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EnCana not prepared for gas leak: report

EnCana took too long to respond to a sour gas leak that happened last fall in northeastern British Columbia, according to a provincial investigation.

The leak happened at an Encana well near Pouce Coupé in November, 2009, ironically, when the company was on high alert after a string of summer bombings targeted at pipelines in the area.

According to the provincial Oil and Gas Commission's report, a local resident first detected a sewage-like smell at 2:30 in the morning. At about 8:30 a.m., the resident saw a cloud of gas, alerted neighbors and fled. The well was secured at 10:45 a.m.

The report found that alarms failed to work properly, that the company took too long to respond and that there was not a coordinated response between Encana and the RCMP. It also found EnCana did not properly follow its emergency response plan.

Leaks like this are potentially deadly. This type of gas is known to produce hydrogen sulfide pollution, a neurotoxin that can kill people or livestock in small amounts.

Amid increasing local opposition to gas development, the sector continues to grow, bringing in nearly half of the province's total $2.66 billion oil and gas revenues. The province recently approved a new plant north of Fort Nelson, despite the fact that it will increase carbon emissions provincially.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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