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Time for new energy at YCS – Anne saying goodbye!

Time for new energy at YCS – Anne saying goodbye! photo

A letter from departing Energy Analyst Anne Middler after 10 years at YCS:

Seems like I haven’t written much lately, in the newsletter, other YCS dispatches. Truth is, life has been pulling me away from YCS for a while. As hard as it was, I made the decision to make space for a new person to take my place as Energy Analyst at YCS.

I started working at YCS in June 2008 for one day a week, tasked with providing input on the draft Energy Strategy for Yukon and Climate Change Action Plan. It was a fantastic opportunity to begin working with the YCS energy committee, meet key energy players in the community, and start the journey of learning about the complex world of energy in the Yukon.

The first sweet taste of victory came early as YCS took on the charge to end burning garbage in Yukon communities. Working on that campaign, I learned how the toxic air pollution was harming people in Ross River, Haines Junction, Watson Lake and elsewhere.

YCS’s manifesto to YESAB was well received and they put out perfect recommendations. After a dodgy initial decision document by Environment Yukon, we got a Solid Waste Action Plan from Community Services that was the first step in more responsible waste management by ending the indiscriminate burning of unsorted garbage at unstaffed unincorporated community dumps.

We still have far to go to make less waste and manage it better, but every day I breathe clean air in Tagish, I feel grateful for being part of the movement that put an end to burning garbage.

Another hard fought victory: Fracking has never happened in the Yukon and hopefully never will. YCS played a very big part in that, and despite some people questioning our means, I take pride in YCS’s role in the Whitehorse Trough Oil and Gas disposition process resulting in no exploration, in YESAB processes around Eagle Plain resulting in no fracking, and in the creation and success of the Select Committee Regarding the Risks and Benefits of Hydraulic Fracturing.

People may not appreciate how close we were to having the rapturist extractivist development-focused government give fracking permits to oil and gas companies without any public consultation or environmental assessment. I am grateful for the support of the public and the work of Yukoners Concerned About Oil and Gas Development for that fight, and that our focus can now be on creating the renewable energy future we want, rather than opposing a dying and destructive industry.

We didn’t always win though. In my early days, Yukon Energy built Mayo B, not a wind farm on Mt Sumanik, with generous ‘no cost money’ from the federal government. We had to fight Yukon Energy through Access to Information for the favourable wind study, which was irritating and came too late to be useful for the Yukon Utilities Board to recognize it as a viable and better alternative.

Yukon Energy’s LNG facility was a bitter loss. It still hurts pretty bad and makes me want to shake my fists at the sky and smoke cigarettes. If you have several hours, I may be willing to tell you the entire sordid tale, but in the meantime you can watch Lewis’s hilarious (nothing funny about it) Hitler video, which took the edge off the disappointing post-construction revelations. Best not get me started.

One LNG consolation is that our more recent effort in front of the Yukon Utilities Board succeeded in preventing ATCO Electric Yukon from adding $5million to the ratebase to modify its diesel generators in Watson Lake to burn LNG. YCS intervened, exposed weaknesses in the business case, and the YUB quashed the idea. Watson Lake remains a blank slate with ample opportunity for all sorts of renewable energy projects to meet the energy demand. We learned about a number of them during our Solutions Economy work in Watson Lake this fall.

Since making my decision to leave YCS, it has been hard to let go! I have felt honoured to represent YCS and our energy vision at important tables over the past decade. I have enjoyed developing professional relationships on behalf of YCS with people in First Nations, municipal and territorial governments; utilities; the private sector; political parties; other ENGOs and the Yukon community. I have been lucky to have a job that provided flexibility, one that aligned with my values – that gave me the freedom to speak my mind, never having to compromise my convictions. I always tried my best, but the weight of responsibility became too heavy for me.

It’s been tough to be a single parent, operate a small business, and keep on top of the obligations of a YCS energy analyst – even part time. I have been lucky for an amazing and understanding team who always had my back. Karen Baltgailis and Christina Macdonald were exceptional Executive Directors and bosses. Both helped me grow personally and professionally, endured many of my close deadlines and passionate outbursts, and helped me plan ahead and work through tough losses.

Lewis, Sebastian, Georgia, Julia, Judith, Christina and the ever changing and always wonderful Board, all shared in my good and bad days, supported me in the important work we did together, and tolerated my oddball antics. I will miss the camaraderie and workplace humour. Members and volunteers, most notably those on the YCS energy committee, also provided critical support and helped shape my education and thinking around complex energy issues. Thank you!

I look forward to working with YCS to execute a strong transition in the new year. I will support the work of YCS as a volunteer member of the energy committee. Although I won’t speak for YCS anymore, I will continue to be outspoken for smart energy policy and projects in the community. I look forward to flexing my engaged citizen muscles for the Yukon Government’s Energy, Climate and Green Economy Strategy in 2018.

Typical for me, I don’t really have a plan for the future. I will keep trying to revolutionize winter transportation and stimulate a solutions economy. I will take time to make things and connections at YuKonstruct and (co)space. I will head out on kickspeditions, sailing voyages and other adventures with Juniper and select first mates. Thank you for your support over this amazing decade in YCS’s first half century!

- Anne Middler

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