NOW is the time to write letters, plan events, make a noise, there are a few months and a few meetings (schedule below) before Copenhagen COP-15 in December - and clearly these policy maggots need to get sharpened up a bit beforehand ... the answers are: 350, and 90% by 2030, nothing less will do, I doubt they'll make it but ... what elkse are you going to do? have to do something?
350 (Actions) TckTckTck CAN Canada Kyoto plus
O come, let us sing unto the Lord:
Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Psalm 95.
first, just a bit of comic relief:
Jack and Gilles went up the hill
To prop up Stephen Harper.
When tossed a bone, they made it known
That principles do not matter.
Ok, here's the COP-15/Copenhagen schedule: (details below)
NEW YORK - September 22 - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon holds one-day summit on climate change for world leaders at U.N. headquarters. U.S. President Barack Obama and China's President Hu Jintao to be among speakers.
PITTSBURGH, United States - September 24-25 - Leaders of the Group of 20 meet; among issues is to decide ways to finance the fight against climate change.
BANGKOK - September 28-October 9 - Officials from up to 190 countries meet for the fourth session this year of formal negotiations on the Copenhagen deal.
BARCELONA, Spain - November 2-6 - Officials from up to 190 nations hold the fifth and final round of climate talks in 2009 before Copenhagen.
COPENHAGEN - December 7-18 - U.N. talks among 190 nations meant to agree a deal to combat climate change. Environment Ministers are due to attend the final three days, from December 16.
for a quarter million they couldn't just buy the book? (details below)
we are informed that Loretta Malandro is the author of "numerous landmark books" ... well
from the OED we have 'malandryn' - a highwayman, a robber; in Brasil a 'malandro' is a guy that who never works and lives off scams; is a ladies man; leads a bohemian life of only fun and pleasure; is lazy; and, cheats and deceives in order to prevail; a smart-ass ... equivalent for 'malandra' on the feminine side, not so frequently used, also 'malandragem' - the ethos of idleness, fast living and petty crime.
a made-in-heaven perfect-match for the RCMP
"If I could, I would take this ...... ball and shove it down your ...... throat" (details below)
the first I saw was the video of Serena Williams being interviewed afterwards, I like to look at the Williams sisters, who would not? such beautiful young women, they would definitely make it into Dr. Strangelove's bunker eh? so I thought ... good, now I will get to hear her voice, maybe see what she is like, but sadly, my thought on the interview is that she is close to functonally illiterate, but maybe that was just a first impression eh? ... she is rich - some intellectual turpitude is a minor blemish.
Tomslake Bombings, Encana, Weibo Ludwig: (details below)
an example of the web's imitation of bryophyte reproduction by death from behind, the article Wiebo's War that appeared in the Alberta Report is now nowhere to be found, and when I was first interested in this story, back in about 2000 (I think), I had another computer, and the images and stories which I archived there have all been lost, call it double death from behind
a-and I am thinking today that this archive will be lost too, Google will change their policy, God knows what ... sad and lame as it is, it represents several year's work on my part, about the only thing I can say to have done since it started, maybe time to print it off and save somwhere for the grandchildren ...
1-1. FACTBOX: Climate talks on the road to U.N. deal in Copenhagen, 18/09/2009.
1-2. Obama deve enfatizar que problema climático é questão comum, Estadão Online, 19/09/2009.
1-3. Obama to stress climate change problem is shared, Reuters, 18/09/2009.
2-1. RCMP execs off on costly trip to raise public faith, Glen McGregor, 09/09/2009.
2-2. RCMP commissioner took $44,000 training to be "more effective leader', Glen McGregor, 11/09/2009.
2-3. Price for RCMP leadership training in Arizona: $250,000,, Glen McGregor, 08/09/2009.
2a. Canadians for Accountability.
2b. Malandro Communication.
2c. half-assed bio.
2d. half-assed bio as a pdf.
3-1. Zen and the Art of the Sport Cliché, NYT Editorial, 15/09/2009.
3-2. Serena Williams fined, may face more punishment, Toronto Star, 14/09/2009.
3-3. Williams fined $10,000; new investigation opened, Howard Fendrich, 14/09/2009.
3a. Video of the incident on YouTube.
3b. Video of the interview on YouTube.
3c. Serena Williams, born in 1981 - 27 years old on Wikipedia.
3d. Venus Williams, born in 1980 - also 27 years old on Wikipedia.
4-1. The Souring of the Good Reverend's Nature, Mark Levine, 12/1998.
4-2. The Case Against Wiebo Ludwig: Reflections on a trial within a trial, Ian Urquart, Fall 2000.
4-3. Relative urges family members to leave Ludwig farm, CBC, 10/11/2009.
4-4. RCMP bombed oil site in 'dirty tricks' campaign, CBC, 10/11/2000.
4-5. Saboteurs Andrew Nikiforuk (extract), 10/2001.
4-6. Community wants answers as Ludwig released from jail, CBC, 14/11/2001.
4-7. Maybe you'd fight too, Andrew Nikiforuk, 14/11/2001.
4-8. Toxic Downwinds: No Redress, Review of Saboteurs, David Orton, 10/01/2002.
4-9. Not Quite the Wiebo I Recall, Brian Bergman, 24/05/2004.
4-10. Wiebo Ludwig’s assault charge stayed, 09/12/2007.
4-11. CBC speaks with Wiebo Ludwig, 19/10/2008.
4-12. RCMP question Wiebo Ludwig in connection with EnCana bombings, 20/10/2008.
4-13. Dawson Creek residents angry at RCMP for bomb-investigation tactics, John Bermingham, 12/07/2009.
4-14. Wiebo Ludwig pleads for peace, Nathan Vanderklippe, 13/09/2009.
4-15. An open letter from Wiebo Ludwig, 13/09/2009.
4-16. Oil sands under attack on environment, Shawn McCarthy, 14/09/2009.
4a. Wiebo_Ludwig" TARGET="_blank">Wiebo Ludwig on Wikipedia.
4b. Video interview with Wiebo Ludwig.
FACTBOX: Climate talks on the road to U.N. deal in Copenhagen, Friday September 18 2009.
Following is a list of major meetings in the run-up to a climate talks in Copenhagen in December meant to agree a new pact to fight global warming.
Copenhagen will cap two years of negotiations launched in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2007 on a pact to succeed the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol:
NEW YORK - September 22 - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon holds one-day summit on climate change for world leaders at U.N. headquarters. U.S. President Barack Obama and China's President Hu Jintao to be among speakers.
PITTSBURGH, United States - September 24-25 - Leaders of the Group of 20 meet; among issues is to decide ways to finance the fight against climate change.
BANGKOK - September 28-October 9 - Officials from up to 190 countries meet for the fourth session this year of formal negotiations on the Copenhagen deal.
BARCELONA, Spain - November 2-6 - Officials from up to 190 nations hold the fifth and final round of climate talks in 2009 before Copenhagen.
COPENHAGEN - December 7-18 - U.N. talks among 190 nations meant to agree a deal to combat climate change. Environment Ministers are due to attend the final three days, from December 16.
Obama deve enfatizar que problema climático é questão comum, Estadão Online, 19/09/2009.
O presidente norte-americano, Barack Obama, vai enfatizar, no encontro sobre mudanças climáticas na ONU, que a questão é um problema em comum ao qual cada país deve responder, afirmou a embaixadora dos EUA na Organização das Nações Unidas, Susan Rice, nesta sexta-feira (18).
"Ele vai salientar que este é sem dúvida um desafio em comum, e que todos precisam agir para concretizar algum progresso", disse ela em encontro com jornalistas na Casa Branca.
Obama to stress climate change problem is shared, Reuters, 18/09/2009.
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will stress at the U.N. climate change summit that the climate change problem is shared and every nation must respond, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on Friday.
"He will underscore that this is very much a shared challenge, that everybody has to step up if we're going to succeed in making concrete progress," she told a White House news briefing.
RCMP execs off on costly trip to raise public faith, Glen McGregor, 09/09/2009.
As part of an overhaul intended to restore trust in the RCMP, the force is planning to spend nearly a quarter of a million dollars to send three of its executives to Arizona for "personal transformation" and "accountability" training.
Contract documents show the Royal Canadian Mounted Police intends to enrol executives at the assistant deputy minister level in courses offered by Malandro Communication, a private management training firm based in Scottsdale, Ariz. Fees for the three students are expected to be $220,000, according to an advance contract award notice published by the RCMP. The per-person cost of the training is more than the average annual salary of an RCMP member. The cost of travel and accommodations will be extra, said an RCMP spokeswoman.
Sgt. Julie Gagnon said the program in Arizona is being offered through the RCMP's "change management team," part of the organizational transformation intended to rebuild public faith in the force.
RCMP commissioner took $44,000 training to be "more effective leader', Glen McGregor, 11/09/2009.
OTTAWA — The RCMP paid a firm in Arizona more than $44,000 for "executive coaching" and other training for its top official, Commissioner William Elliott, as part of ongoing efforts to improve accountability in the force, Canwest News Service has learned.
After Canwest News Service called to inquire about his trip to Arizona, Elliott on Friday sent out a written message to all RCMP members in which he discussed the importance of leadership in the force's revitalization and referred to the training.
"I recently participated in a leadership session where I had the opportunity to explore the impacts of my leadership and behaviours on individuals and on the RCMP as a whole," he wrote.
"I learned that my actions can and did have unintended, sometimes negative impacts. I believe this insight is helping me to change and to be a more effective leader."
Leadership training and executive coaching are "crucial" to renewal of the RCMP, he said.
An Ottawa-based watchdog group on Friday questioned why Elliott, a seasoned bureaucrat, would require private leadership training.
"Before he was appointed did they not carefully vet him?" asked Allan Cutler, the whistle-blowing public servant behind the so-called sponsorship scandal who is now head of Canadians For Accountability.
Elliott spent three days in Scottsdale, Ariz., in July for development of a "leadership action plan" with Malandro Communication, the same company the Royal Canadian Mounted Police intends to hire on a $220,000 contract to coach senior executives in leadership and accountability.
According to the RCMP, the contract for Elliott included a customized "3 for 1 High Performance Leadership" session, a one-on-one session in Arizona and eight hours of "ongoing executive coaching for the commissioner on the process of cultural transformation and behavioural change."
Elliott's contract also included the development of a questionnaire and telephone interviews with senior RCMP officers. The cost of the training: $38,587.50 U.S. — about $44,650 Canadian.
Price for RCMP leadership training in Arizona: $250,000,, Glen McGregor, 08/09/2009.
OTTAWA - As part of an overhaul intended to restore trust in the RCMP, the force is planning to spend nearly a quarter of a million dollars to send three of its executives to Arizona for "personal transformation" and "accountability" training.
Contract documents show the Royal Canadian Mounted Police intends to enrol executives at the assistant deputy minister level in courses offered by Malandro Communication, a private management training firm based in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Fees for the three students are expected to be $220,000, according to an advance contract award notice published by the RCMP. The per-person cost of the training is more than the average annual salary of an RCMP member.
The cost of travel and accommodations will be extra, said an RCMP spokeswoman.
Sergeant Julie Gagnon said the program in Arizona is being offered through the RCMP's "change management team," part of the organizational transformation intended to rebuild public faith in the force.
The decision to award the contract to Malandro is justified in the contract documents with information that borrows heavily from the company's promotional material.
The document says the "3 for 1 High Performance Leadership" session the RCMP officials will take focuses on their organization's "unique leadership problems and behavioural barriers to success."
It explains the session is "not focused on skills acquisition. It's about personal transformation. The leader won't just understand his/her roadmap to success, they will believe in it and know they can do it."
Another session the RCMP officers will take is called "100 per cent accountability" and produces "significant behavioural changed (sic) need (sic) to raise performance and build a culture of accountability," according to the contract notice.
There are eight RCMP officers at the deputy commissioner level, one level below Commissioner William Elliott. The RCMP declined to identify who would be taking the course in Arizona.
The Malandro website refers to three-day "private CEO sessions," but it is unclear if this is the program the RCMP officers will attend.
The RCMP was unable to provide further details on the course and Malandro Communication did not respond to a request for comment.
The advance contract award notice gives other potential suppliers 15 days to make a better offer if they can match the specific requirements of the contract - in this case, the RCMP says Malandro is the only known firm that can deliver the "leadership transformation services" it needs.
Advance contract award notices are used by the government to award contracts without a full tendering process, even though they are technically considered to be competitive.
The RCMP has been rocked in recent years by controversy over its use of Tasers on suspects and its handling of the case of Maher Arar, an Ottawa man who was detained in the United States and then taken to Syria, where he spent a year in prison.
The force's transformation plan makes repeated references to leadership, and says it will make a "substantial investment in a leadership learning continuum."
Zen and the Art of the Sport Cliché, NYT Editorial, 15/09/2009.
Perhaps you remember the scene from “Bull Durham.” The veteran catcher, “Crash” Davis, played by Kevin Costner, is teaching the rookie pitcher, “Nuke” LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins, the art of the sports cliché: sounding humble and gracious while saying almost nothing. The sports cliché has come a long way. Witness Serena Williams’s press conference on Saturday night after threatening a line judge in her semifinal with Kim Clijsters — an outburst that cost Ms. Williams match point.
To her credit, Ms. Williams didn’t shy away from reporters. But there was something deeply disheartening, even shocking, in hearing a player of her stature resort to the language of glib self-forgiveness. “It was what it was,” she said twice, referring to the incident. “I just go for it,” she said, forgetting that what she had gone for, verbally and with a threatening gesture, was the line judge. “I’m moving on,” she added, as if what had happened on court affected only her. When asked what she had said to the line judge, who had called a foot fault, Ms. Williams said: “I don’t remember anymore. I was in the moment.”
