defining moments in our history.

It is of that trust that I speak today. The issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, fall into a number of areas. I will speak to several of them: the precautionary principle; human health impacts related to gas extraction and production methods; emergency events, such as well blow-outs and pipeline breaks; truck spillages and accidents on our highways; chemicals used in drilling and well stimulation techniques; chemicals in drilling waste and the related issues of on-site and off-site waste management; air quality issues; transportation and disposal activities; land reclamation activities; general quality of life issues; climate change, earthquakes and seismic activity caused by fracking; impacts on water — surface and groundwater, waste water and drilling mud; fracking fluids and their often secret chemical mix of carcinogens and toxins and, of course, the environmental impacts, including the effects on fish, wildlife and habitat, and especially the cost to our water system.

Absent effective control, public opposition will grow, thus putting continued production at risk. Moreover, with anticipated increase in U.S. hydraulically fractured wells, if effective environmental action is not taken today, the potential environmental consequences will grow to a point that the country will be faced with a more serious problem. The report goes on to discuss many of the issues I am raising today. This is not fear-mongering. Even the U.S. government is concerned about the environmental, social, and health impacts of fracking and the consequences to the oil and gas industry.

I’ll speak for a moment about the precautionary principle. There is a principle that underlines most discussions and analysis around the environment, human health, and the impacts we create, and that is the precautionary principle. In short, the precautionary principle states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing environmental or public harm, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action.

In other words, the onus of proof that something is not harmful lies with the person or company or government that wants to do the action. They are the ones who we need to demonstrate that it is safe.

During the public consultation on oil and gas exploration in the Whitehorse Trough, one of the fundamental questions asked repeatedly by Yukoners of government was of the safety of hydraulic fracturing. The Yukon government has provided no demonstrable proof that fracking is benign or harmless to human health or the environment. As I will discuss later, there is uncertainty within the Yukon government over the potential impacts that hydraulic fracturing may have on Yukon’s hydrosphere, our water system. In addition, hydraulic fracturing has not been used north of 60 and the effects of climate change on the region’s hydrology and environment have not been investigated. …

Mr. Speaker, taking into account the precautionary principle, the complexity of hydrology, waste water, and drilling mud, and cuttings disposal, and taking into account climate change, the lack of a thorough understanding of northern ecosystems, the potential negative impacts of human and environmental health, I ask this House today to unanimously urge the Government of Yukon to: (1) implement an immediate moratorium; (2) conduct a full and rigorous scientific review; and (3) conduct a public consultation on the effects and desirability of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, before any regulatory approvals or permitting is allowed in the Yukon.

The public expects that trust to be honoured and trust in this case means that we as the Legislative Assembly must ensure that all Yukoners are heard and all Yukoners are given an opportunity to participate in what may become one of the defining moments in our territory. When I speak of the trust, I speak of the trust that is engendered by the Legislature and the need for all Yukoners to have a say, the need for all Yukoners to know that the precautionary principle must be applied and for them to be convinced, not when some segment of the minister’s choosing decides to sit down and talk about it; not when some people think it’s time to talk, but now.

It’s important that we all do it and we all do it now. This isn’t a game; it’s not a football game; this is our lives; this is our environment; this is our economy. We’re not here for fun and games. We’re talking about human health and the impacts on people in the Watson Lake area and the people in Teslin and the people in Old Crow and the people in Dawson City. We’re talking about traffic that will be going up and down our highways and how we are going to mitigate that. We’re talking about chemicals; we’re talking about a process that shatters the very earth under our feet and the NDP is standing here and asking — pleading with this government — please let us have a full and public consultation and let us give our citizens assurances that there will be no fracking until that is done. …

You know, we need to listen to people — people who have reasonable, rational, scientifically grounded concerns about fracking; people who think they are worth a public discussion; people who are getting a little bit tired of being shuffled to the side; people who live in the Yukon because they love it; people who have been taught and grown up to believe in a democracy; people who hope, work for, and sit on boards and committees to make Yukon a better place and to participate in our democracy. The whole intent of my motion was to put a moratorium on fracking until it can be proven to be safe. That assurance is what Yukon people want.

I talked about the precautionary principle — the onus is upon the government and those industries who want to participate to show and prove beyond a doubt that it is safe. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to: Yukon Party MLAs’ indifference was shameful

Take your time and research this major issue ]

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