Woman can’t sue Al­berta reg­u­la­tor in frack­ing case

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - JIM BRONSKILL OT­TAWA

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.

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