Common Sense Canadian

Alberta won’t appeal Jessica Ernst’s right to sue over fracking: Nikiforuk

PostedDecember 10, 2014 by in Western Canada
Environmental consultant Jessica Ernst on her land in Alberta (Colin Smith photo)

Environmental consultant Jessica Ernst on her land in Alberta (Colin Smith photo)

Read this Dec. 10 Tyee story by Andrew Nikiforuk on the Alberta government’s surprise announcement that it will not be appealing a recent court ruling enabling landowner and scientist Jessica Ernst to proceed with her lawsuit over fracking impacts.

Jessica Ernst, the businesswoman and oil patch scientist defiantly challenging the regulation of hydraulic fracturing in Alberta, has scored another legal victory.

The Alberta government will not appeal a recent ruling that allows Ernst to sue Alberta Environment for the alleged negligent investigation of water well contamination during the shallow fracking of coal seams in central Alberta.

The Alberta government, which is highly dependent on hydrocarbon revenue, gave no reason to the Canadian Press for not appealing the decision.

Last month, Alberta Chief Justice Neil Wittmann dismissed all key arguments made by the government of Alberta against the lawsuit of Ernst, including the fear that it may unleash a flood of lawsuits against a government that supports hydraulic fracking of energy wells with numerous subsidies.

The Alberta government argued that Ernst’s $33-million lawsuit had no merit; that the government owed no duty of care to landowners with contaminated water; and that the government had statutory immunity.

But Wittmann’s ruling disagreed on all major counts and ordered the lawsuit against the government to proceed. “While this is a novel claim, I find there is a reasonable prospect Ernst will succeed in establishing that Alberta owed her a prima facie duty of care,” Wittmann wrote.

Ernst cautiously welcomed the government’s decision. “It cost me a year of time in my lawsuit and lots of money, but it is a major victory,” she said.




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