DAWSON CREEK, B.C. (CP) -- Members of the RCMP's national terrorism unit were gathering evidence Friday at the site of the latest explosion along a sour gas pipeline in northern B.C., where massive expansion in recent years has sometimes been met with trepidation or outright opposition.
It's not yet clear what motivated two attacks on pipelines near Dawson Creek, the first last weekend and the second Wednesday night.
Police believe they're linked to a letter sent to local media last week calling oil and gas companies "terrorists" that our "endangering our families."
People living in and around this community near the B.C.-Alberta boundary are quick to condemn the explosions, but they also say the region's burgeoning oilpatch has had a sometimes-uneasy relationship with its neighbours.
"We're not happy with them putting pipelines with that (sour gas) on our land," said Ann Haight of the Kiskatinaw Pipeline Landowners Association, a local group with about 30 members opposed to the industry's expansion.
"Things are dangerous when you have these things around you. We've owned our land for 50 years, and all of the sudden they want to come through and we have to live with that danger 24 hours a day."
In both cases the pipelines were owned by EnCana (ECA) . The first pipeline did not rupture but the second explosion caused a small leak, one the company said was quickly contained.
The RCMP explosives unit was also at the site Friday, piecing together the explosion to find out what happened, said Sgt. Tim Shields.
"They will be in the process of recreating the blast in order to determine what type of material was used, how it was used and to gather evidence," he said.
The RCMP, EnCana and city council members were holding a town hall meeting in Dawson Creek on Friday night.
The bombings have brought back memories of Wiebo Ludwig, an Alberta farmer who spent nearly two years in prison on charges related to oilpatch bombing and vandalism in the 1990s.
Both recent attacks involved pipelines owned by EnCana, but the Calgary-based energy giant is just one of several companies reshaping the landscape of northeastern B.C.
The province has more than 4,000 producing oil and gas wells, all in northeastern B.C., and in recent years the industry has been growing rapidly with hundreds of new wells every year.
In 1996, the industry was worth about $370 million in revenues to the province. A decade later, in 2006, that figure had skyrocketed to $2.5 billion, mostly related to natural gas projects.
Some residents would rather the wells and pipelines weren't there at all, especially when it comes to sour gas, which contains the toxic gas hydrogen sulphide that can be fatal even in small amounts.
"It's good for people to get jobs, but I personally don't think they should be around here," said Lisa Bachmann, a dairy farmer who lives east of the city.
"I don't think the public is really aware of where these pipelines are and how close to some people they really are," she said.
Doug Walmsley knows how just close they can be: he has an EnCana pipeline running through his property southeast of Dawson Creek and is considering a proposal from the company to put a well on the corner of his lot.
Walmsley said he's been happy with how EnCana has handled the pipeline, including the compensation they paid, but he's having second thoughts about a sour gas well.
"I have ups and downs about it (the well)," said Walmsley, a 70-year-old retiree.
"There are some concerns because the prevailing winds head right up towards me from that site, and if they're flaring sour gas, that's not the most pleasant experience, from what I understand."
Mary Griffiths of the Pembina Institute said landowners often feel frustrated because they have little recourse to stop a determined energy company from coming on their property.
The companies negotiate with landowners and offer compensation but because property owners don't own the resources underneath the surface, government regulators can approve developments without their permission.
"The landowner can only do so much - it's very difficult to get permission forbidden," said Griffiths.
"You can negotiate, but for the long-term, there's not much you can do."
An EnCana spokesman said companies have the right to develop even without the blessings of land-owners, but hiscompany works to develop a positive relationship with residents.
"It's deemed to be in the public interest to be able to recover the resources in an organized, safe way from the subsurface, so there are means to gain access and that's determined in the laws of the province," said Alan Boras.
"From time to time we have people who have serious concerns and voice opposition, but by and large we have very, very good relations."
Like other provinces, B.C. has a public body that handles cases that can't be settled through negotiation.
Boras said cases rarely head to that stage. For example, he said there have been hundreds of successful negotiations in the Dawson Creek area in recent years, and only one case that went to mediation, where it was resolved before a ruling was required.
(c) The Canadian Press