A Canadian energy company offered a US$500,000 award on Tuesday for help in solving a series of bombings that have damaged a natural gas pipeline in Canada’s westernmost province, police and company officers said.
EnCana Corporation spokesman Mike Graham said the money was intended to “encourage anyone with information to help the police solve these crimes, stop any further attacks and help ensure the safety of the communities in and around Dawson Creek.”
Since October, four bombs have exploded along EnCana’s pipeline near Dawson Creek in northern British Columbia, damaging pipeline facilities.
Police called the sabotage campaign “increasingly violent” after the most recent bomb, on Jan. 4, blew up a shack housing a sour gas pipe near a family home.
The campaign and the response from police and industry highlight tensions over the oil and gas boom in northeastern British Columbia.
“Oil and gas is a new frontier industry,” Dawson Creek mayor Mike Bernier told reporters.
The prairie region has relied for generations on farming, forestry and tourism, and “with oil and gas starting to break in, you have people unsure how to take that,” he said.
The gas pipeline has been controversial in the remote rural area.
“Most area residents support oil and gas development because of many good-paying jobs,” said Bernier, whose city of nearly 12,000 is at “mile zero” of the Alaska Highway, the only land route to the US state of Alaska.
But others fear environmental and health problems.
Ecosystem scientist Annie Booth said hydrogen sulfide leaks from the pipeline could hurt or kill wildlife, farm animals and wildlife habitat.
Local aboriginal people “are reluctant to eat anything they hunt in those areas, because they said the meat is contaminated and looks unhealthy,” Booth said. “There are a significant number of concerns, that the government has failed to address, that might prompt an unstable person to use bombs.”
“Each relatively small development might not cause much problem,” said Orland Wilkerson, an environmental scientist at the University of Northern British Columbia. “But collectively they could cause a lot of damage, that’s the worry of some people.”
Some residents said development boosts the local economy, while others have staged protests over the threat of possible hydrogen sulfide leaks.
Police released a letter last month that may be linked to the bombings, warning EnCana “to close down your operations.”
The letter to EnCana said: “We will not negotiate with terrorists, which you are, as you keep on endangering our families with crazy expansion of deadly gas wells in our homelands.”
Police hoped EnCana’s award would encourage community members to speak up about any suspicious individuals, Sergeant Tim Shields told reporters.
There is “growing concern about public safety, and the very real possibility that someone could be killed or injured if these explosions continue,” said Sergeant Tim Shields, spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The bomber is probably a local with “a grievance with EnCana” who has “talked about those grievances to someone, possibly advocating or threatening violent action,” he said.