The faux-zen quality of that last remark is especially disturbing. We can almost hear it becoming the excuse of choice. But as it happens, everyone who saw the match live or on television was in the moment along with Ms. Williams, and we do remember. The best players in tennis — Ms. Williams is one of the very best — have the ability to put bad shots and lost points behind them.
Ms. Williams put this transgression away far too quickly and blithely — apologizing only on Monday. What she gave us on Saturday was a virtuoso display of the sports cliché, saying little and apologizing for nothing.
Serena Williams fined, may face more punishment, Toronto Star, 14/09/2009.
NEW YORK – Serena Williams' profanity-laced, finger-pointing tirade at a U.S. Open line judge drew a $10,000 fine yesterday, and more punishment could follow from a broader investigation into what the head of the tournament called her "threatening manner."
The fine – not quite 3 per cent of the $350,000 (all figures U.S.) in prize money Williams earned by reaching the semifinals – is the maximum on-site penalty that can be issued for unsportsmanlike conduct at a Grand Slam tournament.
"The average individual would look at that and say, `A $10,000 fine for what she did? What are you guys, crazy?' The answer is: The process isn't over," tournament director Jim Curley said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Bill Babcock, the top administrator for Grand Slam tournaments, will review what happened Saturday night, when Williams yelled at a line judge who called a foot fault with the defending champion two points away from losing to Kim Clijsters in the semifinals.
If Babcock determines Williams committed a "major offence," she could be fined all of her prize money from the tournament.
Williams also was docked $500 for smashing her racquet after the first set of the match. Because she was issued a warning then, her later actions resulted in a lost point.
The foot fault resulted in a double-fault, which moved Clijsters one point from victory. Williams then was penalized a point for her outburst; because it happened to come on match point, it ended the semifinal with Clijsters ahead 6-4, 7-5.
Babcock did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But Curley said the inquiry would likely include reviewing TV footage, checking audio feeds from courtside microphones and interviewing Williams, the line judge, the chair umpire and possibly spectators.
He also said the tournament considered – and decided against – preventing Williams and her older sister Venus from participating in the women's doubles final today.
Serena Williams released a statement yesterday, acknowledging that "in the heat of battle I let my passion and emotion get the better of me and as a result handled the situation poorly."
She did not apologize.
Williams fined $10,000; new investigation opened, Howard Fendrich, 14/09/2009.
NEW YORK — Serena Williams' profanity-laced, finger-pointing tirade at a U.S. Open linesperson drew a $10,000 fine Sunday, and more punishment could follow from a broader investigation into what the head of the tournament called her "threatening manner."
The fine — not quite 3 percent of the $350,000 in prize money Williams earned by reaching the semifinals — is the maximum on-site penalty that can be issued for unsportsmanlike conduct at a Grand Slam tournament.
"The average individual would look at that and say, 'A $10,000 fine for what she did? What are you guys, crazy?' The answer is: the process isn't over," tournament director Jim Curley said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Bill Babcock, the top administrator for Grand Slam tournaments, will review what happened Saturday night, when Williams yelled at a linesperson who called a foot fault with the defending champion two points away from losing to Kim Clijsters in the semifinals.
If Babcock determines Williams committed a "major offense," the rules allow for a fine as high as all of a player's prize money from the tournament — and a suspension, although Curley did not mention that as a possibility.
Williams also was docked $500 for smashing her racket after the first set of the match. Because she was issued a warning then, her later actions resulted in the loss of a point.
The foot fault resulted in a double-fault, which moved Clijsters one point from victory. Williams then was penalized a point for her outburst; because it happened to come on match point, it ended the semifinal with Clijsters ahead 6-4, 7-5.
Clijsters won the championship Sunday night by beating Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 6-3.
Babcock did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But Curley said the inquiry probably would include reviewing TV footage, checking additional audio feeds from courtside microphones and interviewing Williams, the linesperson, the chair umpire and possibly spectators.
"What she did was unacceptable. It's unacceptable behavior under any circumstances. When you're on the court, and you are waving your racket toward a linesperson and using profanity, it's just simply unacceptable," Curley told the AP. "When you look at the tape, it's pretty clear that the way she approached the linesperson, with her racket and in that manner, it was a threatening manner. It certainly was."
The names of linespersons are not disclosed as a matter of practice at the tournament.
He also said the tournament considered — and decided against — preventing Williams and her older sister Venus from participating in the women's doubles final Monday. Venus put in some work on a U.S. Open practice court Sunday; Serena wasn't with her.
Serena Williams did make an onstage appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York on Sunday night, where there was no mention of what happened 24 hours earlier. She did release a statement through a public relations firm, acknowledging that "in the heat of battle I let my passion and emotion get the better of me and as a result handled the situation poorly."
She did not apologize for the outburst, which made the "most viewed" page of YouTube with four different versions that totaled more than half a million clicks as of Sunday night.
After what may be recalled as the most significant foot fault in tennis history, Williams paused, retrieved a ball to serve again and then stopped. She stepped toward the official, screaming, cursing and shaking the ball at her.
"If I could, I would take this ... ball and shove it down your ... throat," Williams said, according to a tennis official who watched a replay Saturday night.
The official also said Williams used the word "kill." The official declined to be identified because the tape was still being reviewed.
Fans began booing and whistling, making it difficult to hear the entirety of what Williams said — and she refused to discuss specifics afterward at a news conference. An AP reporter — provided access to replays — could not verify Williams used the word "kill."
When Williams turned her back, the line judge went over to the chair umpire to report what was going on. The line judge then returned to her seat, and Williams pointed and began walking toward her. The line judge then headed back to the chair umpire's stand. By now, tournament referee Brian Earley was on the court, too.
Earley could be heard asking the linesperson what Williams said.
That's when Williams walked over and said to the line judge: "Are you scared? Because I said I would hit you? I'm sorry, but there's a lot of people who've said way worse."
Earley again asked the linesperson what Williams said. Whatever the linesperson said, her reply seemed to startle Williams, who said: "I didn't say I would kill you. Are you serious? Are you serious? I didn't say that." The line judge then said, "Yes."
The episode dominated conversation at the U.S. Open on Sunday, including whether the line judge should have made the call in the first place. Foot faults are rarely called at this level, particularly in possibly the final moments of such a significant match.
"In my opinion, you can't call a foot fault there. Just out of question. Can't do it. It was so close. Not as if it was an obvious foot fault — it was minuscule," TV commentator John McEnroe said. "I've seen Serena come back from that position a dozen times against top-flight opponents. The match was not over."
The chairman and CEO of the women's tennis tour, Stacey Allaster, issued a statement calling Williams' conduct "inappropriate and unprofessional."
"No matter what the circumstances, no player should be allowed to engage in such behavior without suffering consequences," Allaster said. "I have spoken with the USTA about this matter and I agree with the action they have taken."
The Souring of the Good Reverend's Nature, Mark Levine, 12/1998.
In the beginning was the family compound, and it was fine. Then came the oil companies with their wells, and they were foul. And lately have come the shootings, the wrenchings, the bombings — and what's to come of all that, only the prophet knows.
When battle lines began to be drawn across the frozen stubble fields of northwestern Alberta, they appeared as faint scribbles, too inconspicuous to attract alarm. Windshields were shattered and tires slashed on construction equipment at a few of the thousands of unmanned oil and gas well sites that hover over the farmland like blackened scarecrows. Sledgehammers were taken to Caterpillars. Nails were strewn like spilled grain on remote roads leased to oil companies. Residents of Alberta's sparsely populated Peace Country, a vast block of windswept prairie drained by the Peace River, were slow to register the signs of insurrection in their midst. Some attributed the mischief to disgruntled employees of the oil companies that had descended on the region from distant Calgary in recent years, transforming the landscape into a pallid grid of smokestacks and strip malls and strip bars, and infusing the local culture with tolerable amounts of cash and mayhem. Others saw in the vandalism the eternal imprint of teenagers roaming dirt roads with their headlights dimmed, staving off the boredom of long winters; still others saw the imprint of eternally malcontent local Indians.
The vandalism escalated. Acid was poured over monitoring equipment at pump sites. Sharpened spikes were hammered into access roads to gas installations. Soon the attacks branched out to include the region's forestry industry; railcars packed with bales of pulp were set ablaze, causing millions of dollars in damage. No arrests were made. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police confessed an inability to patrol the vacant terrain. "I would compare it to graffiti," said Sergeant Dave MacKay, head of the eight-person Beaverlodge detachment of the RCMP, which has investigated many of the more than 130 attacks against industry over the past two-and-a-half years. "Unless you actually see someone do it, it's very hard to make a case against a culprit." A year ago, a sniper took aim at gas-company offices with a high-power rifle. Six months ago, a bomb blast ruptured a gas pipeline, and two other explosive devices were defused before they detonated.
Then, at the beginning of August, during a holiday weekend in Canada, a pair of gas wells was destroyed by explosives. High-pressure pipes were severed and "sour gas" — the stuff that smells like rotten eggs and can cripple the central nervous system in a whiff — was discharged into the air in sufficient volume to warrant evacuations and highway closures. The attacks created a nuisance for drivers returning to their farms from bingo halls in the boomtown of Grande Prairie, and panic among energy firms involved in Alberta's $2.5-billion-a-year sour gas industry. Alberta Energy Company Ltd., a major industrial presence in the region, hosted a rare news conference in Calgary to issue a report entitled "Terrorism and a Fractured Community." Gwyn Morgan, the company president and C.E.O., spoke of residents "living and working under a state of siege" and bemoaned his helplessness in the face of "life-threatening fallout of the industrial terrorism."
In clapboard farming towns such as Sexsmith and Goodfare and La Glace and Hythe, residents have reluctantly come to believe that the particularly hateful, urban, elitist creatures known as ecoterrorists are huddling in their midst. Rumor has it that environmental groups from the United States have been fanning the flames by offering moral and economic support to the perpetrators. Local environmentalists, though, point out that the practices of the energy industry — whose airborne pollutants have been linked to cancers, birth defects, and crop destruction — are quite enough to have incited a grassroots insurgency without outside assistance. "I don't condone acts of vandalism," says Mike Sawyer of Calgary's Rocky Mountain Ecosystem Coalition, "but I can understand how people would feel driven to conduct such attacks."
The community waits uneasily for a break in the case. Security detachments can be spotted parked in overgrown fields, and the breathless debate in roadside coffee shops concerns the wisdom of taking up arms against terrorists. "God knows where the next bomb is going to go off," a spokesperson for Alberta Energy Company tells me. "I'm scared to death." The patterns of everyday life in the oilpatch remain seemingly intact: Granaries are well-stocked, and tottering orange buses are delivering rural children to school each morning by the standard icy routes, and the dreary sod continues to yield its sticky flow to the furnaces of North America. But make no mistake: Peace Country is at war.
The gravel road down which I've turned, about 25 miles east of Alberta's border with British Columbia, is lined with orderly stands of bare white poplars. Beyond the trees, tractors sit like ornaments in fields of rime-covered black dirt. A few horses gather in a tight circle against the wheezing horizontal winds, and a cluster of abandoned farmhouses sags toward the ground, disrupting the unrelenting flatness of the yellow-brown vista.
This is a road reserved for martyrs and pariahs and — if one is to heed local sentiment — home-grown subversives. I pass a bullet-riddled Dead End sign with the words "Ludwigs Are" scratched into the paint. A bit farther down the road, a black flag decorated with a white skull-and-crossbones flutters at the entrance to the Trickle Creek farm, home to Reverend Wiebo Ludwig and his 34 family members and disciples. "Beware of the Mounting Anger of the Local Residents," warns a hand-painted sign erected by the Ludwigs; a torn Canadian flag marks the entrance to the 320-acre compound. Wiebo, 57, awaits my arrival on the porch of his log house, where a "potato gun," fashioned from a four-foot length of plumber's pipe and designed to be ignited by a nearby can of Final Net aerosol hair spray, leans against a window like a comic sentinel.
It's cocktail hour, and Wiebo pours me a glass of homemade wine, alcohol content 15 percent, made from high-bush cranberries plucked from the surrounding woods. It goes to my head quickly. A band of tow-headed children stares at me, speechless, as if I broke away from a herd of alien livestock. "So you've come all this way to see the saboteur, have you," Wiebo says, sizing me up. "You'd best be careful."
Wiebo moved his brood to Trickle Creek in 1985, hoping to settle down after an unruly past. Born in Holland, he immigrated to Canada at age 10, ran away from home at 15, traveled the world with the "immoral and despairing" Canadian navy, and was deposed from the pulpit of two congregations of the Calvinist Christian Reformed Church in small-town Ontario. Despite the leavening effect of a master's degree in divinity, he speaks in language dusted with traces of counterculture ebullience. "We had to leave the system before it destroyed us," he tells me cheerfully, moments after we shake hands. He wears a leather vest over an open-necked white shirt, and a small silver cross on a necklace seems tangled in his snowy chest hair. His bearing, which is often described by acquaintances as "intense" and "in your face," is part homespun revolutionary, part self-appointed mystical visionary. As such, he is not afraid of wielding the broad brush of generalization or of claiming to have spied the very nature of things worldly and otherworldly. "The system," Wiebo says, speaking in the calm murmur of a late-night talk-radio announcer, "has its own momentum. It catches you. We had to break with it, get off the treadmill. It was soul rot." He and the family escaped to Peace Country, he says, on the run from the debilitating influences of materialism, capitalism, the banking system, property taxes, public education, egoism, the dilutions of organized religion and the savagery of ecological destruction and, not least of all, the seductions of "secular humanism."
