Multi-Million Dollar Landmark North American Lawsuit on Hydraulic Fracturing and Its Impact on Groundwater
Nearly a decade ago EnCana, one of the world’s largest natural gas producers, began a risky and experimental drilling program that required intense hydraulic fracturing for shallow coalbed methane (Horseshoe Canyon Formation) throughout central Alberta.
Hydraulic fracturing blasts open oil, gas and coal formations with highly pressurized volumes of water, sand and undisclosed chemical fluids or gases. The technology has boosted natural gas reserves but has become the subject of serious government investigations throughout North America due to surface and groundwater contamination.
In Report 2011-A Alberta’s primary energy regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), recently disclosed that the potential for hydraulic fracturing to contaminate useable water aquifers with fracturing fluid chemicals and natural gas is a real public issue, especially in shallow zones.
On April 27, 2011 lawyers representing Jessica Ernst, a 54-year-old oil patch consultant, released a 73-page statement of claim that alleges that EnCana broke multiple provincial laws and regulations and contaminated a shallow aquifer used by a rural community with natural gas and toxic industry-related chemicals.
The claim methodically reports how Alberta’s two key groundwater regulators, Alberta Environment and the ERCB, “failed to follow the investigation and enforcement processes that they had established and publicized.”
The ERCB recently gave EnCana permission to drill and fracture more CBM wells above the base of groundwater protection near the affected water wells mentioned in this claim.
Jessica Ernst has been invited to present her story and make recommendations to governments at the 19th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development at the United Nations in New York.
The claim represents assertions that have not yet been proven in court. All defendants will have the opportunity to respond in these proceedings.
Un procès historique Nord Américain de plusieurs millions de dollars à propos de la fracturation hydraulique et ses impacts sur la nappe phréatique
Il y a de cela presque une décennie, EnCana, l’une des plus importantes gazières du monde, a commencé un programme de forage risqué et expérimental nécessitant de la fracturation hydraulique intense afin d’extraire du méthane, en gaz de couche peu profonde dans la formation Horseshoe Canyon au cœur de l’Alberta.
La fracturation hydraulique provoque des failles dans les formations géologiques contenant du pétrole, du gaz et du charbon grâce à de grandes quantités d’eau injectées à haute pression avec du sable et des mélanges de fluides ou de gaz chimiques non divulgués. La technique permet d’exploiter des réserves de gaz naturel jusque-là inaccessibles, mais est l’objet d’enquêtes gouvernementales sérieuses à travers l’Amérique du Nord à cause de contaminations d’eaux de surface et souterraines.
Dans son rapport 2011-A, le principal organisme de contrôle de l’Alberta, l’Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), a révélé que le potentiel des chimiques des fluides de fracturation et le gaz naturel de contaminer les aquifères d’eau potable est une véritable question d’intérêt public, surtout dans les régions peu profondes.
Le 27 avril 2011, les avocats de Jessica Ernst vont déposer une réclamation de 73 pages qui prétend qu’EnCana a enfreint à plusieurs lois et règlements provinciaux ainsi qu’avoir contaminé un aquifère peu profond desservant une communauté rurale avec du gaz naturel et des chimiques toxiques utilisés par l’industrie.
La réclamation détaille méthodiquement comment les deux principaux organismes de contrôle de l’eau souterraine de l’Alberta, Alberta Environment et le ERCB, ont “manqué dans leur tâche de suivre les procédés d’enquête et de mise en application qu’ils s’étaient fixé et avaient rendus public.”
Le ERCB avait donné dernièrement la permission à EnCana de forer et fracturer davantage de puits au-delà de la protection minimale de l’eau souterraine près des puits d’eau potable mentionnés dans cette réclamation.
Jessica Ernst a été invitée à présenter son histoire et faire ses recommandations aux gouvernements à la 19e session de la Commission de développement durable aux Nations Unis à New York.
La réclamation fait des déclarations qui n’ont pas été prouvées en cour de justice. Tous les défendeurs auront la possibilité d’y répondre durant ces procédures.
UNANIMA International Woman of Courage AwardNEW YORK, New York (October 1, 2011) UNANIMA International, a UN Economic and Social Council accredited NGO working for international justice at the United Nations celebrates its 10th Anniversary Saturday by presenting its annual WOMAN OF COURAGE award to Jessica Ernst of Rosebud, Alberta, internationally known for her efforts to hold companies accountable for environmental harm done by “fracking”.
Ernst, a 54 year old scientist with 30 years petroleum industry experience, is suing the Alberta government, Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) and EnCana for negligence and unlawful activities.
