Native community in BC launches oil patch blockade

Posted by admin on Jun 21st, 2008

Saturday June 21. By TAMAS VIRAG, SUN MEDIA

KELLY LAKE, B.C. — This tiny northeastern B.C. community is garnering attention throughout Western Canada after its members set up a blockade at the junction of two highways just outside the community. “We’re conducting a community Kelly Lake Cree Nation exercise mock disaster drill,” said Clayton Anderson, spokesman for Kelly Lake Cree Nation. “It’s to bring about attention and awareness to health and safety concerns, traffic, and … uncontrolled gas leaks.”

Anderson – holding a stop-slow sign in the middle of the intersection of Highway 52 and Kelly Lake Road, a handful of kilometres west of the Alberta border, and about 100 km northwest of Grande Prairie – said the main concerns were the quality of the water, the close proximity of pipelines and the safety of the road, which hundreds of oil and gas-industry vehicles use every day.

“You’ve got your rig moves, you’ve got your transportation people, you’ve got all your semis, your big trucks, heavy equipment operators, vacuum trucks, water trucks and what-not that come through the community,” he said yesterday afternoon.

“Many of them will have radioactive, hazardous, flammable, explosive material. We’re concerned if there were a traffic accident to occur, what’s the emergency response plan in place for the community?”

The route they take is a narrow, windy road which remains unpaved for several sections, some nearly 10 km long.

But, perhaps most important to residents, he said, was the quality of the water.

“The residents have their individual water well systems. We’re concerned about the impacts of the water quality, so we’re trying to get a water testing program put in place by industry and government,” he said.

The weekend-long blockade, Anderson pointed out, was meant to inconvenience oil and gas companies, but not cripple their operations in the area.

Those taking part in the blockade asked only oil and gas company vehicles to turn around, letting the general public continue on their journey uninterrupted.

“They’ve been pretty understanding,” said Diana Boston, who was flagging south-bound traffic on Highway 52 for much of yesterday, adding only a couple of drivers expressed their anger and frustration.

Anderson and Boston estimated they turned around about 10 oil and gas vehicles an hour, but, as word got out about the blockade – including an Encana light-up sign in the westbound lane of Highway 43 – the number of trucks approaching the junction declined steadily.

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