Mamie Lou, Wiebo's 51-year-old wife and the mother of their 11 children, saunters over from the open kitchen, where an assembly line of women clad in peasant dresses and sneakers is dealing with mashed potatoes and applesauce, and confirms her husband's narrative. The Iowa-bred daughter of a minister, Mamie Lou has a squared-off jaw and washed-out, somewhat ravaged features. She and Wiebo could pass for an aging country-and-western duo who have gone through tough times and lived to sing about their trials. Her red corduroy shirt is cinched with a red vinyl belt, and her head is covered with a red scarf in deference to her husband's authority. Indeed, all the sturdy, big-boned women of Trickle Creek farm — I count nine who are either at or beyond childbearing age — wear scarves over their blond hair, decline to shave their legs, and carry out their homely chores unsupported by what they consider to be cancer-causing bras. Meanwhile, all the ruddy, bandy-legged men of the household are aswarm in facial hair — seven flickering beards that blend into the burnished landscape and frustrate the task of distinguishing Fritz from Bo from Benjamin. Wiebo engineered the marriages of three of his sons to the three daughters of another middle-age couple living at Trickle Creek, and the dizzying roster at the compound is rounded out by 18 home-schooled, blue-eyed children who can be seen placidly drawing with crayons in Bible coloring books or tugging at the ears of whinnying goats. "Public education is an abomination," Wiebo reports. "I would rather see my children dead than be taken to school." None of the cheerful tykes raises a pale eyebrow.
"People know that we've devoted ourselves to wholesome family life," Wiebo says. When Wiebo came to Trickle Creek, only one small cabin, without running water, stood on the property. The family was broke, had no furniture, and ate its meals sitting on the floor. Mamie Lou remembers bringing in frozen laundry from the clothesline and thawing it out in front of the cookstove. "We were living like pioneers," says Wiebo. Harmony, the couple's eldest child, who has trained herself as an herbalist and who spins wool sheared from the family's sheep, passes through the room with a harmonious nod of her scarved head.
Trickle Creek now has three houses; a barn heated in part by solar panels; several outbuildings; a machine shop and a wood shop; cellars stocked with mason jars of pickled vegetables and sacks of carrots, beets, and potatoes; and a wind turbine mounted on a 40-foot platform, spinning like a dervish against the weak northern sun. The Ludwigs have built all of it themselves, from trees in their woods, as part of their mission to achieve "self-sufficiency" from the world at large and to walk in step with nature. One of Wiebo's sons has learned to butcher the family's sheep, cattle, and poultry. Another has taught himself beekeeping. Everything that sprouts from Trickle Creek soil is Wiebo-certified organic. The Ludwigs bake bread from their own milled grain, wash with homemade soap, drink "coffee" brewed from roots and dried grains, and treat everything from diaper rash to whooping cough with extracts from their herb garden. One of the daughters is receiving rudimentary instruction in dental work from a nearby dentist, though by the look of the stained teeth and inflamed gums flashed by many of the Ludwig kin, the family has a way to go before it achieves self-sufficiency in oral hygiene.
I sit down with my three dozen new friends to a heaping meal of old-fashioned farm cooking, but not before a little thanks is offered to God for the presence of the dark-haired visitor. I'm touched. The Ludwigs are friendly Christians. They strike me as smart and self-confident and passionate about politics and ecology, and I'm almost hoping they'll lead me to their stone-ringed campfire in the yard after dinner and sing hymns or folk songs while Wiebo plays the trumpet. It's clear that Wiebo's experiment in withdrawal from the vulgarities of consumer culture is in many respects an estimable success. The children seem aglow with contentment, and none of them claims to miss the opportunity to roam shopping malls or swap lipsticks with friends from the Godless world beyond Trickle Creek, or to mind performing their daily chores. Nobody watches television, though tapes of John Denver and the sound track from Titanic rest next to an old stereo. The mess-hall style dinners are lively and relaxed, and each morning's breakfast is followed by a lengthy session of Bible study and prayer. All the constant activity is presided over by Wiebo, who has been called the "patriarch" of the family but who prefers the title "undershepherd of the Word," and whose authority at Trickle Creek is final and absolute.
Around 1991, after six years of rugged homesteading and several Ludwig home births, the Trickle Creek idyll began to show cracks. "The system" from which the Ludwigs had sought refuge seemed to track the family down like a malevolent gas cloud. In the early '90s, the Alberta energy industry recognized the potential for full-scale development of the province's natural gas reserves; the sedimentary basin of the northwestern plains is so rich in gas that the ground is said to tremble when freshly drilled wells begin to flow. In the last ten years, the number of producing gas wells in the vicinity of the Ludwigs' property has doubled, to around 2,400, and the preponderance of those produce sour gas, which contains lethal amounts of hydrogen sulfide. To measure the volume of an underground deposit, gas companies will oxidize the contents of a new well into the atmosphere for about a week, burning off some 250 chemicals through 40-foot stacks to dissipate the toxic load. The process is called flaring. On a clear night in Peace Country the flames of flaring gas wells rise from the earth like barbaric matchsticks.
In Alberta, gas wells are allowed to be drilled as close as 100 meters from residences, and Trickle Creek lies at the center of a dainty industrial solar system whose unmoving stars are 10 gas wells, each linked to a pipeline that rings the property. "During the time the Ludwigs have been there," says RCMP Sergeant MacKay, "this area has turned into the major gas field in North America." The family says that three leaks have been confirmed at wells within shouting distance from their home, and has prepared an anecdotal record several hundred pages long to support its claim that ill health — three miscarriages, birth defects, chronic respiratory ailments, skin problems, throat infections, eye infections, and memory loss — has been caused by what they bitterly call "fumigation": exposure to toxins released through leaks and flaring. Wiebo says that 60 of his livestock — cows and lambs and goats — have died and that the trees in his woods are sick at the core and that his soil, while still productive, is laced with ungodly chemicals. "This place used to be full of frogs," he recalls. "Then we started finding deformed frogs. Now even those are gone." The family's prayer meetings are held against the sounds of a chirping choir of caged blue and yellow canaries that are kept for the purpose of detecting vagrant fumes. Twice the Ludwigs have heeded the warnings of the canaries to flee their house in a red-and-white school bus that stands ready in a nearby field.
Wiebo has filed complaints with energy companies, police, and government bodies, but says that his efforts — which have cost him $45,000 and have become a full-time pursuit — have been unavailing. A few years back, he was arrested after he entered the offices of the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, the regulatory agency that environmentalists charge with being a rubber-stamping friend to polluters, and spilled a few ounces of crude oil on their rug. In early 1997, his eldest son, Ben, was convicted for vandalizing a gas company shed, a charge to which he refused to respond. "You know what happens when you corner a dog," Wiebo tells me, speaking in analogies, as is his wont. "He might be a friendly dog, normally speaking. But when you come for him enough, he's got nothing left. So he bites you."
One day late last August, the Ludwigs proceeded to the woods behind their houses, where they gathered to dig the first grave on Trickle Creek farm. They said some prayers and read some poems and set into the ground an unfinished spruce box bearing the grotesquely deformed remains of Abel Ryan Ludwig, who had been born dead to Wiebo's son Bo and daughter-in-law Renee. In a nearly unbearable five-minute video that the family has produced to document its misfortune and publicize its cause, Bo and Renee are seen cradling the dead infant and stroking his soft, unformed skull, accompanied by a sound track of mournful Celtic-sounding music. The baby's flesh is loose and peeling; his mouth is agape. The family believes that the stillbirth resulted from Renee's exposure, during the early weeks of her pregnancy, to a toxic load of chemicals released from gas wells adjacent to Trickle Creek. "Abel Ryan was killed by the polluters," Wiebo says, definitively. "Sometimes I think we should take the president of Alberta Energy Company hostage, tie him up, make him watch the video of Abel Ryan, and then slit his throat."
Forty-eight hours after the funeral, a bomb exploded at an oil well a few hundred miles south of Trickle Creek. Roadblocks were set up in the area. Wiebo, Bo, and Renee's father, Richard Boonstra, who also lives at Trickle Creek, were arrested at a roadblock set-up in the area of the bombing. Mamie Lou was arrested the following morning at the family's house.
The night of the arrests, 30 RCMP officers converged on Trickle Creek and stayed until dawn, scouring the property for evidence of the family's involvement in the bombing. Wiebo says they left the house with a smattering of innocuous materials, including some fishing line, a bag of powder used to tan hides, a book called The Dying of the Trees, and Earth First! founder Dave Foreman's notorious volume, Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching. The four suspects also surrendered their clothes, which were sent to crime labs in Vancouver for analysis. A few weeks later, prosecutors withdrew charges.
Wiebo will neither admit to nor deny involvement in any ecoterrorist action. Nor will he explain what he and the others were doing near the blast site. He claims to know who committed many of the recent attacks and says he finds himself "in spiritual sympathy" with their motives. "If a man is going to slaughter your family," says Wiebo, exercising his flair for propositional speech, "and you just stand by and lift your hands in prayer — that kind of passivity I condemn as amoral cowardice. Somehow people believe that Christians have become so weak-kneed that they can be pushed into that corner. Well, you have to love your enemy enough to win him over through persuasion rather than kill him. But if he needs to be killed to restrain his madness, then you kill him. That's not murder. It's executing judgment."
Hythe, population 800, lies five miles east of Trickle Creek and calls itself "Town of Flowing Wells," in honor of its once crystalline water supply. At the Hythe Motor Inn, though, the tap water in my cinder-block room stank of sulfur. I recalled a moment in another of the Ludwigs' videos, Home Sour Home, in which a lit match held to a stream of tap water bloomed into a globe of flame. The Ludwigs had distributed the story of their opposition to polluters to media and environmentalists across Canada, and their principled rejection of creature comforts had struck a responsive guilty chord among urbane liberals. The family enjoyed a few moments as media darlings in the Canadian press. Back home, their neighbors were considerably less enamored of the Ludwigs.
One morning in the diner at the Hythe Inn, I found a group of flannel-shirted men nursing their coffee cups and trading banter over the community's most prominent suspected villain. "What do you want to know about that Ludwig bastard?" one called over to me. They told me what they knew, what they suspected, and what they guessed. Frank Webb, the three-term mayor of Hythe and the owner of a business that operates water tankers, played point man. "Ludwig knows how to get inside people's heads," he said. "He's a clever, educated man, not a hick like the rest of us around here. He loves to read about himself in the media, and the media loves to lap up his BS." Cam Hastie, a retired building contractor, killed a fly with his pack of cigarettes and pointed out, "It's impossible to know what's going on with their health when Wiebo is over there playing doctor, veterinarian, and mortician all by himself." Some of those present proposed that inbreeding could account for the Trickle Creek miscarriages and birth defects. Abuses were hurled on the Ludwigs' ability as farmers, and Wiebo's charge that his livestock had been exterminated by toxic fumes was dismissed as a hoax. It was well known, the men said, that Wiebo had bought lamb carcasses from farmers in the area in order to produce a dramatic shot of a heap of dead animals for his home video. Mayor Webb advised me, "Why don't you ask other people around here if they've had miscarriages and aborted livestock?"
I had, I told the Mayor. I had, for instance, sat in the living room of the Ludwig's nearest neighbors, Rob and Gisela Everton, grain farmers who live about a mile-and-a-half south of Trickle Creek. The Evertons circulated a petition in which 42 of the Ludwigs' neighbors — the people who pass Wiebo on the road and raise a hand in automatic greeting — joined in dissociating themselves from the Ludwigs' complaints against the oil and gas industry. It was a distinctly unneighborly gesture. "He's not the kind of neighbor you want," said Gisela. "He's scary. You're not welcome there. The only time you see them is when they need some help, like being dug out of a ditch or having their grain dried."
I had also spoken with Laureen Campbell, the leathery 40-ish bartender at the Hythe Tavern — behind the coffee shop, below the motel. Laureen didn't have much to say about ecoterrorism or alternative lifestyles. Her boyfriend is a driller in the oil patch, and she has lived around Hythe most of her life, despite repeated efforts to get away. Laureen couldn't recall having had any health problems she would attribute to industrial pollution. Then she paused. Well, she said in a gravelly voice, come to think of it, her father did die of cancer. So did one of her sisters. Two other sisters had had cancer. So, come to think of it, had she — a weird, rare cancer at that. And of course her daughter had just recovered from cancer. According to environmentalists, Peace Country has an unusually high incidence of cancer — and asthma, and blood disorders. But Laureen has no firm opinion. "We can't live with the gas companies," she told me, "and we can't live without them."
Peace Country hasn't determined how it will live with the Ludwigs. At the coffee shop, Mayor Webb groused about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Canadian constitution. "The man on the street," he said, "would think that the laws are made for criminals." Then, in a surprisingly Wiebo-like statement, he said, "We've gotten so liberal that we've rotted from the middle." As the mayor spoke, Wiebo and Mamie Lou entered the diner and sat in a corner with a pile of newspapers. The room grew quiet. Some tables cleared out. "People around here are talking about how this will end," Webb whispered. "This is still the Wild West, and we haven't forgotten the old remedies." He glanced over at Wiebo, who was scanning the Edmonton Sun through his bifocals. "He struts in here pretty cocky, but God help him — if one person gets hurt, there's likely to be a lynching."
It was a lazy afternoon on the farm. The bearded boys took a break from pouring cement at an earth-covered structure that looked like a bunker but was described to me as "the root cellar." A few of the women interrupted their mopping and bread-baking and swished over to the dining table in their flowing skirts. Allan Johnstone and Carl Bryzgorni, two stalwart members of Wiebo's ragtag band of neighborhood supporters, had dropped by Trickle Creek unannounced to eat cake and exchange incendiary slogans. The lives of the revolutionaries seemed momentarily tranquil. Everyone was buoyed by the publicity the recent bombings had brought to Peace Country and by what was regarded as the RCMP's humiliation when the charges against the Ludwigs were dropped. "They're not eager to mess with us right now," boasted Wiebo. "They're afraid we're going to blow up this part of Alberta."
"The reason they dropped the charges," announced Johnstone, a white-haired obsessive from Beaverlodge, "is that the government doesn't want to settle this thing in court. They want it to flare up like in Montana and Waco so they can eliminate us."
