UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Loud bangs and quiet Canadians : power, property relations and anti-Encana sabotage in northeastern British Columbia, October 2008-August 2009 Arsenault, Christopher


Between October 2008 and August 2009, EnCana, North America’s largest natural gas producer was targeted by a series of bombings in northeastern British Columbia. A prevailing scholarly interpretation of this and similar incidents suggests that such attacks arise from the resentments of small landowners about the separation of surface and subsurface property rights. This thesis uses original reporting, government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, along with media reports and secondary scholarship to argue that contradictions between surface and subsurface property rights in and of themselves do not explain the bombings or the grievances local people have with the industry. Rather, deregulation of the provincial natural gas industry, beginning before, but accelerating after 2001, has led to the conditions considered unacceptable by a large number of residents in the affected area. Placing this local unrest within the emerging literature on environmental conflict, this thesis argues that industry regulators in B.C. have created legislation which favours gas extractors over other land users. This legislation, supported by industry and a provincial government dependent on petroleum revenues, is the main cause of the conflicts. EnCana’s comparative advantage in its B.C. holdings comes not from the resource itself, which is unconventional and harder to access than typical petroleum deposits, but from Canadian political stability. The desire to exploit stable deposits as fast as possible is, ironically, creating instability.

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