Federal Court won't intervene on Northern Cross's behalf

A company hoping to drill near Eagle Plains, Yukon, has been told to wait for Yukon's environmental review board to finish its work.

Company had asked court to look at Yukon's review of drilling proposal

Northern Cross is proposing to drill up to 20 exploratory oil and gas wells in the Eagle Plains region of Yukon. (Northern Cross)

An oil and gas company working in Yukon has been told by Canada's Federal Court that it will again have to wait, as a process of environmental social review — first started in 2014 — could take a few more years. 

Northern Cross Ltd. had applied to the court for a judicial review of a procedural decision from the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board (YESAB).

The company disagrees with YESAB's decision to send a project review to the board's executive committee for additional research. That could take as long as two years.

The Federal Court decision, published Monday, called Northern Cross's application to the court "premature".

"This Court should not interfere with the ongoing administrative process involving Northern Cross's proposed project until after that process has been completed or until the available, effective remedies have been exhausted," reads the decision.

Proposal for 20 exploratory wells

Northern Cross is proposing to drill up to 20 exploratory oil and gas wells in the Eagle Plains region to conduct what are called flow tests. The project would also include building 82 kilometres of road, and five bridges. The project would be within the traditional territories of the Nacho Nyäk Dun and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nations.

The extra review by YESAB's executive committee would focus in part on the project's potential adverse effects, including on the Porcupine caribou herd. 

The Federal Court decision says the matter may be raised again if Northern Cross disagrees with YESAB's ultimate decision. 

However, "absent exceptional circumstances," it reads, it is not the court's role to intervene.

Northern Cross has been ordered to pay legal costs in the matter. It retains the right to appeal the decision.

The company is also involved in another legal case — in April, it filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Yukon suing the Yukon government for $2.2 billion in compensation over the territory's fracking moratorium.

The company has not responded to a request for comment.


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