RCMP probing new B.C. pipeline bombing
The Canadian Press
January 5, 2009
TOMSLAKE, B.C. — EnCana’s natural gas infrastructure in northern British Columbia has been the target of a fourth explosion, but officials with the Calgary-based energy giant still don’t know why it is the focus of a bomber’s anger.
Gas line workers discovered a partially destroyed metering shed on Sunday at a wellhead near the community of Tomslake, southeast of Dawson Creek on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains.
There was no damage to the wellhead and no leak, said a spokesman with EnCana.
It’s the fourth attack in three months on EnCana natural gas operations in the area, located about 1,200 kilometres northeast of Vancouver near the B.C.-Alberta boundary.
The blasts began on Oct. 12, when a pipeline was damaged. Another pipeline was hit on Oct. 16, causing a small leak, and an explosion at a wellhead on Oct. 31 also caused a leak.
The first three explosions involved pipelines or wellheads carrying sour gas — which contains toxic hydrogen sulphide.
EnCana spokesman Alan Boras said it’s not clear whether the latest wellhead targeted also contains sour gas, but he said in any event all of the operations in the area only contain small amounts of hydrogen sulphide.
“Typically the wells in that area contain a trace,” said Mr. Boras.
The attacks revealed local anxiety about the area’s rapidly growing natural gas industry.
They were preceded by a threatening letter demanding oil and gas operations be stopped, prompting the RCMP to speculate that the explosions are likely the work of someone from the area with a grudge against EnCana.
EnCana has long insisted it has a positive relationship with locals, and Mr. Boras said the company still doesn’t know why it’s been targeted.
“Generally speaking, the relationship has been very good,” said Mr. Boras.
“From time to time, obviously people have concerns, but that’s part of the normal course of business but we work hard to understand their concerns.”
Last month, the company announced it had set up a dedicated telephone line so whoever is responsible for the explosions could call to discuss their concerns.
Mr. Boras said he couldn’t say whether anyone took the company up on the offer because that would be part of the police investigation.
Also last month, police released eight video surveillance images from a local drug store taken on the day the letter was mailed in October.
Seven of the eight people have since been identified and ruled out as suspects, while the identity of the eighth, a woman, is still unknown.
There are more than 4,000 producing oil and gas wells in British Columbia, all in the northeastern part of the province.
The industry has seen massive growth since the mid-90s, with provincial revenues jumping from $370-million in 1996 to $2.5-billion in 2006 — mostly related to natural gas projects.
The explosions brought back memories of Wiebo Ludwig’s campaign against Alberta’s oil patch in the 1990s.
The Alberta farmer, who blamed the industry for hurting his family, his land and his livestock, spent nearly two years in prison for charges related to bombings and vandalism.
Police said they have spoken with Ludwig as part of their investigation, but don’t consider him a suspect.
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