Hydraulic Fracking Challenged

Hydraulic Fracking Challenged by Jan Rose, December 28, 2013, Green Action News
ROSEBUD, ALBERTA – What started as a multi-million lawsuit against an Alberta energy producer following hydraulic fracturing has the potential to work its way to the Supreme Court of Canada on constitutional grounds.

Jessica Ernst, 56, is appealing Alberta Chief Justice Neil Wittman’s court decision last September preventing legal action against the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), the provincial energy regulator. Judge Wittman removed the ERCB from the lawsuit ruling the board has blanket immunity from civil action but not Encana Corporation and Alberta Environment.

The appeal says allowing the board immunity from either “negligent omissions” or from acts impairing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms like freedom of expression was an error by the judge. Ernst’s civil claim alleges well water was polluted with sufficient toxic chemicals and methane to make it flammable after Encana drilled and fractured shallow bed methane wells directly in the local groundwater source between 2001 and 2004.

As well, the suit claims the ERCB and Alberta Environment are remiss in failing to act on documented, repeated contraventions of the law, and stopped communicating with Ernst, an experienced oil patch consultant, because she made “criminal threats.”

Alberta Environment rejected some methane pollution as “natural” charging Ernst with forging a professional seal and signatures, in addition to faking data in a confidential hydrological report presenting evidence of fracking into a local aquifer in Rosebud.

She has worked for multiple energy companies as either an environmental consultant or land agent.

Similarly, Carmen Langer who ranches in the Peace River region 480 miles northwest of Calgary, Alberta was banned from communicating with the ERCB after complaining about air pollution from venting storage tanks and bitumen batteries.

Lawyers representing the ERCB during opening hearings on the Ernst case contended the board had “no duty of care” to groundwater, or to landowners who require the resource. The Alberta government, deriving 30 per cent of its revenue from harvesting hydrocarbons, has suddenly applied to Judge Wittman to be removed from the case five years later.

Encana has never requested any part of the claim be removed. The company filed a statement of defence last August but only after being ordered by Judge Wittman.

Meanwhile, Calgary – based Angle Energy is being sued by a central Alberta family for fracturing and polluting area groundwater. Plaintiff Diana Daunheimer claims the company is in “breach of duty by causing and continuing to allow hazardous chemicals to remain in the ground surrounding and beneath the plaintiff’s property and in the Duanheimer residence water supply and allow the continual emissions from venting and instrument operations.”

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