October 17, 2008 / 7:26 PM / 9 years ago

Sour gas anger may be root of pipe attacks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The saboteur who attacked two pipelines in northeastern British Columbia in the past week is likely somebody who has been hurt by sour gas development, according to an author who has studied past attacks on Canada’s energy infrastructure.

<p>Damage caused to a natural gas pipeline is seen east of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, in this October 12, 2008 handout released by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). REUTERS/RCMP/Handout</p>

Police asked the public for help on Friday in their probe of the blasts, which have not caused any injuries but rattled nerves in the area around the town of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, a hotbed of energy development.

Police believe the pipeline bombings are linked, and likely connected to a letter sent to media last week warning the “terrorist” energy industry to stop the “crazy expansion of deadly gas wells in our home lands.”

“I wouldn’t describe it as eco-terrorism. I don’t know many environmentalists who are handy with dynamite. It’s more likely this is a local landowner ... somebody who has been harmed,” said Calgary-based author Andrew Nikiforuk.

The attacker could also be from the area’s aboriginal community, which has sparred with the industry over drilling for sour gas, natural gas that contains high levels of toxic hydrogen sulfide.

Nikiforuk wrote a book about Wiebo Ludwig, a rural commune leader in Alberta convicted of bombing gas wells and other vandalism in the 1990s to protest sour gas drilling.

The attacked lines carried gas to an EnCana Corp, facility that removes the hydrogen sulfide so the gas can be sold to consumers. The letter called for the facility to be closed.

The recent attacks were likely done by somebody who knows enough about explosives to damage but not destroy the lines, which would have created a fireball and released a deadly cloud of gas that would have spread quickly, Nikiforuk said.

“I think we have somebody here who is very skillful at making headlines, and if they wanted to kill a whole bunch of people they would have done so,” Nikiforuk said.

There was no gas leak following the first blast last week and only a small one in the second incident, which was quickly sealed when workers discovered it on Thursday.

Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police anti-terrorism squad collected evidence on Friday from the scenes, which were not far from the Alberta-British Columbia border.

“The intention of these criminal acts to harm important Canadian infrastructure is not being tolerated,” police said in statement, which called on anyone who has information about the attacks to “do the right thing” and come forward.

Security has been stepped up around pipelines and other energy facilities in northeastern British Columbia, but experts say there are limits to what can be done. The province has about 43,000 km (27,000 miles) of pipelines.

“You can put up all the chain link fences in the world. If they want to do it, they’re going to do it,” said Steve Simons, corporate affairs leader at the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission.

The most recent incident was on a line carrying between 40 million and 50 million cubic feet of gas a day. The first bombing was on a line carrying 60 million cubic feet per day, according to EnCana.

A company spokesman said the line that suffered a small leak was still shut down, but the company’s other facilities in the area were operating normally.

Reporting Allan Dowd; Editing by Eric Walsh

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