The Hook. Rights + Justice: Landmark fracking lawsuit starts with twist

Landmark fracking lawsuit starts with twist by Andrew Nikiforuk, April 27, 2012, The
A landmark lawsuit against an energy giant and two Alberta government regulatory agencies concerning water well contamination by hydraulic fracturing started with an unusual twist in Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench yesterday. Judge B. L. Veldhuis began the proceedings in a Drumheller courtroom attended by 20 landowners from across the province by admitting that she was going to do something unexpected: she then asked for a shorterstatement of claim. … Neither EnCana nor the Alberta regulators have fielded statements of defence on shallow fracking incidents that took place eight years ago during a frenzied coal-bed methane drilling boom in central Alberta. Instead, lawyers for both EnCana and the ERCB came prepared to argue a variety of motions to dismiss the entire case or strike out entire paragraphs from Ernst’s highly readable 73-page statement of claim as “inflammatory” and “embarrassing.” In particular, the ERCB, whose mission is to develop oil and gas “in a manner that is fair, responsible and in the public interest,” was prepared to argue that it has “no duty of care” to a landowner with contaminated water. Toronto lawyer Murray Klippenstein, who represents Ernst, agreed with the judge’s request and says he will submit a shorter claim within a month. (Klippenstein, a no-nonsense litigator on critical justice issues, successfully represented the family of slain First Nation activist Dudley George against the Ontario government of Mike Harris.) “We know that EnCana and the Board and the government did not like the detailed description of Jessica’s case and were trying very hard to have parts removed,” explained Klippenstein outside the courtroom. “The judge wanted a more concise description and that can be easily provided.” … Ernst’s case recently received a major boost from Alberta’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. For four years Alberta Innovates (formerly Alberta Research Council) refused to answer Ernst’s repeated requests for the results of environmental testing on dozens of water wells near her home. Adjudicator Teresa Cunningham ruled that the withholding of such public information was illegal. It not only ordered the government to release thousands of documents but also reimburse Ernst more than $4,000 for information searches it did not conduct in good faith. The commissioner also ruled that the Alberta agency “had not established that it had conducted an adequate search for responsive records that might be in its control, but not its immediate possession.” Alberta has one of the worst records of public transparency in Canada, according to the Centre for Law and Democracy. [Emphasis added]

French Translation: Gaz de schiste – la première journée en cour pour Jessica April 28, 2012 by lesamisdurichelieu

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