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Yukon Energy's fuel supply reached 'critical' point last winter, says energy minister

Yukon Energy faced a possible fuel shortage last winter, after an avalanche cut off the supply road from Skagway, Alaska, in January. 'Fuel was very scarce,' said Yukon's energy minister.

Avalanche cut off fuel supply road from Skagway, Alaska, in January

A diesel generator at Yukon Energy's Whitehorse facility. Yukon had a scarce supply of fuel after an avalanche last January, confirmed the energy minister on Wednesday. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

Yukon's power supplier faced a possible fuel shortage for its backup diesel generators last winter after an avalanche cut off the supply road from Skagway, Alaska, in January, according to the territory's energy minister.

"We were in a position where fuel was very scarce, and we were in a critical point," said Minister Ranj Pillai, responding to opposition questions in the legislature Wednesday.

Through an Access to Information request, the opposition Yukon Party obtained a Jan. 16 email to senior management at the Yukon Energy Corporation. The sender's name is redacted, but they appear to be an employee of Yukon Energy Corporation.

The email said the road from Skagway was closed due to an avalanche, meaning fuel couldn't be delivered from the local port to Yukon.

"They [Yukon Energy's supplier] have supply for a few days," the email reads, "and are bringing supply from the south."

"My contact says they aren't panicking yet, but are a bit edgy with the situation."

'Concerning,' say Yukon Party

In a news release on Wednesday, the Yukon Party called the situation "concerning," pointing out a -36.5 C average temperature that week in January.

"No one wants us to be in a position where it could be frigid weather in the dead of winter, and our rented diesel generators are on the brink of running out of fuel," said acting Yukon Party leader Stacey Hassard. 

 Pillai acknowledged there were concerns last winter, and said there are "lessons learned."

'We were in some very, very tight spots,' said Yukon Energy Minister Ranj Pillai on Wednesday. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

"We were in some very, very tight spots," said Pillai. He said the government moved "as quickly as we could" to maintain a supply of fuel.

It's not clear how close Yukon Energy came to running out of fuel.

Pillai said he would report back to the legislature with more details. He also said he will work with Yukon Energy to ensure there's a contingency plan in case of a similar situation next year.

With files from Laura Howells and Chris Windeyer

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