Woman can’t sue Alberta regulator in fracking case
The Supreme Court of Canada says an Alberta woman cannot sue the province’s energy regulator as part of her claim that hydraulic fracturing so badly contaminated her well that the water can be set on fire.
In a 5-4 ruling Friday, the high court rejected Jessica Ernst’s argument that a provincial provision shielding the regulator from legal action was unconstitutional.
She began legal action against the regulator, Calgary-based energy company Encana and Alberta Environment, in 2007.
She alleges that fracking on her land northeast of Calgary released hazardous amounts of methane and other chemicals into her well and that her concerns were not properly investigated.
Ms. Ernst sought damages of $50,000 in claiming the regulator breached her constitutional right to free speech.
She said that from November, 2005, to March, 2007, the regulator’s compliance branch cut off contact with her, saying she would have to raise her concerns only with the regulator and not through the media or other public means.
Ms. Ernst claimed that infringed her charter right to free speech – effectively punishing her for the public criticism and preventing her from speaking out further.
The Alberta courts cited the immunity provision in provincial law and exempted the Alberta Energy Regulator from the lawsuit.