Nearly a decade ago EnCana, one of the world’s largest natural gas producers, began a risky and experimental drilling program that applied intense hydraulic fracturing for shallow coalbed methane throughout central Alberta. Ms. Ernst’s statement of claim alleges that EnCana broke multiple provincial laws and regulations and contaminated a shallow aquifer that supplied drinking water to the Rosebud community with natural gas and toxic industry-related chemicals. The claim methodically reports how Alberta’s two key groundwater regulators, Alberta Environment and the ERCB, “failed to follow the investigation and enforcement processes that they had established and publicized.” The allegations have yet to be proven in court.
Hydraulic fracturing uses “brute force” to blast open oil, gas and coal formations with highly pressurized chemical fluids or gases. It is the subject of serious government investigations throughout North America. In 2002, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment held a Linking Water Science to Policy Workshop. The workshop report concluded that unconventional natural gas drilling posed a real threat to groundwater quality and quantity, and that the nation needs “baseline hydrogeological investigations…to be able to recognize and track groundwater contaminants.” Not until nine years later on September 21 2011, did the Canadian government announce that it would initiate two studies to determine whether hydraulic fracturing is harming the environment.
UNANIMA International chose Ms. Ernst as its awardee this year as a part of its international “Water = Life” campaign. “Access to life-giving water is an essential right for all life forms,” stated the UNANIMA coordinator, Catherine Ferguson. “Our members have experienced fracking as an enormous danger to their fresh water supply wherever it is carried out. We applaud Ms. Ernst’s courage in standing up for her rights.”
The award and a lecture by Ms. Ernst will be given at the 10th Anniversary reception for UNANIMA International in New York at the Church Center of the United Nations, 777 UN Plaza, just across from the United Nations building on East 44th Street. The event begins at 11:00 am.
211 East 43rd Street, Room 1207
New York, NY 10017
Tel:/Fax 212-370-0075 (Office)
UNANIMA International Prix Femme de CourageNEW YORK, New York (1er Octobre 2011) UNANIMA International, un ONG qui travaille pour la justice au niveau international en harmonie avec la charte des Nations Unies pour améliorer les conditions économiques et sociales de tous les peuples, a célébré son 10e anniversaire samedi en présentant son prix Femme de Courage à Jessica Ernst de Rosebud, en Alberta, reconnue internationalement pour ses efforts à tenir les compagnies redevables pour les dommages environnementaux causés par la fracturation hydraulique.
Mme Ernst, une scientifique âgée de 54 ans avec 30 ans d’expérience avec l’industrie pétrolière, entame un procès contre le gouvernement de l’Alberta, l’Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) et EnCana, les accusant de négligence et d’activités illégales.
Il y a presque une décennie de cela, EnCana, l’une des compagnies gazières les plus importantes de la planète, a commencé un programme expérimental de forages qui consistait à fracturer hydrauliquement à la recherche du méthane dans les couches peu profondes de charbon au travers la région centrale de l’Alberta. La déclaration de Mme Ernst prétend qu’EnCana a enfreint à plusieurs lois et règlements provinciaux et aurait contaminé un aquifère superficiel qui fournissait de l’eau potable à la communauté de Rosebud avec du gaz naturel et des chimiques toxiques associés à l’industrie. La réclamation rapporte méthodiquement comment les deux principaux principaux régulateurs des eaux souterraines de l’Alberta, Alberta Environment et l’ERCB, ont failli dans leur devoir de suivre l’enquête et le processus de mise en application qu’ils avaient déterminé et publicisé. La preuve de ces allégations doit être faite en cour de justice.
La fracturation hydraulique utilise la force brute pour éclater les formations géologiques contenant du pétrole, du gaz ou du charbon grâce à des fluides ou des gaz injectés à haute pression. C’est un sujet sous enquêtes gouvernementales sérieuses partout en Amérique du Nord. En 2002, le Conseil canadien des ministres de l’environnement ont tenu un atelier sur les sciences de l’eau et les politiques. Le rapport de l’atelier a conclu que le forage pour le gaz naturel non conventionnel était une menace réelle à la qualité de l’eau souterraine et sa quantité, et que la nation devait faire une enquête hydrogéologique pour établir un niveau de référence afin de pouvoir reconnaître et suivre les contaminants dans les eaux souterraines. Enfin, 9 années plus tard, le 21 septembre 2011, le gouvernement canadien a annoncé qu’il lancerait 2 études afin de déterminer si la fracturation hydraulique nuit à l’environnement.
UNANIMA International a choisi Mme Ernst comme récipiendaire cette année en partie à cause de sa campagne internationale Eau=Vie. “L’accès à l’eau, source de toute vie, est un droit essentiel pour toutes les êtres vivants”, affirme Catherine Ferguson, coordonnatrice de UNANIMA. “Nos membres ont constaté que la fracturation est une menace importante pour leur source d’eau douce partout où il s’en fait. Nous applaudissons le courage de Mme Ernst qui défend ses droits.”