I was enjoying my cake, which was made with organic eggs and flour and freshly churned butter. Mamie Lou fetched me a cup of herbal tea and joined the conversation. "Just think of the thousands who have already been killed by the energy industry," she announced. Mamie Lou was surprisingly up-to-date on the crass imperialism of multinational oil companies and was fond of equating the situation of the Ludwigs of Trickle Creek with that of Ken Saro-Wiwa of Nigeria, the plight of northwestern Alberta with that of East Timor. The Ludwigs' movement of "resistance" had come to resemble a historical and ecclesiastical calling to its participants. Bryzgorni, an awkward gap-toothed farmer from nearby Sexsmith, spoke in affecting tones about how his wheat crop turned yellowish-green and died some years back after flaring from an adjacent sour gas well. "The industry treats us like wild animals," he said, haltingly. "I'd compare it to Hitler with his gassing." To which Wiebo replied, "It's no better than Hitler. It's just a free country — they gas us free of charge."
I felt as though drafts of disorienting vapors had been released into the sun-drenched room. At one moment I thought I was sitting among a group of likable, harmless eccentrics who were giddy with the notion of naughty play; at the next moment I thought that this band of freshly minted green warriors was just desperate and disheveled enough to maim someone. "Blood has already been shed by the industry," said Wiebo, with well-received bluster. "More blood is going to be shed sooner or later. It's entirely justifiable." Bryzgorni gazed at the crumbs on his cake plate and said, "We've got no choice. They're choking us."
Wiebo thrives under a siege mentality, and his family can be seen walking in lockstep directly behind him, straight into the heart of impending crisis. That is Wiebo's way. "Will we risk being hated by men for the sake of the gospel?" he asks me, as if I'd know. "Do we fear men or God?"
Wiebo fears no men, least of all oilmen. Last summer, shortly before the Hythe-area gas well bombings, Wiebo rejected Alberta Energy Company's bid to buy his property for $520,000, a sum that local residents figure is three or four times the property's market value. Wiebo had considered moving the family to Nova Scotia or northern Idaho or remote British Columbia, but was furious when the company's lawyers added conditions at the last moment that would effectively have banished the family from Alberta and enforced its silence on the company's environmental practices. For the moment, Peace Country is going to have to learn to cope with the Ludwigs' emboldened presence. Wiebo knows the authorities are terrified of the prospect of violent confrontation at child-friendly Trickle Creek, and this lends him the aura of invulnerability.
"You'll be running back here when the days of trouble come," Wiebo assures me, "trying to steal our food and envying our self-sufficiency." The family views its poison gas affliction as only one symptom of a world that is spinning toward the fulfillment of its self-destructive promise. In this way, Wiebo's doomsaying converges nicely with the predictions of those radical environmentalists who support ecoterrorism — even as Wiebo criticizes some environmentalists as "grandstanders" given to "strange pagan rituals." Wiebo takes me on a whirlwind tour of the not-so-distant future. "It's clear," he says, "that this is like the time of Noah. We're going toward an ultimate collapse."
Richard Secord, an environmental lawyer who represents the family in its struggle, tells me, "I can't think of a more remarkable group of people than the Ludwigs. I like what they're doing as a community. I admire their lifestyle. This is obviously not a family of criminals. But when people feel they've been unable to get the attention of industry or regulators, what are they left with but militant forms of action?" The Ludwigs' militancy is unlikely to be dampened by the family's unified sense of a coming "conflagration." What are a few bombs, anyway, when in short order, as Wiebo says, "Everything will convulse, and the elements themselves will melt, and the earth will be renewed"?
One night after dinner at Trickle Creek, Wiebo and his family led me outside to listen to the sound of the low-flying plane that they believe has been spying on them, with its lights off, for the past few months. Indeed, I heard the plane and heard its engines fade away and heard the rumbling return a few moments later. It was exciting to feel observed. The venal world was out there, just beyond the horse corral and the potato patch, lying in wait with its surveillance equipment and incinerated oil field toxins, preying on the slumbering pacified masses of Peace Country. But the Ludwigs could not be bought, and they could not be tricked. The children sat on the porch railing swinging their legs. Dessert could wait. Wiebo ran to the house and retrieved a gas flare pistol, and when the plane circled overhead again, he took aim like a movie cowboy and discharged a taunting flare into the darkened sky. A red streak flashed across the night and dissolved, like a brief, intimate glimpse of the fiery days to come.
The Case Against Wiebo Ludwig: Reflections on a trial within a trial, Ian Urquart, Fall 2000.
Officially, the Wiebo Ludwig trial was about bombings and other acts of sabotage against energy companies. Unofficially, it also was about the relationships between private and public interests, private and public power. Here, Alberta Energy Company (AEC) and the RCMP stood in the dock, charged with forming an unholy alliance in order to lock Ludwig up.
I want to offer a few observations about the unofficial trial. As oil-patch violence escalated in 1997 and 1998 the relationship between AEC and the RCMP grew very close. It became intimate. Consider the following:
* Security Management Consultants (SMC), AEC’s private security firm, exchanged information with the RCMP about suspicious characters and potential suspects. In return, the RCMP told SMC details about its vandalism case against Benjamin Ludwig, Wiebo Ludwig’s eldest son.
* References to telephone calls and meetings between the police and AEC are scattered throughout the notebooks kept by RCMP investigators.
* AEC facilitated the RCMP’s purchase of Robert Wraight’s services, the starcrossed agent the Mounties hoped could penetrate the Ludwig clan.
* AEC contributed $25,000 of the $188,000 that Grande Prairie County businesses donated to the South Peace Crime Prevention Society. After the Ludwig investigation ended, this money was used to enhance community policing.
* Senior AEC officials helped the RCMP plan a covert bombing of AEC property.
* In the highly charged atmosphere that the AEC/RCMP covert blast either created or sustained, they held townhall meetings to examine terrorism in the oil-patch. Vigilante sentiment, as well as the crowds, overflowed at these meetings.
Ludwig’s lawyers used these details to damn AEC and the RCMP for forming a “joint venture” to get their client. The Mounties weren’t the public’s police force; they were “rent-a-cops” for AEC. They behaved like the Pinkerton detectives companies hired in the 1870s to get rid of the radical Molly Maguires from Pennsylvania’s coalfields. Ludwig threatened the bottom line of the energy industry and the RCMP rode to the rescue.
This perspective is tempting. It is also too simplistic. It ignores some compelling evidence. First, the RCMP refused AEC’s offer to help finance its oil-patch sabotage investigation. More importantly, it undervalues the safety concerns that preoccupied both AEC and RCMP personnel. Families of AEC employees and RCMP officers were threatened. Shots were fired at buildings where AEC personnel worked. Bombs were planted at sites they visited. The violent campaign against the energy industry that infected the Peace Country posed a genuine threat to oilfield workers and the general public. As RCMP Sergeant Dave Mackay testified: “I’ve never met more terrified people.” Stopping oilpatch violence was not just in the energy industry’s interest, it was in the public interest as well.
None of this means that oil-patch violence was the only threat to public safety in the Peace Country. The risks posed by sour gas are serious. Industry and government must address them.
Nor do these reflections mean that Albertans should not be concerned about the type of relationship AEC and the Mounties cultivated. We should be. We should support initiatives that ensure the independence of the RCMP. More resources are clearly needed so that our police forces can investigate effectively the crimes at issue in the Ludwig trial.
Sometimes AEC and the RCMP behaved improperly as they pursued Wiebo Ludwig. Does this mean that the RCMP abandoned the public interest in favour of serving only the energy industry’s private interests? I don’t think so. Oilpatch violence in the South Peace Country was a genuine threat to the public interest.
Relative urges family members to leave Ludwig farm, CBC, 10/11/2009.
A relative of one of the people living on Wiebo Ludwig's farm says the residents should break away from the controversial patriarch and come back to Ontario.
The RCMP concluded their search of Ludwig's property on Tuesday. They were searching for evidence into the death of 16-year-old Karman Willis who was shot while joyriding with friends on the Ludwig farm.
George Kloet from Ontario, has said that any members of the family under "Ludwig's control" are more than welcome to come home if the pressure gets to be too much.
Kloet's nephew, Trevor William Schilthius, is married to Ludwig's eldest daughter, Harmony.
Kloet believes his nephew may be afraid to leave Ludwig's farm.
Mamie Ludwig, Wiebo's wife, refused to comment on Kloet's concerns.
However, Ludwig has said that he is worried about his family's safety now that the police have left his Alberta farm.
While the RCMP were searching his property, three cruisers maintained barricades outside the farm, 24 hours a day. Now that the search warrant has expired, only one cruiser is left at the farm.
Ludwig is worried that people from the nearby town of Beaverlodge may take the law into their own hands.
"We have been under attack for a long time. And gossip burns like fire, and we've had so much gossip and so many rumours about us," said Mamie Ludwig, mother of 11 children on the commune.
But Beaverlodge Mayor Leroy Durrand doesn't believe there will be any more bloodshed on the Ludwig farm. "I haven't talked to anyone, I haven't seen anyone who's ever indicated to me that they would ever seriously go out there and do anything," Durrand told CBC News.
Police uncovered four rifles on the farm, including a fully loaded assault weapon. But they have not laid any charges, or made any arrests in the case.
RCMP bombed oil site in 'dirty tricks' campaign, CBC, 10/11/2000.
The Mounties bombed an oil installation as part of a dirty tricks campaign in their investigation into sabotage in the Alberta's oil patch.
The revelation came at the bail hearing Thursday of two farmers who the Crown says have turned their complaints that oil industry pollution is making their families ill into acts of vandalism and mischief.
Their lawyer produced evidence that the RCMP bombed a wellsite and that they did it with the full support of the energy company that owned it. The Crown admits the allegations are true.
The police have been under pressure from the industry and the government to put an end to two years of attacks which have caused millions of dollars in damage.
Lawyer Richard Secord told Court of Queen's Bench that when Alberta Energy Co. and police blew up an AEC shed last Oct. 14, they blamed it on his client, farmer Wiebo Ludwig.
Secord also claims AEC offered to buy a neighbour's property for $109,000 if he gave them information about Ludwig.
Ludwig and Richard Boonstra face nine charges involving vandalism at energy installations. They were denied bail.
Saboteurs Andrew Nikiforuk (extract), 10/2001.
An exclusive excerpt from Andrew Nikiforuk's soon-to-be-released book on Wiebo Ludwig's war against Big Oil.
In 1985, Reverend Wiebo Ludwig moved to Alberta's Peace River region, about 500 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, to insulate his alternative Christian community from the madness of modem life. But in 1990, civilization, in the form of several oil and gas companies, came calling. For six years, Ludwig peacefully raised disturbing questions about property rights, the environment and the toxic nature of sour gas. About a third of all natural gas in BC and Alberta is sour and contains dangerous concentrations of hydrogen sulflde, a cyanide-like poison.
After two sour gas leaks resulted in a score of animal deaths and the miscarriages of two women, Ludwig had had enough. When the Alberta Energy Co. Ltd. (AEC) proposed to do seismic testing near his aquifers in 1996, he warned the firm (the natural gas giant reported revenue of $6 billion last year) not to proceed. When another company, Norcen Energy Resources Ltd., started to drill a new well north of his farm, the family barricaded the road, just as aboriginal bands are now blocking access to oil and gas properties in northeastern BC. They, too, are asking the same questions Ludwig asked.
Andrew Nikiforuk's highly anticipated new book, Saboteurs (Macfarlane Walter 6 Ross, $35), to be published in late October, documents Ludwig's war against development. Even before the explosion of several bombs and the shooting of a 16-year-old girl, the sabotage campaign cost the oil patch more than $10 million, probably the largest case of industrial monkey-wrenching in North America.
In this compelling pre-publication excerpt, exclusive to Canadian Business, Robert Bilodeau of the RCMP discovers that Ludwig's war is no ordinary dispute:
Bosnia changed Corporal Robert Bilodeau the way wars change all men. He went to the former Yugoslavia in the spring of 1993 as an idealistic 45-year-old volunteer who had served in the RCMP for 20 years. He was assigned to Srebrenica as that city's first full-time UN civilian police station commander. His job was to keep peace in a demilitarized zone packed with 40,000 Muslim refugees. 'Tbe Serbs controlled everything outside the zone while Muslims struggled to stay alive inside it. Meanwhile, the UN stood around, says Bilodeau, "with its thumb up its ass.' In this so-called safe zone, Corporal Bilodeau recorded as many as 2,000 ceasefire violations a day.
In the chaos of Bosnia, Bilodeau's superiors forgot about him. He was abandoned for 115 days in the war zone. Here the affable, fast-talking farm boy supped with a school principal who calmly executed former students and negotiated with a warlord who drove a Mercedes, strutted about like a peacock, and killed with equanimity. He learned that extreme situations can drive people to do things they wouldn't normally do. At night, just before the fighters came out like bats, he drank brandy with men who are now buried in shallow graves.
Rather than defend the enclave, the UN finally let the Serbs overrun it. Within days, the Serbs massacred 7,000 Muslim men and boys. Bilodeau still has nightmares about the men and women he couldn't save. "If you really want to know what Srebrenica was about, imagine a Serb and a Croat raping a Muslim woman with the UN holding a flashlight,"
Bilodeau's tour of duty left him with a common Yugoslavian souvenir: post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD doesn't diminish a man's power of judgment; it just recycles the pain and trauma until he feels stuck in time, hypervigilant and anxious. After Srebrenica, Bilodeau told friends, he didn't have much of a fantasy life.
In 1996, he was posted to the RCMP's Beaverlodge detachment as a sergeant. The small understaffed unit was responsible for upholding law and order in an industrial frontier nearly as big as Bosnia. Bilodeau had worked in the Peace country two decades earlier, and knew that Beaverlodge, with its landscape painters and good schools, was a cultural and artsy sort of place –“a jewel of the Peace.”
