Ruling advances Jessica Ernst’s tainted water lawsuit, documents must be released, says Alberta information boss

Ruling advances woman’s tainted water lawsuit, documents must be released, says Alberta information boss by Matthew McClure, April 17, 2012, Calgary Herald
In a scathing decision that ends a three-year battle by Rosebud resident Jessica Ernst, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has ordered a government agency to release thousands of pages of documents that could reveal how scientists concluded the contamination was naturally occurring. Adjudicator Teresa Cunningham ordered Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures to refund the entire $4,125 fee charged for processing Ernst’s request because keeping test results, draft reports and even proposed news releases under wraps with no legal basis contravened her right to timely disclosure. “The amount of severing done and the lack of justification for it has resulted in the applicant being deprived of her rights,” Cunningham said. “The public body withheld information for reasons that were not borne out by the records, and charged inflated costs for processing the access request.” … The commissioner’s order will now force the agency to reveal the results of tests on the wells on which it based its conclusions as well as discussions about drafts of the report between its scientists and Alberta Environment officials. In ruling those records were not advice that could be kept private, Cunningham said e-mails indicated changes in the report appeared to be the result of instructions from the department. … Rob Semeniuk, spokesman for Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures [previously Alberta Research Council], said the agency will comply with the order to refund the fees and release nearly 6,000 pages of documents. “We thought we were doing the right thing by not supplying the information,” Semeniuk said. … Encana did not respond to a request for comment.

Ruling advances woman’s tainted water lawsuit, Documents must be released, says Alberta information boss by Matthew McClure, April 17, 2012, Edmonton Journal

French Translation

Rosebud resident Jessica Ernst lays out documentation on coal bed methane development and correspondence between her and the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board in 2006. Photograph by: Tim Fraser, Calgary Herald

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