Weibo Ludwig - Farmer, Eco-terrorist, Reverend
Weibo Ludwig has lived on the Trickle Creek farm near Hythe, Alberta since 1980. There, he is the leader of a religious / farming community of 40 people. They led a simple life, growing their own food, collecting electricity from solar panels. He was a fundamentalist in many ways, viewing that god decreed that women should be subordinate to men, etc. That having been said, they kept to themselves. Until the early 1990's, when some oil companies began drilling around his property.
The problem being that these wells were sour gas wells, and occasionally burned off excess gas, known as flaring. Soon after, he and his family started noticing certain health problems in their livestock and themselves. Cows were getting sick. Family members were having miscarriages. At first, he and his family tried the legal route. Launching appeals, asking for inquiries, etc. However, they felt that this route was going nowhere, being met with indifference.
Blaming the wells for the death of over 50 of his livestock, and 3 miscarriages on the farm, and any legal options going nowhere, Ludwig decided to fight back anyhow.
And so, around 1997, he and fellow Trickle Creek resident Richard Boonstra began a string of vandalism against wells in the area owned by the Alberta Energy Company, which also owns the wells near Ludwig's farm.
The problem with being an outspoken enemy of a large corporation, and then becoming a saboteur, is that people generally assume it's you.
In total, over 160 separate incidences of vandalism occurred in the area, including several bombings, causing over $3million CND worth of damage. Obviously, the AEC wanted this to stop ASAP, but they and the RCMP would need some evidence. So, they got on the good side of an acquaintance of Ludwig and Boonstra's, one Bob Wraight. In order to gain the trust of Ludwig, the RCMP and AEC blew up a shed on one of their unused oil wells, and Wraight took the credit.
The plan didn't really work all that well, the only effect being to make the community even more worried than they were before about their own safety. After all, a great number of them worked on the wells, and those who don't could still be affected if some vandalism happened to cause an ecological disaster.
Even without evidence from Wraight, the RCMP felt they had enough to press charges, so they did. When Ludwig was in Edmonton to appear in course, on April 19, 1999, someone blew up his van as he was walking to it, in the parking lot of the Comfort Inn. To this date, we still don't know who did it.
If that incident generated sympathy for Ludwig amongst his neighbors, what happened next surely ripped that all away. On June 20, 1999, a pair of local teenagers decided it would be fun to go joyriding on the Trickle Creek property, driving around and throwing beer cans. As they were doing so, as they were leaving as some claim, a shot rang out, killing 16 year old Karman Willis, and injuring one of her friends.
Ludwig denies that anyone on the farm fired the shot that killed Willis, and blames her death on the "oil companies", who he says are trying to frame him.
Much like the bombing of Ludwig's van, the matter of Willis' death remains unresolved.
Later that year, Ludwig and Boonstra were convicted of 5 counts of possessing explosives and mischief. Ludwig was sentenced to 28 months in a minimum security prison, and was released on November 15, 2001. Since then there have been no more incidents of vandalism against oil wells in the area, so I'm assuming that his time in prison has calmed him down a bit. Or at least shown him that he can't get away with stuff like that anymore.
North Shore News, "Weibo Ludwig deserves Canadian justice," North Shore News. July 5, 1999. <www.nsnews.com/issues99/w070599/mercer.html> (December 29, 2004).
Clearinghouse on Environmental
Advocacy and Research. "CLEAR View, Volume 6 Number 2," CLEAR Project. April 4, 2002. <www.clearproject.org/ACVvol6no2.html> (December 29, 2004).
Alberta Energy and Utilities Board. "News Release May 10, 2000," Alberta Energy and Utilities Board. May 10, 2000. <www.eub.gov.ab.ca/BBS/new/newsrel/2000/nr2000-26.htm> (December 29, 2004).
Robert Remington. "Ludwig out of jail, remains defiant," National Post. November 15, 2001.
SEE Magazine. "So who blew up Weibo’s van, anyhow?" SEE Magazine. November 28, 2002. <www.seemagazine.com/Issues/2002/1128/front1.htm> (December 29, 2004).
Margaret Bateman, "Wells, bombs, and justice," Globe and Mail. February 4, 1999.