He reckoned it would be a quiet place to end his RCMP career. His wife, Donna, liked the area too, and looked forward to settling down after years of roving as a cop's wife. The couple even designed a "dream house" in town overlooking the Beaverlodge valley. They planned on staying forever.
0ne of Bilodeau's first assignments in Beaverlodge seemed a minor affair -a string of vandalism incidents on a country road being used by Norcen Energy Resources Ltd. (now Anadarko Petroleum Corp.). Another firm, the Alberta Energy Co., had hired private security to protect its seismic crews. The contested road had been blocked with parked vehicles and spiked with sharpened rebar and roofing nails. Hythe Motors Tire Shop couldn't keep up with the repairs that fall. Even the detachment’s GMC Suburban picked up a couple of flats while on patrol.
The name Wiebo Ludwig came up. Bilodeau asked members of his new detachment what they knew about the man. The constables couldn't offer much other than hearsay. Ludwig was "crazy" and "ran some kind of cult", they reported, and had started his own church and didn't like the oil and gas industry.
To Bilodeau, these stories sounded much too convenient. He set about filling in his intelligence vacuum. An Interpol search on Ludwig pulled up nothing more than the man's birth date - Dec. 19,1941 - and there was nothing on CPIC, the national police computer system. Bilodeau sent two constables out to interview neighbors and decided he would save the Reverend for himself. He called up Ludwig's farm and said he wanted to come over for a visit and hear their side of the story. Ludwig invited "the tin soldier," as he liked to call cops, down.
The next morning, Bilodeau arrived at Trickle Creek for coffee. It was the first and only time anyone from the RCMP heard Ludwig out in civil surroundings. Bilodeau brought Constable Jackie Wheeler along. One of Ludwig's first comments was that Bilodeau "needed a woman to protect him.' Bilodeau replied that some women make extremely good warriors, and added, "I just want another witness."
The whole family sat around in the living room and observed the conversation the way other families watch TV Ludwig's son Ben sat on his father's right and his wife, Mamie, on his left. “It was like the Last Supper. Everyone seemed to be sitting in descending order of power and importance.”
It didn't take long for Bilodeau to figure out that Ludwig wasn't the kind of guy who rolls over and plays dead. Ludwig cataloged, with repeated Biblical references, the fumigations, the dead animals, and the two miscarriages.
"Ben buried a child," said Ludwig.
"You mean you lost a child?" Bilodeau asked in disbelief. "How old?"
Ludwig explained that his daughter-in-law Kara had miscarried three months after being gassed by a flaring well.
Bilodeau said "Oh."
Ludwig added that no one in authority seemed to take human miscarriages in sour gas fields very seriously.
The RCMP officer then made his own points. “As police we have to work in a neutral position and on a compliance basis with people. I'm a Peace Officer and I'll do whatever I can to keep the peace, but there are rules to follow and Norcen is not doing anything illegal by drilling its well.”
Ludwig said it was criminal and illegal for oil companies to murder children and destroy aquifers. He said he wasn't going to kiss the ass of a corrupt system and that Bilodeau should realize “there was trouble brewing here and the legality, as such, could not embrace it.”
Bilodeau said that he was basically powerless, and that maybe Ludwig should put pressure on Alberta's Energy and Utilities Board (EUB), the provincial regulator, or form some kind of citizens' alliance. Ludwig said they had had enough of such merry-go-rounds and asked Bilodeau to let the authorities know “that this situation demanded more than present laws are able to deliver.”
Bilodeau, who had worked in the oil patch as a young man, agreed that the industry wasn't angelic. “The industry really rapes the land,” he said. “They don't have a lot of friends; they are business at its worst. Raping and pillaging the land is what they do best, but they are generating a lot of money, and the government gives them lot of slack because of it.” He added that the EUB worked liked every other bureaucracy. “It's part of their nature to give you the runaround.” The residents of Trickle Creek had never heard a “tin soldier” talk so candidly.
Bilodeau then talked about the things he had heard and seen in Bosnia. He told Ludwig that he had worked in a place where people lost sight of things and took the law into their own hands. He said it “wasn't the fat cats that suffer but the women and children.” In essence, Bilodcau gave Ludwig the Gospel according to Bob: peace, love, and sue the bastard's ass off.
At the end of the meeting, Ludwig appealed to the sergeant “to be human, since we share in humanity" and to remember his real and only master, God.
The family agreed to take apart the road block, and perhaps seek a court injunction against Norcen.
Bilodeau left a worried man. He pegged the family not as a cult but, as a sincerely religious, highly disciplined group. He had seen the beards and head scarves before in Hutterite or Mennonite communities.
The children were well-fed and healthy. Mamie looked downtrodden but then women, thought Bilodeau, always got "the shit sandwich" in evangelical communities.
What worried him was Ludwig himself, a man at the end of his rope. He had met fearless and cornered men like Ludwig before in Srebrenica. Such men calmly drew lines in the sand that even blood couldn't erase. Ludwig had set his course and Bilodeau recognized it wasn't keeping the peace. He felt he had met a Muslim in the boreal forest surrounded by an industrial tribe bent on ethnic cleansing.
0n Dec. 1, 1996, three of Ludwig's sons walked out to the Norcen site and got into a shouting match with a dozen workers from Big Valley Construction in Hythe. The Hythites were madder than hell about getting flat tires in their vehicles, and accused the boys of booby-trapping the road. One worker told the boys: “We are just following the laws of the land and if you don't like the laws of the land, you should get the hell out of here.” Another said if the Ludwigs wanted to mine the road “they should go down to Waco, Texas.”
When Josh Ludwig, one of Wiebo’s sons, tried to say something about the law of God, one worker replied, “Well, we're not God-loving people! The Ludwig family diary, a voluminous document, recalls this comment as “very crass indeed.”
That night the Ludwigs brought out a mug of coffee to a cold security guard watching the access road. The guard was grateful for the warmth and chatted a bit. He thought the nails that oil workers had found on the road were a pretty wild idea. “Ten to one its a bunch of kids, pulling pranks.”
While the security guard was being entertained, a sour gas well southeast of Trickle Creek was sabotaged. Someone poured acid on the remote-control operation valve, causing a chemical meltdown and setting off the sour gas alarm at the Alberta Energy Co.'s Hythe-Brainard plant. An AEC emergency response crew later found boot prints in the snow that led down the road toward Trickle Creek.
When RCMP Corporal Cal Mosher arrived on the scene, he reported a pickup truck not far from the well with a bunch of Ludwigs milling about. The next day, two AEC employees replaced the damaged valve, then left for an hour to locate another part. During that time, someone stole their new $6,000 valve.
Before Bilodeau could question Ludwig about the mayhem, “Dad and Mom,” as the family's diary put it, stormed into his office in Beaverlodge. Ludwig wasn't in a good mood and told Bilodeau why. A neighbor, recovering from heart surgery, had told Ludwig that two constables had questioned him in hospital. They had wanted to know about his family's habits, the number of children, their interest in guns, and many other things. Ludwig thought the police had acted wickedly and accused them of trying to create “another Waco situation.” He was particularly incensed that the police would want to know if his children were fed well.
After getting “beat up with the Bible,” Bilodeau calmly told Ludwig that three wells had been vandalized close to Trickle Creek and that their lives could be in danger. “You don't mess with sour gas,” said the policeman. Bilodeau had worked as a roughneck as a young man and had seen men go down under a cloud of hydrogen sulfide faster than a dropped hat. He said a criminal investigation was underway.
“There are a lot of angry people around,” Ludwig told him. “I'm not surprised that these kinds of things are happening. Time is running out for the police and all the other organizations who refuse to put a stop to these lethal sour gas wells so close to people's homes.” Before leaving, Ludwig told Bilodeau that he was going to seek a court injunction, as he recommended. The policeman encouraged this route: “The judge is the one with the power to stop the well;' added Bilodeau. Bilodeau felt he was in Srebrenica all over again.
Ludwig drove to Grande Prairie and walked into the Court of Queen's Bench and gave a clerk at the front desk his documents. When she told him that he would need a lawyer to get an injunction, Ludwig said he didn't have time for that nonsense. All the judge had to do was read the papers and make a decision, said Ludwig. When she suggested that he go upstairs to the legal library, Ludwig said he was out of time. This is an emergency, he said. Finally a superintendent arrived and explained that an administrative office of Queen's Bench couldn't do anything. Ludwig dumped his papers on the table, his attempt to defend his property rights in the courts at an end.
On the drive back to Trickle Creek, Ludwig decided to check out the wells that Bilodeau mentioned. He found them damaged and, to his surprise, still unsecured. Even after thousands of dollars' worth of sabotage, no one had bothered to lock them up. He phoned Bilodeau and bawled out the sergeant again. “Get those sites secured before somebody does more damage and puts my family in further danger.” The saboteurs visited all three wells again that month.
If the night now belonged to saboteurs, the day stiffed Ludwig's caustic tongue and psychological terror tactics. At one often - sabotaged AEC well site just southeast of his farm, Ludwig showed up unexpectedly and chewed out the entire four-man crew. He delivered another angry sermon about sour gas, animal deaths, and miscarriages. “Are you Reverend Ludwig?” a frightened worker asked. Ludwig said the vandalism was nothing to be complacent about and warned that industrial- terrorists were getting testy. He declared that this well site could become a target and that these terrorists weren't averse to blowing up homes belonging to AEC personnel. He also put the fear of God into AEC field operator Keith Gerlack. “For 364 days of the year I'm sane and then one day a year I go crazy,” said Ludwig. “I know where you live.” (Ludwig says he never said any such things.)
The sabotage campaign so unnerved Gerlack that he moved five times that year and had an alarm installed in his house.
After weathering this evangelical blast, the crew suggested the oil patch could be good neighbors and that everything was “perfectly safe.”
Ludwig heard none of this and ended his jeremiad by saying he was going to discuss things only with “the chairman of the AEC until I discover that he's an asshole, too. Then I won't bother with him either.”
By now, most of AEC's employees in the area considered Ludwig “the rudest asshole they ever met.” Landowners in the Peace could be contentious, even trigger happy, but no one had ever encountered one as adamant as Ludwig. “He wasn't your run-of-the-mill upset landowner,” noted one worker. “He was justifying all the vandalism saying God told him to do it. How do you deal with a man like that?”
To deal with the man who feared only God, AEC West, a division of AEC, hired Shel Kelly. The former RCMP superintendent had once commanded 2,500 men and now worked as a consultant with Security Management Consulting Inc. in Calgary. When the oil patch has a big security problem and wants it solved quietly, it hires SMC.
Kelly, a lean, hard, old-school cop who loved bull riding, became Ludwig's shadow. He arrived at work with a trench coat, notebook, and no misconceptions. For the next two months, he talked with Bilodeau nearly every day.
On Dec. 18, Ludwig called up Bilodeau and asked if he wanted to attend a meeting with AEC personnel. Bilodeau agreed, and met with Ludwig's family for coffee at the Golden Inn the next morning. Along with Mamie, Ben, and a couple of the other boys, Ludwig tramped into the corporation's Grande Prairie office with a solemn grimness. There they met Ken Woldum, vice-president of AEC West and Mike Weeks, the new plant supervisor for the Hythe Brainard and Sexsmith gas plants. Shel Kelly sat in the background, watching like a lynx.
Ludwig did most of the talking. He launched an angry barrage of accusations at Woldum. Known to his colleagues as “Teddy Bear” because of his genial disposition, Woldum said he couldn't answer most of the questions because he wasn't in charge of day-to-day field operations. Ludwig accused him of sitting “in an ivory tower” and then came to the point of his visit: “We have deep concerns. Coexistence is not possible.”
Woldurn said that if AEC wanted to put a seismic line up a public road, it would damn well do so.
Ludwig demanded that AEC buy the family out for $750,000 or change its practices. “I'm here to say that if the wells won't be removed, therefore you must pay to have us removed.”
Woldurn, angrier by the moment, repeated that AEC was doing everything legally.
“I'm saying the war is on,” said Ludwig. “You'll either pay now or pay down the pipe”
After Ludwig's war declaration, Bob Bilodeau took statements from Woldum, Weeks and Kelly. He thought there might be grounds for an extortion charge and consulted Al Munro, a popular and erudite Crown prosecutor in Grande Prairie. Munro said there was nothing there. “It's just a case of Japanese negotiation tactics in a David-and-Goliath struggle against the oil and gas industry,” said Munro. “Any charge would get punted out of court.”
Ludwig left the meeting thinking he had made his position as plain as split wood: buy me out or it's war. He felt the same calm he had experienced while serving on HMCS Iroquois in 1960 when he experienced his spiritual awakening. Ludwig had joined the Canadian navy at the age of 17 to see the world, training as a frogman and mine expert. One night, the warship entered a storm in the Bermuda Triangle. That tempest tore off most of the life rafts and nearly capsized the ship. Ludwig, on the midnight watch, stood on the upper deck through it all. As the salt wind blasted his face to the point of tears, he felt an awe and joy beyond words. The next day, he couldn't explain to his officers why he had felt so calm and exhilarated.
“While everyone seemed to be either scared to death or vomiting or both, I felt entirely at peace and entertained.”
Soon after the meeting with AEC, Ludwig wrote a short letter to the EUB in Calgary, warning of the storm ahead. He strongly advised the agencys “bureaucratic terrorists” to “get your asses in gear and deal with the situation. Cut the bureaucratic crap, since you are ill-prepared for the worst. Murder has been committed here and our patience with you has ended.”
Noreen got a similar letter.
Throughout the Christmas season, saboteurs decorated more AEC well sites with damaged solar panels, cut cables, and busted-up heaters. There was even one attempt to blow up a sour gas well with two propane tanks, a candle and a firearm. It didn't work. On New Year's Eve, a grader operator with the county of Grande Prairie found a barricade of snow three feet high and six feet deep on the east-west road running north of the Ludwig property. Water had been poured on the snow, turning into a giant ice bump.
