Lawyers for an Alberta woman, who says hydraulic fracturing has so badly contaminated her well that the water can be set on fire, argued in front of the Supreme Court Tuesday for her right to sue the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Jessica Ernst, a resident of Rosebud, Alta., began legal action in 2007 in a multimillion-dollar suit against the regulator, Alberta Environment and Calgary-based energy company Encana for negligent actions.

In an earlier ruling, an Alberta court rejected Ernst's suit, ruling that immunity provisions in Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation Act exempt her from protections offered by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"That is a rather shocking and surprising thought," Ernst's lawyer, Murray Kilppenstein, said of the Alberta court's ruling.

"A basic idea of the Charter is that it's controlling governments and limits their power is the ultimate guardian of freedom."

Klippenstein said the case is an important one that could reaffirm the importance of the Charter across Canada.

The court heard the appeal but reserved judgment for a later date. A decision isn't expected for at least a matter of weeks, possibly months.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said that Jessica Ernst amended her statement of claim in 2011 to include Alberta Environment. In fact, Alberta Environment was among those targeted when she launched her legal action in 2007, along with Alberta Environment and Calgary-based energy company Encana.
    Jan 13, 2017 10:03 AM MT