VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A letter believed linked to six pipeline bombings in northeast British Columbia is demanding EnCana Corp start phasing out its operations in that region of Western Canada.
The letter, made public on Thursday, warns EnCana that “things will get a lot worse” if it fails to comply, but it also promises a three-month “summer vacation” free of attacks in the area around the small city of Dawson Creek.
The hand-written letter was sent to the Dawson Creek Daily News but written to EnCana, North America’s largest natural gas producer. It is believed to be the second letter from the bomber since the explosions began last fall. The first letter also demanded EnCana stop operations in the region.
“You (EnCana) simply can’t win this fight because you are on the wrong side of the argument. So stop pushing people around here,” the letter’s author wrote, demanding the company “return the land to what it was before you came.”
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said they believe the letter is from the bomber.
The letter gives EnCana three months to announce a pullout plan and five years to shut its facilities. The letter does not specify what facilities should be shut aside from the company’s processing plant near Tomslake, British Columbia.
Calgary, Alberta-based EnCana, which has already offered a C$500,000 ($447,000) reward for information about the bombings, declined comment. “It’s a criminal matter and under investigation by the police,” the company said in a statement.
Investigators have long speculated the bomber is a local resident with a grudge against the company. There are other energy firms working in the region, but EnCana is the only one to have been attacked.
The first letter complained of the production of “deadly gas”, an apparent reference to so-called sour gas found in the region that can be toxic if breathed. The plant mentioned in the new letter processes sour gas so it can be sold to the public.
The letter described the six explosions as “minor and fully controlled” in order to make a point to the company and the police. Those blasts have caused no injuries but have produced natural gas leaks.
“Make no mistake, the explosions that have occurred were extremely violent in nature and it is very dangerous to the local community,” the RCMP said in statement.
A researcher who has studied attacks on Western Canada’s energy infrastructure thinks the new letter may have been prompted by recent police statements that described two explosions earlier this month as acts of terrorism.
“The introduction of that term by the RCMP may have something to do with this,” said Paul Joosse, a University of Alberta sociologist.
The RCMP had initially shied away from using the word terrorism, even though the force’s anti-terrorism unit was part of the investigation.
Some residents of the Dawson Creek area have complained about harassment by police investigators, and the new letter demands the RCMP “give the people room” to talk about complaints about energy production.
Reporting by Allan Dowd and Jeffrey Jones; editing by Rob Wilson