Finally, on New Year's Day, Bilodeau got his first break. He'd been inspecting vandalized well sites until early in the morning. He'd arrived home cold and tired. Then the phone rang. It was Sergeant Charlie Brown in Grande Prairie. An hour later, two constables showed up at the house. They met downstairs, and Donna can remember hearing excited phrases like “no kidding” and “holy mackerel.” Before Bilodeau left again, Donna asked, “What the hell is going on?” Bilodeau said, “We have something on film. We know what we're facing.”
On New Year's Eve an AEC surveillance camera had caught a bearded figure entering a well site that was jointly owned by Highridge Exploration Ltd. and Rigel Oil and Gas Ltd. The saboteur broke the light bulb illuminating the hut, then removed the batteries powering the light. He loosened the fitting to the gas heater, which caused a fire which tripped a safety alarm at the Hythe-Brainard plant an hour later. Police found tracks in the snow leading back toward the Ludwig property.
After viewing the video, no one at the Beaverlodge detachment could identify the bearded saboteur. Everyone complained that “the Ludwig boys all look alike.” But Bob Bilodeau recognized him: Ludwig's oldest son, Ben. The one who sat to Ludwig's right.
In 1997, Ben Ludwig was convicted of mischief arising from his actions in the New Year's Eve AEG incident and placed on three years probation and ordered to pay Highridge Exploration and Rigel Oil and Gas $890 in damages. Three years later, Wiebo Ludwig was convicted on five counts of vandalism, including mischief and possession of fake dynamite, and sentenced to 28 months in prison. These convictions related to three separate incidents: encasing a Norcen well site in a tonne of cement, counseling a police informant to possess dynamite, and the bombing of a Suncor Energy Inc. battery near Hinton, Alberta. None of Wiebo Ludwig's convictions involved acts of sabotage described in this excerpt. In fact, no one has been charged in connection with these events.
People either regard Ludwig as a hero or as a dangerous religious fanatic. The shooting of 16-year-old Karman Willis on his farm remains unsolved and the source of great bitterness in northern Alberta.
When Sergeant Bilodeau requested a full-scale investigation of the sabotage in 1997, his superiors accused him of sending “bizarre messages” and relieved him of his command. He spent three years trying to clear his name and accused the RCMP of acting irresponsibly. Bilodeau finally settled out of court with the RCMP and now drives a truck part-time in Edmonton.
Ludwig's campaign against toxic sour gas developments has since been taken up by aboriginal peoples and landowners across the province. Industry now faces more than two dozen lawsuits from landowners.
Every month, sour gas projects are routinely delayed by public protests or lengthy public hearings. Most landowners don't support violence, but all agree that Ludwig's unorthodox crusade brought national attention to a serious pollution and human rights problem that industry and government have ignored for 40 years.
In response to unrelenting criticism, the industry's regulator, Alberta's Energy and Utilities Board, has doubled its field inspections and set up an alternative dispute mechanism for landowners and oil companies. It also commissioned a report on sour gas and public safety that recently recommended better health studies, smarter enforcement of existing laws and greater neutrality “when dealing with the public.” The EUB says it will implement all 87 recommendations. Ottawa and four provincial governments have now begun a multimillion-dollar study on the effects of sour gas on human and animal health.
Ludwig is scheduled to be released from prison in November.
Community wants answers as Ludwig released from jail, CBC, 14/11/2001.
Alberta oilpatch vandal Wiebo Ludwig was released from jail Wednesday, after serving two-thirds of his sentence for blowing up a wellsite. He spoke briefly to reporters, saying only, "Jail changes people."
When Ludwig reached his home near Hythe, Alta., there were balloons, streamers and ribbons waving in the breeze to welcome him. His family rushed to him and hugged and kissed him.
Ludwig was convicted last year on five charges, but some community members are still concerned about the unsolved death of a local teenager on his property.
Sixteen-year-old Karman Willis was shot during a joy ride on Ludwig's land in 1999, and his neighbours don't want him to forget her.
Ludwig turned over the rifle that fired the fatal shot, but none of his 30 followers living on his Trickle Creek farm would say who pulled the trigger.
Gisela Everton placed a large sign on her property, an area Ludwig will have to pass when he arrives home. It says "Remember Karman. Turn away from evil and do good."
Everton says the community wants answers from Ludwig, who served 19 months.
"They have said many times they want peace with the neighbours. Well, for us, the only way that can really happen is to have Karman's death resolved."
The RCMP say as far as they're concerned, Ludwig has served his time.
Maybe you'd fight too, Andrew Nikiforuk, 14/11/2001.
Many Albertans fear the name of Wiebo Ludwig, who is to be released from prison today. But many can also identify with his cause
Wiebo Ludwig, the fiery Dutch-born cleric who declared war on Alberta's $26-billion oil and gas industry, will get out of jail today. Just about every Albertan knows his name and a great many people actively fear it. Mr. Ludwig, after all, can be as self-serving, rude and offensive as any Old Testament prophet or oil executive. After serving 18 months of a 28-month sentence for oil patch vandalism, the man will not likely retire quietly but continue, as it says in Ephesians, to expose "the unfruitful works of darkness."
Few Albertans would approve of a terror-ridden sabotage campaign with its attendant bullets, bombs and death threats, which cost industry and government more than $10-million (Mr. Ludwig played a part in the campaign but certainly wasn't responsible for everything that happened).
Nor would they approve of what Mr. Ludwig called its "collateral damage" -- the tragic shooting of a 16-year-old girl on his property. But a huge number of rural Albertans strongly identify with his cause.
If you subtract Mr. Ludwig's infuriating character from the picture, his cause isn't all that complicated to understand.
Imagine you live in a country where the government owns almost everything under your feet: the rocks, the gas, the oil -- you name it. This state in turn makes billions by selling these mineral rights to a 1,000 different companies. Over time, these companies industrialize the landscape with a million kilometres of seismic lines, 300,000 kilometres of pipelines, hundreds of gas plants and tens of thousands of wells -- and all in a pretty ad hoc fashion. Even parks must sport wells and pipelines. But, hey, its all in the public interest.
Now imagine you are a landowner in this Soviet-style state. A company comes along and proposes to put a sour-gas well in front of your dining room. Someone might explain that the good people of California need to stay cool in the summer and the good people of Ontario need to stay warm in the winter. You're offered $25,000 for the inconvenience and annual rent of $5,000 as "hush money."
Generally speaking, no one will tell you that sour gas is a cyanide-like poison. Or that it's so toxic that the Canadian government even used it in its secret chemical-warfare program during the Second World War. Or that one gas well might to lead to another four; or a pipeline. Or ceaseless traffic, access roads and a fax machine in your kitchen so the gas company can contact you night and day in case there is an emergency.
Now imagine you have an objection to this intrusion. You are given a public hearing before a state board that receives most of its funding from the oil and gas industry.
The board has a funny technocratic name: the Energy and Utility Board. It claims to operate in the public interest, which means its job is to generate more revenue for the state. It will often patiently listen to objections and then declare that "there is a need" for the well. The landowner is damned. Imagine four decades of damning decisions.
Now something goes wrong with the nice well in your backyard and the pipeline
fragmenting your crop land and the shiny sour-gas plant upwind of your property. There is a leak; an upset; a 30-foot high burning flame that sounds like a jet airplane and rattles your house.
Your family and your livestock then breathe hydrocarbons that the medical literature has identified as brain-melters, lung-wasters and sex-changers. Your cattle die and your children pass out cold. Someone develops facial paralysis, multiple sclerosis or other neurological symptoms.
Well, that's just too bad because industry does most of the monitoring and the self-policing in Alberta. You might wait months for redress -- even years. According to the state, these emissions are harmless; it's just an odour problem; it's in the public interest for rural Albertans to smell these odours. (For years the EUB had only one mobile air monitor.)
Now imagine you are a self-righteous Christian fundamentalist who loves his family. Your wife and daughters-in-law miscarry after exposure to hydrocarbons that are well-known womb-emptiers. You civilly and legally challenge the system and are told to go to hell in the public interest. And then a war begins that exposes the vanity and arrogance of all sides and terrorizes an entire community. And that's the Ludwig saga in a nutshell.
Not much has changed in Alberta since this conflict made international headlines. Tensions remain so high in the countryside that many pipelines and wells now have 24-hour guards. Industry even reports people to the RCMP for merely taking pictures of flaring wells.
In fact, Alberta has the highest rate of "eco-terrorism" of any jurisdiction on the continent and some of the nation's highest rates of respiratory and neurological diseases.
Every week a family is exposed to toxic poisons or displaced by energy development in the public interest. And each week, industry and government mostly refuse to compensate those people harmed -- or even recognize the legitimacy of their claims. As a result, groups of landowners routinely contest sour-gas developments and have launched more than 30 toxic torts against industry.
The solutions to these Latin-American style land conflicts aren't all that onerous. Rural Albertans deserve a separate agency that upholds their rights and that has the power to duly compensate them for damages. The state needs to impose density controls on sour-gas development in areas of high population. That means the government must learn to say no to industry. Tough regulations on air pollution and flaring need to be introduced and enforced. Oil executives should be fined for bad practices that affect the property rights of down-winders. Last but not least the EUB needs a dozen environmental forensic teams to investigate air pollution and water contamination in a timely fashion.
And if the government really wanted to be proactive, it would also appoint a council of three retired judges to resolve the shooting of Karman Willis and investigate the legitimacy of Wiebo Ludwig's complaints.
Neither Alberta nor the oil patch needs any more Ludwigs. But civility won't likely return to the countryside without civil government.
Toxic Downwinds: No Redress, Review of Saboteurs, David Orton, 10/01/2002.
Saboteurs is a "must" book to read, for anyone who wants to understand how the oil and gas industry negatively impacts on people and the environment.
The book is grounded in the impact of the oil and gas industry, over the past ten years, on the fundamentalist Christian Reverend Wiebo Ludwig and his extended Trickle Creek farm-commune 'family' of about 36 persons, as well as many other peoples' experiences in Alberta. The farm-commune (on what originally was an unspoilt 160 acres) is in the Peace River area of northern Alberta. It is a simple, eco-alternative lifestyle, religious community, seen by Ludwig "as a viable visionary alternative to the prevailing destructive lifestyles around us." (p. 239)
From 1990 onwards, Trickle Creek residents were frequently gassed, through "flaring" with hydrogen sulphide from sour gas wells on and surrounding their farm. The pro-industry regulatory body, the Energy and Utilities Board, largely financed by industry itself, while consistently refusing Ludwig's request for a public inquiry, stated that in 1998, within a ten-kilometre radius of the Trickle Creek community, daily flaring "released enough gas to heat more than 5,000 homes." (p. 255)
Why does flaring occur? Nikiforuk explains that oil wells flare to burn off gas that doesn't warrant the cost of a pipeline. Gas plants flare to convert H2S (hydrogen sulphide) into water and less toxic sulphur dioxide. Both wells and plants often flare during routine cleanups or emergency burn-offs of gas called 'upsets.'
Flares are described in the book as looking "like giant candles" but also roaring "like jet engines." Flares can discharge through high stacks or at ground level. (p. 26)
About one third of Alberta's government revenues come from oil and gas. Forty per cent of Alberta gas is "sour," meaning it contains hydrogen sulphide or sulphur. As Nikiforuk notes, those who work around sour gas suffer a number of health problems: "Men who have worked Alberta's sour gas fields tend to age rapidly and look old before their time." (p. 20) Naturally, the oil and gas industry and government has a different view: "Both industry and government argue that no conclusive body of scientific evidence supports the claim that small doses of H2S are harmful." (p. 23) Yet for over forty years now, as Nikiforuk shows, rural Albertans exposed to sour gas emissions have had bloody noses, respiratory problems, premature births, nausea, cancer, asthma, and dead or sick livestock. (p. 255)
What is in the flares? According to a 1994 Alberta Research Council study, withheld by the government for two years, it was found "that flares didn't burn efficiently and left anywhere from 16 to 38 percent of the gases intact. While the burning of waste gas destroyed some toxins, it created others -- as many as 250 compounds, including known cancer causers and brain fuddlers such as benzene, styrene, carbon disulphide, hydrogen sulphide, and carbonyl sulphide." (pp. 83-84)
No unspoiled space
Ludwig's experience, and that of others chronicled in this fine, progressive, yet anthropocentric book by Nikiforuk, shows what many rural Canadians have come to learn first-hand -- that there is no permanent unspoilt space for one's family which cannot be fundamentally disrupted by capitalist economic activity. In Alberta, only about ten per cent of forest land remains unfragmented by seismic lines, pipelines, oil and gas wells, clearcutting, and roads. According to Saboteurs, in 2001 over 20,000 oil and gas wells were to be drilled in the province. Nikiforuk notes that in the year 2000, the regulatory Energy and Utilities Board only turned down one application out of thousands. Coincidentally, that one rejected application was the subject of a National Film Board documentary about the treatment of landowners.
Anyone living in a rural area knows that one can have one's life turned upside down by so-called development nearby, e.g. clearcutting, oil and gas or other mining activities. In Alberta, Nova Scotia or any other province, while a person may "own" land, under the capitalist economic system one cannot own the mineral rights underneath the land. These reside with provincial governments.
Capitalist property "rights" are sold or leased on industry's demand.
In the Maritimes, there are more than 4,000 landowners having to deal with the overland high pressure natural gas pipeline to markets in the United States. As well as a right-of-way, there is an exclusion zone on either side of the pipe, which restricts normal farming or forestry activities. For the industry, opposition from landowners is seen as a negotiating ploy to increase monetary compensation.
The fossil fuel industry can buy out down-wind rural "trouble-makers," but there is usually a "confidentiality" agreement to sign. This means for the industry, no public admittance of wrong-doing and hence no precedent-setting cases for other aggrieved landowners to use. Wiebo Ludwig was not offered a serious buy-out offer, only one with impossible conditions if he signed.
