A natural gas pipeline under construction in B.C. faces anonymous claims of a “coordinated sabotage attack” by an anarchist website, according to TC Energy Corp. Coastal GasLink expressed concern over “a trend of escalating violence” on its sites across the province.
The article published on an anarchist website claimed an unknown group vandalized the pipeline to “contribute to the small delays” in the already over-budget project.
“We drilled holes less than a penny wide in a section of pipe that had not yet been lowered into the trench. We covered the holes with fibreglass film, which temporarily prevents leaks in the pipes, but only lasts a few months,” claims the article.
The estimated cost of the Coastal GasLink pipeline increased by 29% to $14.5 billion this year, owing to an uptick in unexpected construction issues and rising labour costs. The new price tag is up from an estimated $11.2 billion last July — a significant increase from the previous projection of $6.6 billion.
“While we have no evidence at this time to suggest tampering has occurred, we take every threat to the integrity of our pipeline infrastructure very seriously,” said TC Energy in a written statement.
“We are fully cooperating with the RCMP in investigating these claims and, as always, will prioritize the safety of our work crews and the communities around us. Our quality assurance team has initiated a review of the anarchist claims.”
RCMP media relations officer, Staff Sergeant Kris Clark, said law enforcement is aware of “ongoing efforts by some individuals and groups to delay or obstruct the work of Coastal GasLink.”
He said they are not commenting on these latest allegations but commented that all incidents of reported damage to the project’s infrastructure and equipment are investigated thoroughly.
Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross said he takes the website’s claims “very seriously,” adding the article’s author appears to be knowledgeable about the project.
The article details how welded sections of coated pipe are assessed before being lowered into the trench.
It states that after the trench is backfilled, they are tested under pressure. The holes were sealed, hoping to pass the first pressure test but must be excavated and repaired before the pipeline completion.
The Coastal GasLink project is a 670-km natural gas pipeline spanning northern BC to the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Canada processing and export facility in Kitimat, BC.
The Kitimat LNG export facility is more than 70% complete and is expected to deliver its first LNG shipment to global export markets by mid-decade.
TC Energy previously said that its pipeline construction is 83% complete but warned that should construction extend into 2024, building costs could surpass an additional $1.2 billion.
They hope to complete the project by the end of 2023.
“It’s somebody who understands how the logistics of the pipeline work,” said Ross, who clarified he wants to know what the province will do to combat these “terrorist activities.”
Another article on the same website claims responsibility for burning RCMP vehicles and an ambulance in Smithers last October. Ross said he wants to know the results of investigations into that and the on-site axe attack incident yielded.
Ross believes the website is part of a sophisticated, two-pronged campaign against the pipeline.
One is what he calls “coordinated assaults” on pipeline workers and torching police vehicles. The other is in communicating through websites that are hard to track.
“This is dangerous. This is terrorism. I think it’s time that we address this violence,” said Ross. “And those that condone this have got to be called out. This is not the society we want to live in.”
Last February, 20 assailants attacked a Coastal GasLink site near Houston, BC, injuring employees and damaging heavy equipment. According to the RCMP, 20 people armed with axes stormed security guards, costing millions in damage.
Their whereabouts remain unknown, and a $100,000 reward remains open for information concerning the incident.
“Attacks to energy infrastructure should concern all Canadians. Regardless of their authenticity, we believe these claims are intended to delay our project and spread fear and violence,” said TC Energy.
“They must not be tolerated or accepted, and we believe most Canadians would agree.”
In November, five protesters opposed the construction of Coastal GasLink in a contentious blockade that lasted several days. They plead guilty to criminal contempt for defying a court injunction that prohibited their demonstration.
The assailants received $500 fines or a punishment of 25 hours of community service.