Pipeline Bursts In Northern Alberta
have been filed to drill six critical natural sour gas wells
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1.) Sour gas is “dirty gas” that contains hydrogen sulfide, a cyanide-like poison that kills in small amounts. Alberta is the world’s leading producer of dirty gas: about 30% of its natural gas is sour.
2.) Since the 1960s sour gas has killed more than 35 oil and gas workers in Alberta and British Columbia; injured thousands of cattle and displaced approximately one hundred landowners. (National Post Business Magazine, 2002)
3.) Due to their lethal contents sour gas wells and pipelines freeze development on neighboring property by 100 metres or more. Farmers and ranchers with sour gas wells on their land have documented a 50% decrease in land values. The government offers no compensation for this expropriation.
4.) Sour gas flares have been associated with still births in down wind cattle (Waldner, 1999). Cattle exposed to sulfur dioxide, a byproduct of flared H2S, develop respiratory problems, tissue inflammation and immune problems. (Western Producer, June 17, 2002)
5.) A 2002 technical review of H2S by Alberta Health and Wellness found that H2S is a “broad-spectrum toxicant that can elicit numerous psychological and biological responses in the 0 to 20 ppm range.” Human data on short-term effects is “limited” and “for many organ systems, reliable information on effects following short-term exposure to H2S is almost completely lacking.”
6.) The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers notes that “an increasing number of residents in areas adjacent to sour oil and gas producing or processing operations are actively opposing sour gas developments.” In Adrossan more 1500 citizens successfully stopped a proposal for six sour gas wells last spring.
In eastern Calgary scores of citizens are challenging a similar proposal in an area inhabited by 250,000 people. And in Maycroft more than 100 ranchers are fighting a 30 % sour well proposed by Polaris Resources Ltd, a company with no assets in Alberta and no employees. El Paso is also proposing a sour gas well on a sacred Blackfoot burial ground in Brocket. It, too, is being contested.
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| A family of true believers
seeks God and renewal in the wilderness and unknowingly settles in northern
Albertas rich and poisonous gas fields. When their paradise is invaded
by Big Oil, they suspect that industrial pollution is the cause of miscarriages
and a serious threat to the familys health. Their charismatic leader,
Wiebo Ludwig, launches a series of civil and legal appeals. These meet a
solid wall of industry and government indifference.
A group of mysterious and skilful saboteurs emerges in the bush. Using guerrilla texts and even the Bible as guides, they attack dozens of gas wells, oil roads, company vehicles and gas pipelines, illustrating the vulnerability and indefensibility of North Americas energy infrastructure as well as the psychological power of terrorism. The violence escalates to death threats and shootings. Ludwig, a forceful and God-fearing cleric, declares war on industry and describes the sabotage terrorism as self-defense. He sympathizes with the saboteurs, he says, but repeatedly claims that neither he nor his family are the authors.
Despite millions of dollars worth of damage, the oil and gas companies merely beef up security and admit to nothing. They spend a fortune combating the symptoms (industrial sabotage) but not their source: industrial pollution. The RCMP, underfunded and understaffed, conclude that this kind of domestic terrorism simply cant happen in Canada, dismissing an officer who calls for a full investigation.
Only when the bombs go off do the authorities belatedly react with a botched million-dollar investigation. After the shooting death of a 16-year-old girl on Ludwig's farm, his frightened religious community and the terrified citizens of Hythe and Beaverlodge threaten to engage in tribal warfare. To this day the root of the conflict, toxic industrial pollution in rural Alberta, remains largely unaddressed.
Saboteurs is a chilling tale of a fundamentalist crusade that ends in tragedy. Its an unsparing look at the way insensitive authorities exacerbate problems they are meant to resolve. Its chilling evidence that Canadas national police force is unprepared for domestic terrorism. And its a remarkable work of investigative reporting that stands as an allegory for our time.
About the Author:
Andrew Nikiforuks work as a journalist has earned him four National Magazine Awards, the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy, and top honours from the Association of Canadian Journalists. One of his four previous books--Schools Out: The Catastrophe in Public Education and What Parents Can Do About It --was a national bestseller and was shortlisted for the Gordon Montador Award for writing on issues of key social interest. He lives in Calgary.
Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwigs War Against Big Oil, By Andrew Nikiforuk
1-55199-053-9 / 283pp / $34.99 Send Andrew your comments, questions or critiques to:
| Read the exclusive excerpt
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