An unlikely role model
Ludwig's environmental consciousness may not have come initially from "intellectual conversion," as is the case for many in the environmental movement, but through fighting to defend the spot where he wanted to live. But as he became more of a thorn to the oil and gas industry, more and more people with similar grievances contacted him for help. He also came in contact with other home-grown environmentalists who were taking on the oil and gas industry, and with Earth First! Ludwig received many bomb and death threats at his home. In April of 1999, in Edmonton, his van was bombed.
The RCMP are shown in this book to have consistently worked in the interests of the oil and gas industry, to re-establish oil business as usual. They totally disregarded the local peoples' health and safety concerns. By sponsoring town hall meetings, the police worked with oil and gas industry supporters to whip-up sentiment against Wiebo Ludwig. They went well beyond the call of duty, by blowing up an oil shack to provide "deep cover" for an informant, whose testimony eventually put Ludwig and one other member of the farm community in prison. Of course, the car bombing directed at Ludwig remains unsolved. The only police officer who was at all sympathetic to the oil patch problems was transferred and eventually disciplined.
Reading this book should help to cast away illusions that the fossil fuel industry can ever be a "good neighbour," or, in a marine sense here on the East Coast, that oil and gas activities can "co-exist," as oil industry executives and their apologists swear up and down, with commercial fishing, ecotourism, preserving the habitat of marine mammals and birds, etc. Who will be looking out for the inevitable pipeline leaks, breakages, well blow-outs, release of toxic drilling muds, human errors, etc.? One Dalhousie University scientist wrote recently that seismic blasts from exploration can be heard half-way across the Atlantic.
Those of us living in the Atlantic region face a full-throttle expansion of an, as yet mainly marine-based, oil and gas industry in the service of the insatiable energy demands of the US economy. We have similar lap-dog regulatory agencies to those in Alberta, such as the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. This book shows us, based on Albertan experience over many years, that there is no rectification or mitigation possible of oil patch problems, given the existing industrial capitalist economic system, where minimal government regulation is striven for.
In a wider sense, which Nikiforuk's book does not really cover, fossil fuel is central to the continuing ecological destructiveness of the global industrial economy. George Bush has made it clear that Canada has a major role to play in servicing the American colossus. Our Canadian politicians are prostrating themselves to answer Bush's energy call.
Wiebo Ludwig was eventually sentenced to 28 months prison time for his industrial sabotage of oil and gas installations. But this book makes clear Ludwig had a lot of support in rural Alberta. Given the new "anti-terrorist" climate in Canada, and the passage of legislation like Bills C-35 and C-36, interference with the fossil fuel industry will likely be considered "treasonous."
Nikiforuk's book is full of stories of how in Alberta, the industry and the government promote "denial," not rectification. There is a lot of rage in Alberta, and it will be heading our way to the East Coast. Oil and gas activists and the interested public need to read this book. Knowing the true face of the enemy is part of any intelligent battle preparation.
Not Quite the Wiebo I Recall, Brian Bergman, 24/05/2004.
In this drama he's more crusader than saboteur
"In a lot of ways, I do not blame him. I would certainly draw the line at killing and I'm sure so would he. But at a certain point, when you've been trodden on hard enough, you do have to fight back."
-- actor Alan Scarfe, speaking of Wiebo Ludwig, whom he portrays in the TV movie Burn: The Robert Wraight Story
I REMEMBER standing by the police barricade outside Wiebo Ludwig's Trickle Creek farm, near Hythe, Alta., in June 1999. Along with other reporters, I was there to question Ludwig about the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Karman Willis on the property two days earlier. Willis was one of eight local teenagers out on an apparent joyride at 4 a.m. The surviving teens said they were pulling away when three shots rang out, one of them hitting the girl in the chest. Ludwig, then free on bail and facing multiple charges related to vandalism and explosions at local oil fields, told us the teens were drunk and posed a threat to his four daughters who were camped outside. While claiming to be "sad" for the dead girl's parents, Ludwig said they needed to reflect on why Karman was out with "wild young teenagers." He then alluded to his long battle with the oil industry over claims that sour gas emissions from nearby wells had led to afflictions including the stillborn death of his grandson. "If anyone pulled the trigger," he said, "it was the oil industry that started the controversy and the government which refused to delve into it before it got out of hand."
That's the Wiebo I observed and interviewed on several occasions. Arrogant. Self-righteous. Manipulative. Within days, Ludwig would concede that "most likely" the fatal shots were fired by someone at the commune-style farm at Trickle Creek, where the discredited Christian Reformed minister reigned as patriarch. But he said he had no idea who that might be. With scant co-operation from Ludwig or his clan, the RCMP investigation was stymied, and no charges have ever been laid in Karman's death.
I do see glimpses of the real Wiebo in the two-hour docudrama Burn, which CTV is airing on May 25. He is shown as a bully who believes women must submit to the will of husbands and fathers. But this is overshadowed by a storyline designed to convince us that Ludwig's cause -- if not always his means -- is just. And Scarfe, who looks and sounds eerily like Ludwig, delivers such a compelling performance that I fear uninformed viewers will come away thinking Ludwig is simply a committed environmentalist who got carried away, rather than the petty tyrant he is.
Burn tells the story of Robert Wraight, a Ludwig confidante who became a police informant after Ludwig turned increasingly violent. Like Wiebo, Wraight(played by Jonathan Scarfe, son of Alan)blamed the oil industry for everything, including his daughter's asthma. "People are dying -- babies!" he declares. There are, in fact, serious and legitimate questions to be raised about the potential health risks of sour gas emissions. But Burn asks us to simply accept, on faith, that the oil companies are culpable.
The show's producers say they focused on Wraight because they found him a more sympathetic character than Ludwig. They certainly strain to depict him as a salt-of-the-earth family man used and abused by Ludwig and the police alike. Tellingly, they barely deal with his role at the trial that saw Ludwig convicted on five of 14 charges and sent to jail for 28 months(he served nearly 19). Small wonder. At the real thing, the presiding judge described Wraight as a "tainted witness" because he was a paid police informant who also tried to convince an oil company to buy his property in exchange for getting the goods on Ludwig. The judge added that Wraight seemed incapable of giving a straight answer to any question.
Burn does deal with Karman's shooting in a final scene, but it seems almost an afterthought. My deepest misgiving about this "fact-based" movie? I suspect Ludwig, now free and back at Trickle Creek, will be delighted by it, while Karman's family will be appalled. Where's the justice in that?
Wiebo Ludwig’s assault charge stayed, 09/12/2007.
Wiebo Ludwig’s defence lawyer says an aggravated assault charge against the anti-oilpatch activist will be stayed Monday in a Grande Prairie, Alta. courtroom.
EDMONTON — Wiebo Ludwig’s defence lawyer says an aggravated assault charge against the anti-oilpatch activist will be stayed Monday in a Grande Prairie, Alta. courtroom.
Paul Moreau said Alberta Justice notified him late last week of the decision. “We expect that to be the end of the matter,” he said.
The stay of proceedings means the charge will be put on hold for one year. The Crown can reactivate the charge over the next year if further evidence emerges.
“However, in practice, a stay of proceedings usually means a final end to the prosecution, so essentially they’re going to be dropping the charges,” Moreau said.
Mounties charged Ludwig on July 21 after an alleged fight at a well site that was being developed close to Ludwig’s property just outside Hythe, 520 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.
Moreau said Ludwig had been involved in several discussions with the manager of the well site, and he had gone to the site that day to speak with the manager again.
Ludwig’s wife and one or two of his children were with him at the time, Moreau said. When Ludwig tried to get on to the property, three men who were workers there denied him access to the well site, Moreau said.
“There was some sort of a confrontation. Things got physical. Rev. Ludwig was himself injured fairly severely and the matter was, I gather, reported to the police,” he said. “He sustained various bumps and bruises and was cut on his forehead quite severely.”
No one else was charged in connection with the incident. In August, Ludwig pleaded not guilty to the aggravated assault charge.
Ludwig, 65, is a longtime eco-activist who claims sour-gas wells adversely affect human health.
In November of 2001, he was released from jail after serving 19 months of a 28-month sentence for possession of explosives and mischief in connection with blowing up one oil well and vandalizing another.
CBC speaks with Wiebo Ludwig, 19/10/2008.
The Alberta farmer who spent nearly two years in prison on charges related to oilpatch bombing and vandalism in the 1990s says he's not been contacted by police regarding two blasts in northeastern B-C.
Wiebo Ludwig tells the CBC he wanted to stop the oil and gas industry after he thought no one was listening to residents' concerns about exploration. Now, he says a message is being sent. And, he hopes someone is listening.
The investigation into the bombings continues.
RCMP question Wiebo Ludwig in connection with EnCana bombings, 20/10/2008.
CTV is now reporting that police have questioned anti-Oil and Gas activist Wiebo Ludwig in connection with the bombings of 2 EnCana pipelines last week in the Tomslake area near the BC/Alberta border.
In an interview with the media outlet, Ludwig said the media was too concerned with the danger of the attacks when they should be concerned with the danger of escalating oil and gas activity in the area, calling the industry "serial killers."
Ludwig spent 2 years in jail in connection with a series of bombings on oil and gas infrastructure near his home near Hythe, Alberta in the late 1990s.
Dawson Creek residents angry at RCMP for bomb-investigation tactics, John Bermingham, 12/07/2009.
Dawson Creek residents say police are stepping over the line in the hunt for a pipeline bomber.
Since last October, there have been six bomb explosions — including two this month — targeting EnCana Corp.’s natural gas wellhead in northeastern B.C. Despite a $500,000 reward, more than 250 investigators and 450 local people interviewed, there’s been no public break in the investigation.
Residents have complained of being harassed by RCMP investigators. One man said he was openly accused in a local restaurant of being the bomber, while others complained of being interrogated up to eight times. They also say they’re being pressured to take lie-detector tests and provide DNA and fingerprint samples.
Wayne Hiebert, a rural director in the Peace who represents the hamlet of Tomslake, said the farming and ranching community of 300 families has mixed feelings about the RCMP investigation.
“It’s very stressful for the people in Tomslake,” said Hiebert. “I have heard that people are being repeatedly questioned. The longer it goes on, the more difficult it gets for everyone.” Hiebert said a local man told him he was in the Tim Hortons in Dawson Creek when two Mounties entered and requested a sit-down chat. Jim Zacharias, who lives near the bomb sites, said the man and his wife, both retired teachers in their 60s, suspect a fellow diner overheard them discussing the bombings in the restaurant and called police.
Dawson Creek Mayor Mike Bernier said he’s had a few complaints from residents, but he tells them the RCMP are just trying to do their jobs.
“When the bomber is finally caught, you will feel comfortable knowing that the RCMP did a very thorough and good job,” he says he tells them.
The head of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said he’s concerned about the RCMP tactics.
“This is not the first time we’ve had complaints from people in Dawson Creek,” said David Eby. “These kinds of tactics are not the kind that’s going to build trust in the community.” “When police tactics cross the line from asking for that information, and actually intimidating people, you are talking about people’s rights to be free in Canadian society, that are protected by the Charter of Rights of Freedoms.”
RCMP spokesman Cpl. Mike Moskaluk said he’s not aware of any complaints, and suggested people with concerns contact the Mounties or the Commission for Public Complaints. “We are not overstepping our boundaries or authorities in these matters,” said Moskaluk. “We do have to conduct ourselves in a professional manner.”
Wiebo Ludwig pleads for peace, Nathan Vanderklippe, 13/09/2009.
‘Extraordinary' open letter to current bomber could end attacks, expert says
Calgary — His name has hung like a spectre over the natural-gas explosions that have rocked northeastern British Columbia's Peace River country.
Now Wiebo Ludwig, arguably Canada's most notorious eco-warrior, says the violence must end. In an open letter that one expert called “extraordinary” and likely to end the bombings, the man who served time in jail for similar crimes urges the bomber to “give peace (another) chance.”
“I have felt your rage,” Mr. Ludwig, 67, writes in the letter, which he sent to The Canadian Press and which he hopes news organizations around Dawson Creek, B.C., will print in full. A series of six bombings of pipelines and other facilities owned by EnCana Corp. in the region, nearly 600 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, has sparked a major RCMP response and allegations of domestic terrorism. It has also rekindled worried memories of the violence that surrounded Mr. Ludwig's own furious campaign against the energy industry a decade ago.
But, he says in the letter, “I want to encourage you not to let anger … get the best of you and to realize that these conflicts cannot ultimately be settled by use of force but by way of informed and patient persuasion.”
Mr. Ludwig, who once said that, “sometimes to reflect verbal perseverance, some force has to be exercised,” was sent to prison in 2001 on five charges, including one related to the bombing of an oil facility owned by Canadian energy giant Suncor. His 28-month sentence – he was paroled after 18 – followed a very public battle against an EnCana predecessor company operating around his 325-hectare Trickle Creek farm, which is located in Alberta a short drive from Dawson Creek.
He has since denied that he was responsible for the actions for which he was convicted. But Mr. Ludwig acknowledged in an interview yesterday that the sabotage of energy infrastructure around his farm in the late 1990s could have helped inspire the latest round of bombings, which began last October.
The RCMP have said Mr. Ludwig is not a suspect – and he, in fact, offered his services to police late last year. He told agents he was willing to push the bomber to stop by engaging “in some persuasive discussions – without necessarily knowing who it is – through other people.”
He retracted his offer when the RCMP refused to let him do so without a police shadow, a condition he declined for fear of inflicting harsh questioning on those he spoke with. He wrote his letter, he said, in hopes the weight of his own experience will persuade the bomber to halt.
But though some believe the letter will show the extent to which even those sympathetic to the cause condemn the violence, many are skeptical it will accomplish much.
“This person is already so angry that nothing anybody says is going to carry weight with him,” said Iva Tuttle, an anti-industry activist who lives near Dawson Creek. “There's no compromise anywhere in any of his letters. It's all or nothing, and that scares the hell out of me.”
