The Sunday Magazine

Fracking Lawsuit

The fight against fracking: Jessica Ernst lives in rural Alberta -- she alleges that her well water was contaminated due to fracking. For the past eight years, she has been the "David" fighting a landmark legal battle against three "Goliaths": Encana, a major player in the gas drilling industry, the Alberta Energy Regulator and the government of Alberta. Jessica Ernst and her lawyer talk to Francine Pelletier as they prepare for their hearing in January in the Supreme Court of Canada.
Jessica Ernst, who worked as an oil patch consultant for more than five decades, alleges that EnCana broke multiple provincial laws and regulations and contaminated a shallow aquifer with natural gas and toxic industry-related chemicals. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

After three decades as a consultant to the oil industry, Jessica Ernst decided to sue her biggest client, Encana, which is also Canada's largest producer of natural gas.  She is also suing the Alberta Energy Regulator and the Alberta government.

It concerns fracking - or hydraulic fracturing - where large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are used to blast open the earth and extract resources…in this case, natural gas.  Ms. Ernst alleges fracking has contaminated the aquifer that supplies water to her community and home in Rosebud, about a hundred kilometres east of Calgary. Encana denies her allegation.

The anti-fracking movement has been growing over the years, due to concerns about its environmental impact.  Industry officials have countered with ad campaigns and assurances that fracking is safe.  At the same time, they have quietly reached out-of- court settlements with citizens who have sued.

Jessica Ernst won't settle.  She says she's in it for the long haul, until a judge renders a final decision.  It's been eight years so far and the next stop is the Supreme Court of Canada, in January.

Guest host Francine Pelletier spoke with Ms. Ernst in our Calgary studio, and with her lawyer, Murray Klippenstein, in Toronto. 


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