HMC: SWN drills more wetlands shot-holes, security guard finds prayer and white doves in the morning

SOURCE: http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/story/swn-drills-more-wetlands-shot-holes-security-guard/18314

SWN drills more wetlands shot-holes, security guard finds prayer and white doves in the morning

Line 5 work continues, Holiday Inn action draws 35 women in white.

by Miles Howe and Rana Encol

Security guard prays for Mother Nature at the site of a wetlands shot-hole. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Security guard prays for Mother Nature at the site of a wetlands shot-hole. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Women in white gathered at the Holiday Inn in Moncton to protest SWN Resource Canada's continued seismic testing in New Brunswick. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Women in white gathered at the Holiday Inn in Moncton to protest SWN Resource Canada’s continued seismic testing in New Brunswick. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Shot hole driller takes a flower. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Shot hole driller takes a flower. [Photo: Miles Howe]
ELSIPOGTOG, NEW BRUNSWICK – Yesterday, a group of anti-shale gas activists stumbled across a team of SWN-contracted workers laying a string of ‘geophones’ – the equipment used to received seismic data created when an area is tested – on a walking trail bordering a settler cemetery at 2304 Pleasant Ridge Road. SWN Resources Canada continues to seismic test ‘Line 5’, a 35.9 km north-south line that cuts through sensitive wetlands and traditional Mi’kmaq hunting grounds west of highway 126.

While the activists remained peaceful at all times, the workers appeared surprised to be discovered, retreating deeper into the woods and calling Industrial Security Limited, the Irving-owned firm that has for weeks now been providing the majority of SWN’s private security needs.

Continuing along the workers’ path, the activists discovered a drilled shot-hole – a hole bored into the ground that contains an explosive charge that will later be set off to gather seismic data – directly in a wetlands area. This falls in line with an earlier discovery of SWN Resources Canada circumventing registered wetlands regulations further south along Line 5.

Two Industrial Security Limited employees then arrived, and, citing workplace safety policy which does not allow anyone without protective equipment to come closer than 50 metres to an explosive at a workplace, informed the gathering party that they would not be allowed to proceed further into the woods. This was despite the fact that the activists were less than 3 metres from the explosive-laden shot hole.

For the next several hours, something of a standoff ensued, with a growing number of security guards, RCMP and activists congregating in the woods. At one point, three Mi’kmaq women asked if they could lay tobacco at the site of the shot-hole. An Industrial Security guard offered to lay the tobacco in their stead, and while the group played the Mi’kmaq Honour Song, the guard prayed to the four directions. He later left the scene in tears.

As evening fell, it became clear that the security and RCMP were – as has been largely the case to this point – concerned almost exclusively with the well-being of SWN-contracted workers and not with the safety of those who continue to rally against shale gas exploration in New Brunswick. People questioning why they were, for example, allowed on one particular piece of the trail and not another – when the 50 metre boundary zone had already clearly been compromised – were given no clear answer.

RCMP, security and activists posed for pictures atop the shot hole, and once it was clear that the SWN-contracted workers were finished their shift, all security and police forces cleared out of the area, and the activists were free to continue along the trail. 5 more shot-holes were discovered drilled directly in wetlands areas.

The seismic testing trail continued for approximately three kilometres, crossed a small river, and wound it’s way up to Young Ridge Road.

Further inspection of the trail, to the south of the original cemetery entrance, was met with an increased security presence, including RCMP guards and armed security guards on All-Terrain Vehicles.

White Doves at the Holiday Inn

Earlier that morning around thirty-five Mi’kmaq, Acadian, and Anglophone women dressed in white, holding flowers and leaflets, occupied the parking lot entrance ways to the Holiday Inn hotel where SWN workers stay in Moncton.

Every morning the workers leave the hotel by truck and disperse to their respective testing sites and security posts – this morning to Line 5.

Nine of the women drummed and sang as they entered the lot and circled the company vehicles.  Others handed out flyers to workers and regular hotel guests.

Ruth Wolpin, a cancer survivor, says short-term economic gains from fracking aren’t worth the long-term health effects caused by carcinogens contaminating the well water.

In their leaflets, the group argues the numbers don’t add up: “Jobs available to New Brunwickers will be few, low paying and short-lived. The typical well is productive for just five years, and its profits will mostly travel out of the province.”

Organizer Greg Cook, who first mobilized around resisting the sale of NB Power in 2009-2010, asserted the current Alward government does not have public consent around this issue – and will often try to compartmentalize it as First Nations or rural issue only.  Cook said today’s action was meant to convey a message of solidarity among nations and backgrounds.

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