Calgary judge hears $33M lawsuit over natural gas drilling

A Calgary judge is hearing arguments in the case of a southern Alberta woman who claims drilling by Encana damaged her water supply.

Rosebud, Alta., woman says drilling contaminated her water supply

Lawsuit over natural gas drilling

9 years ago
Duration 2:20
A woman claims drilling has damaged her water supply.

A Calgary judge is hearing arguments in the case of a southern Alberta woman who claims drilling by Encana damaged her water supply.

Jessica Ernst lives in Rosebud, about 120 kilometres northeast of Calgary.

She launched her $33 million lawsuit in 2011 against Encana, the Alberta government and the Energy Resources Conservation Board.

Ernst says there was so much methane in her tap water as a result of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that she could set fire to the water.

Fracking involves blasting sand, water and chemicals into the ground to break up coal formations as a way to extract natural gas.

On Friday, lawyers representing the ERCB told the judge that as the provincial regulator, it is not obligated to give priority to individual people over the general public, so it should be immune from any private lawsuit.

The lawyer for Jessica Ernst responded saying his client just wants to be heard and wants the ERCB to listen.

The Calgary courtroom is packed with about 50 landowners who are observing the case because they also have concerns about the effects of fracking.

Jan Slomp, who is with the National Farmers Union, was there.

"I think this is a landmark case. It represents the worry landowners and property owners have across Alberta with the impact of oil and gas industry and the worries about pollution and the effects and water, air and the environment," Slomp said.

The judge calls it a very complicated case and says she won't be able to make a decision Friday on whether the lawsuit has enough merit to proceed.

Jessica Ernst says she was able to light her tap water on fire because of methane contamination from nearby fracking. (CBC)