Ludwig family carries on father Wiebo's Alberta oilpatch battle

Family members of Wiebo Ludwig are vowing to continue the fight against nearby oil and gas development started by the late anti-oilpatch activist.

Wiebo Ludwig's family is vowing to continue the fight against nearby oil and gas development started by the late anti-oilpatch activist. 

"They had a long protracted battle with us while my dad was still here," Joshua Ludwig said by phone from the Trickle Creek Ranch near Hythe, Alta.

Joshua Ludwig is fighting an application from Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. to drill a well about seven kilometres from his family's farm in northwest Alberta. (Ludwig family )
"And I think they should know that if they think that we are going to lay down in his absence they're sadly mistaken.”

In June, Canadian Natural Resources Limited drilled a sour gas well 5.5 kilometres north of their farm. Last month, CNRL applied to drill another well 6.9 kilometres from their community of more than 60 people. That application is now being reviewed by the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Ludwig submitted a statement of concern on Nov. 23 warning CNRL that further development in the area “will not be welcomed” for health, safety and environmental reasons. Historically, he says, companies have respected an agreement not to construct wells within a five-mile (eight-kilometre) radius.

Five days later RCMP showed up at Trickle Creek, Ludwig said. He said he told police to let CNRL know “they should keep some distance in order to keep the peace.”

RCMP would not discuss the meeting, but in a statement confirmed that officers have spoken with “the parties involved in the interest of keeping the public peace.”

Police are now investigating recent vandalism to pipeline infrastructure in the area, as well as other parts of Alberta.

Ludwig would not reveal next steps should the well be approved, but in a second letter to CNRL in December, he wrote: “We will do anything that is morally justifiable to make the proposed well as economically unattractive for you as possible.”

Wiebo Ludwig died in 2012 

The Ludwigs have long been controversial in Alberta’s oilpatch and neighbouring communities.

In 1999, teenager Karman Willis was shot and killed on the farm. No one was ever charged.

Joshua and Wiebo Ludwig in fall of 2010. (Ludwig family )
In 2000, Wiebo Ludwig was found guilty on five charges related to bombings and vandalism of oil and gas wells. He served 19 months in jail.

In January 2010, hundreds of RCMP officers searched the 325-hectare farm related to six Encana gas pipeline bombings in B.C. between October 2008 and July 2009.

Wiebo Ludwig was arrested and released after spending one night in jail. He was never charged.

The conflict appeared to subside when Ludwig died of esophageal cancer in 2012. 

“I hope it doesn't all go crazy again here,” said Ludwig’s neighbour Rob Everton recalling attacks targeting the sector in the 1990s that struck fear into the area. “Some bad things had happened when our neighbours object to some of these projects.”

He said oil wells are a fact of life in his community creating wealth and jobs. As long as companies maintain good operating standards, it’s not a problem, he added. 

But the Trickle Creek community, which says it is 75 per cent fossil fuel independent, has always seen things differently. They say toxic sour gas emissions have led to health problems, including miscarriages, and killed livestock. They insist a shift away from fossil fuels is essential in the fight against climate change.

“I guess in some ways we're ahead of the curve, but I think they should give us the room to do that ," Ludwig said.

In 2010, a gas well blew out and burned for more than two weeks near Trickle Creek but resulted in no penalties.

Energy Resources Conservation Board investigators determined CNRL hit an abnormally high pressure formation it could not have known about because this was a new drilling area.

“It’s very clear to us that accidents do happen,” said Ludwig. “And that doesn't inspire any confidence in us that they're going to do due diligence to prevent more accidents.”

The family also argues the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing or fracking poses a threat to their local water supply while industry says it can be done safely.

CNRL declined comment but In a letter to the Ludwigs, insists that “fracking has been used successfully and safely for many years” in the area, and would not affect nearby water aquifers.

CNRL also assured them the proposed well “has been designed and planned to meet or exceed AER requirements.