The blasts have stopped since an anonymous letter sent July 15 offered a three-month truce in exchange for a commitment by EnCana to retreat from the area. That hasn't happened, and those in the area have looked to the Thanksgiving weekend in mid-October – around when the truce expires – with increasingly fearful eyes.
“I'm wondering if I shouldn't get out of here,” Ms. Tuttle said.
But the letter may prove persuasive, said Andrew Nikiforuk, a Calgary journalist who spent three years researching and writing the book Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig's War Against Big Oil . Reading Mr. Ludwig's words, he was struck by the intimate and “fatherly” tone.
“It's the kind of profound, yet jocular, letter a father might write to an idealistic relative or close friend,” Mr. Nikiforuk said. “It is an extraordinary appeal. I suspect it will likely bring an end to this bombing campaign.”
Though Mr. Ludwig himself has said his “explosive rhetoric” may have encouraged family members to get involved in past sabotage, he said he does not know who is behind the recent bombingsEnCana declined to comment.
In his letter, Mr. Ludwig calls the bombings illegal, but commends the bomber for exercising “thoughtful restraint.” Mr. Ludwig counsels patience for whomever is responsible, but congratulates the bomber for almost single-handedly stirring up discussion over the conflicts between land owners and energy companies, whose large-scale pursuit of natural gas in the Peace River area has stirred deep emotion.
You “need to know that you have already set a lot of good things in motion,” Mr. Ludwig wrote. “You've truly woken a lot of people up and stimulated some very valuable discussion.”
An open letter from Wiebo Ludwig, 13/09/2009.
An Alberta rancher who spent time in prison over attacks against natural-gas facilities in that province in the 1990s, Ludwig makes a plea for peace:
To the Person(s) responsible for the bombings at Tomslake: An open letter
Though I might get away with saying, “I don't know who is responsible for these bombings” (like everyone else seems to be doing), truth be known, I do know who you are, I know who is responsible as do the people at Tomslake, the RCMP, and the oil and gas industry. As our famous singer and lyricist, the honourable Leonard Cohen, puts it: “Everybody knows – that's how it goes.” Matter of fact, the oil industry knows better than any of us that they are the “first cause” of all this and, as such, the real culprits and the bullies the RCMP should be arresting.
Meeting with Gwyn Morgan, the former CEO of the former EnCana (Alberta Energy Company or AEC), at Edmonton in the Mayfield Inn on January 15, 1998, in an attempt to settle our long-standing concerns with them and a number of other operatives, he said, “we will act in whatever way to defend ourselves and use all possible components to deal with that.” Over against which my wife said to him, “And I will do everything in my power to keep my kids safe.” Then I said, “Who is the provocateur” “Yes”, my wife interjected, “Who is provoking who” To which he replied, “There's no doubt, definitely not you” and added, “We are the provocateurs.”
So, with all that history of unresolved conflict of oil and gas field tragedies we endured, I naturally feel deeply sympathetic to your plight as I know many others do who have also suffered similarly. I am, therefore, neither ashamed nor afraid to say so publicly. And, even though I have chosen to say very little publicly about the Tomslake bombings to date, in spite of much pressure from media, I sense it is high time I speak out for your sake and in solidarity with others who share your concern but are now too afraid to speak out for fear of criticism from neighbours, especially from neighbours and even friends who have been silenced by industry monies, jobs, and favours or for fear of suspicion and harassment by police, who are after all, we say, “Just doing their job.” This, of course, has been greatly intensified by the million dollars EnCana has since offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the bomber or bombers, one of the largest rewards in Canadian history, making everybody suspicious of everybody at Tomslake and the surrounding area and breaking to pieces human relations and any sense of community that may have developed there. And thus, effectually fracturing and short circuiting local opposition to their invasive and dangerous activities in the area.
Given our historic struggles with the horrors of the intense flaring and venting of killer gases that accompany sudden gas well proliferation, not unlike you are presently experiencing in the Kelly and Tomslake districts, INSET (the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team) came to see me requesting that I help them profile the kind of person or persons you might be. I was not one bit interested in assisting them in that regard, though I did offer to help stop the bombing and that is also the only reason I am writing this open letter to you now.
So, whoever you are and whatever your objectives, you need to know that you have already set a lot of good things in motion. You've truly woken a lot of people up and stimulated some very valuable discussion in spite of all the police intimidation and the desperate efforts of industry spin doctors to convince people that the only real danger they have to be concerned about now is the bombs. Even though people are now afraid to speak freely and openly, they are communicating much more intensely, though quietly and discreetly, about what they are really up against, namely, the real dangers of fossil fuel development as well as the long term effects of our continued use of fossil fuels.
This discussion has now spread even far beyond the territories of Kelly and Tomslake. Though I am not given to using the internet, one of my sons, who has been keeping track of this story, has kept me posted on all the blogs, news articles, etc. including international news releases that are in all very telling. In fact, at the time of this writing, while in Edmonton, I picked up the days Journal, and there it was again – a front page rather well written and extensive article on the Tomslake bombings. Increasingly the discussion is getting to be more informative and sympathetic to what the people, living in the vicinity of these sudden oil and gas developments, are being exposed to and are forced to accept, in spite of their serious and legitimate reservations. Even Mr. Brian Lieverse, operative and spokesperson for EnCana, is admitting that, yes, he can see that EnCana needs to reconsider how they have moved too fast. And that is always the way it is with big industry, not giving people time enough to have their say or to get some understanding of the scope of the development that was planned, until well after it hits them unexpectedly, like a tsunami. Nor do they give them any time at all to come to grips with the cumulative impacts such a massive development would have on their habitats and the real dangers that it poses for them and their children, even for many years to come, especially the chronic low level emissions of H2S which does irreparable damage to the nervous system including loss of memory. You have fomented these discussions almost single-handedly and (undeniably) by illegal though controlled use of force, but only because of the extreme urgency of the situation, I take it, a pressing scenario which you did not invite upon yourself. My hope is that you will now give these discussions time to ferment and do their work.
It is apparent that you have exercised some thoughtful restraint up to this point, not only by making sure that the explosions you set were “minor” and “controlled”, but also your decision to call for a three-month truce in order to give the industry and everyone else involved time to talk, reflect and act upon the very legitimate and urgent concerns you've so dramatically drawn attention to. There is real fear, however, on the part of many that you may be far from satisfied with what happens during these three months, especially if the industry refuses to take any conciliatory and remedial action whatsoever. Perhaps you have children in the local school surrounded by oil and gas activity about which many parents have already expressed great concern given the fact that it has been built in a low lying area where sour gases tend to settle because they are heavier than air. I want to encourage you not to let anger about such stupidity get the best of you and to realize that these conflicts cannot ultimately be settled by use of force but by way of informed and patient persuasion. Please give that the time it needs now!
The industry as well as the RCMP are not oblivious to your concerns.
They also have families, children that they are dearly concerned about. They also know something of the dangers posed by fossil fuel development and by the continued use of fossil fuel on the scale it is used today. And they know more than they used to know. And that growing understanding is, in fact, the major reason why alternative energies are being researched now at an unprecedented rate clear around the globe. You have no doubt observed the change even locally, including Chetwynd and Dawson Creek, where huge windmills are presently in the very process of being erected.
I have felt your rage and have had to admit that it drove me eventually to “rhetoric of desperation” which was not wise or helpful.
It may well have encouraged some unbecoming conduct by others already on edge over being subjected to similar industrial abuses. I have since seen my need to apologize for that publicly. I hope you will take some time to consider my advice and give people an opportunity to work these things out together peacefully, including the industry itself. I have personally had a number of fruitful discussions with various oil and gas companies, including EnCana, since I was released from jail which have been quite civil. Moreover, we need to take into account the disturbing fact that we are all still very dependent on fossil fuels, unfortunate and sad as that may be. Though we have reduced our fossil fuel dependency by approximately 80 percent here at Trickle Creek (even with the best of intentions and the greatest of strides) it is going to take time before all of us can shift away from this dangerous and contentious energy source.
Looking to hear a good word from you soon as are many others, especially those who share your concerns. And that number is growing every day as the devastating effects of the continued development and use of fossil fuel energy are being understood and alternatives are being developed. Until then, we have to learn to be patient while we continue to suffer the many ill effects of what we as a global community have so thoughtlessly embraced. In dealing with this unfortunate situation, both rage and despair will only greatly complicate and delay the shift to alternative energy systems.
Finally, before I wish you well, I hope that you do actually exist.
I'm not saying this with tongue in cheek. There is reason to believe that these bombings, as some are saying, may actually be a joint effort of the industry and the RCMP to discredit opposition. This happened with us. We were accused of bombings and tried for bombings that were none of our doing, one of which the industry and the RCMP were responsible for and later exposed for in court, a most embarrassing situation that was heralded as far as China where a local paper said that the RCMP's faces were as “red as their tunics” once the news got out on that one.
Anyway, for now, I'll assume that they have given up that criminal approach to resolving these conflicts and wish you well.
Shalom then! – and do “give peace (another) chance”
Wiebo, Trickle Creek.
Oil sands under attack on environment, Shawn McCarthy, 14/09/2009.
The industry is accustomed to defending its image in North America, but it now faces a multifront war, with opposition growing from Norway to Washington
Ottawa — The environmental battle over Alberta's oil sands is going global, forcing the industry to respond to new attacks on its record and putting fresh pressure on Ottawa.
The Calgary-based industry is accustomed to defending its image in North America, but it now faces a multifront war. That growing global opposition is highlighted by its role in today's federal election in Norway, where the state-owned oil company's plans for the oil sands have sparked controversy.
As well, a documentary that premiered in Switzerland and is now playing at the Toronto International Film Festival depicts the projects' devastating environmental impact; and a delegation of Chinese journalists is planning a visit to the scarred landscape of northeastern Alberta.
At the same time, U.S. activists are continuing their attacks in Washington, scheduling a news conference this week ahead of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit with President Barack Obama to highlight the dramatic increase in emissions that would occur if oil sands production is expanded as planned.
The industry expects the anti-oil sands campaigns will heighten in the runup to the international climate change conference in Copenhagen in December, which aims to replace the Kyoto Protocol with a new, binding international treaty to control emissions.
“We're not surprised that the discussion has migrated overseas to some extent, and we would expect that certainly in the lead-up to the international meeting in Copenhagen, we may see more of that,” said David Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
Critics are seeking to discourage foreign investment and force Canada to make more-aggressive commitments on climate change by targeting what has become a symbol of Canada's failure to cut emissions: Alberta's massive, open-pit bitumen mines.
The backlash goes beyond some adverse publicity.
Global companies such StatoilHydro ASA or Royal Dutch Shell PLC are encountering growing pressure in their home countries to revisit plans to invest in the oil sands, while Ottawa will have to table a credible climate-change plan – including real limits on oil sands emissions – or face international censure and perhaps even barriers to trade.
The industry is responding. Statoil chief executive officer Helge Lund wrote an op-ed piece in a Norwegian newspaper defending the company's role in the oil sands, while companies are themselves inviting international journalists to visit the Fort McMurray region.
Mr. Collyer expressed optimism that Canadian governments will balance environmental needs with economic development and energy security, and expects the U.S. government to take a similarly “balanced” approach. But he acknowledged there will be mounting pressure on Canada – and on the oil sands – in some international capitals.
The industry executive said oil sands represent only 5 per cent of Canadian emissions, and the country produces a mere 2 per cent of global greenhouse gases.
He said the typical oil-sands project produces 5- to 15-per-cent more carbon dioxide per barrel of oil than conventional oil supplies on a so-called “wells to wheels basis,” which calculates emissions from the production, refining and consumption of the petroleum.
Later this month, Mr. Harper will travel to Pittsburgh to attend a meeting of the Group of 20 nations, where leaders will attempt to narrow the gaping divisions between developing and developed countries, and Europe and North America, in hopes of reaching a climate treaty in Copenhagen.
Mr. Harper has insisted developing countries like China and India must accept some commitment to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
But Canada's credibility is undermined by its own modest targets and its failure to even come close to meeting its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, said Andrei Marcu, a climate-change adviser with Calgary-based law firm Bennett Jones LLP.
The federal government is slated to release a revised climate-change strategy this fall that is expected to force companies to further reduce their emissions per barrel of oil produced, but not include absolute caps that would limit expansion of oil sands projects.
Environmentalists argue the oil sands represent one of the fastest-growing sources of emissions in the world.
They say that in order to protect its domestic oil industry, Canada has been a laggard in the international climate-change debate.
In a report to be released today, Greenpeace calculates total emissions from the oil sands region will triple by 2020 if proposed projects come on-stream.
Environmental writer Andrew Nikiforuk, who wrote the report, said the oils sands will have larger emissions than some mid-sized European countries, including Belgium, Ireland and Denmark.
That prospect has prompted politicians in Norway to assail Statoil for its plans to expand in the oil sands. In fact, Greenpeace has helped instigate the backlash in the Nordic country, hosting Norwegian journalists visiting northeastern Alberta, and sending a delegation, including Mr. Nikiforuk, to Oslo prior to Statoil's annual meeting in May.
In advance of today's vote, virtually every party in the country's multiparty system has said it will review the state-owned company's Canadian strategy after the election. Minister of Environment Erik Solheim is a member of the Socialist Left Party, a member of the governing coalition led by the Labour Party.
He said his party will demand new environmental laws that “will make it impossible for a company like Statoil to enter such [oil sands] projects,” he told the Norwegian daily Aftenposten.
Statoil moved aggressively into Alberta in 2007, when it paid $2.2-billion for North American Oil Sands Corp.
The company says it is committed to reducing emissions in the oil sands, including possible adoption of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
Though many in the oil industry tout CCS has a key to improving its carbon footprint, the technology remains untried and prohibitively expensive without major government subsidies.