La cérémonie de remise de prix et une conférence donnée par Mme Ernst se dérouleront à la réception du 10e anniversaire d’UNANIMA International à New York au Church Center des Nations Unies, 777 UN Plaza, en face de l’édifice des Nations Unies sur la 44e Street East, à 11:00 heures.
211 East 43rd Street, Chambre 1207
New York, NY 10017
Tel:/Fax 212-370-0075 (Office)
Alberta’s Top Judge to Hear High Profile Fracking Case by Andrew Nikiforuk, March 29, 2013, TheTyee.ca
Klippenstein told The Tyee. “We hope that the case can now move forward without unnecessary delay. Albertans are entitled to know what really happened in Rosebud.” … On March 19 the Alberta Association for Municipal Districts and Communities (AAMDC), which represents much of rural Alberta, voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling for stricter regulation of hydraulic fracturing and higher levels of protection for groundwater in the Province. …
Wwheatland County Councillor Brenda Knight…says she introduced the resolution after gathering evidence on several hydraulic fracturing incidents in her county. They included groundwater contamination, water well losses, improper well casing, and large openings that have appeared unexpectedly in the ground. In one case a farmer “lost his tractor in a spring that opened up.” …
Jessica Ernst is a resident of Wheatland County….
[Refer also to:
Prime Minister Harper announces the appointment of Neil Wittmann as new Alberta chief justice October 23, 2009
In Alberta And B.C.: Stephen Harper Destroying The Rule Of Law
Gaz de schiste - un développement à 'petite échelle' passerait par Bécancour [English at link] by Sébastien Lacroix, March 29, 2013, Le Courrier Sud
Fracking: Feds Throw Wrench in High Profile Lawsuit Judge suddenly promoted; plaintiff Ernst sees strategy to ‘delay and exhaust.’ Gaz de houille – le fédéral veut décourager Jessica Ernst
How Alberta Will Fight Fracking Folk Hero Jessica Ernst In famous flaming water case, regulator to argue ‘no duty of care’ to landowners or groundwater. Gaz de schiste – Jessica continue son procès
Albertan, Tired of Her Tap Water Catching Fire, Sues Scientist Jessica Ernst hits gas giant EnCana, regulators with fracking lawsuit. ]
Vicki Balance of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers addressed a letter to Wheatland Council expressing the Association’s policies of adhering to [voluntary] best business practises in natural resource development. “I have received a few phone calls on this issue,” said Reeve Glenn Koester. “I see it as the difference between best practises and regulation. In our proposal, we want regulation.” Municipal District passed the proposal and advanced it to AAMDC headquarters. Confirmation whether the proposal will be forwarded to the minister will be decided at the March AAMDC Convention.Council considered the proposal as a preventative method to make sure all companies adhere to best business practises and because they had no means to regulate practises at the County level. Councillor Don Vander Velde said his discussions with drillers indicate that no assurances can be given on what is happening underground at over 1500 feet. Councillor Ken Sauve commended resource companies who adhere to best practises and he agreed there were many companies that were not getting enough credit. However, he included that there is always room for improvements. Balance indicated in the letter that Alberta has some of the toughest standards in the world and that we are better protected here than in other areas.
[Refer also to:
Rural Alberta Councillors pass fracking resolution
Alberta county councillors scheduled to consider fracking-related resolution ]
Jessica Ernst chatting to residents
A huge thanks to all who came to the Jessica Ernst talk, “Fracking Community: Actions and Omissions Speak Louder than Words“ on Thursday 7 March. The church hall in St Annes was packed, and the audience was respectful and attentive as Canadian scientist Jessica portrayed the realities of living in a fracking area with precision and factual depth. We were all appalled as she told us how the water in her community had become polluted – how the fracking companies spray their waste on agricultural land – how the Alberta government changes regulations to benefit the energy companies – but worst of all – how she is now classified as a terrorist by her government. A terrorist! What did she do? She dared to take on energy company EnCana and the Alberta government. You can read about her legal case here. Many of her experiences left the audience stunned – some were crying – all were moved. It was Jessica’s first visit to the Fylde and she was impressed by the beauty of its coastline and rural areas, but used to the vast open spaces of Canada, she said that she could not understand how it would be possible to frack such a densely populated area.
Jessica’s story is the reality of fracking. This happened in a rich and developed country, whose government boasted that it had the best regulations in the world. It seems that even the best regulations can be adapted to benefit the energy companies to the detriment of people’s health and lives. There is absolutely no reason to believe that it will be any different in the UK. There is hope. As Jessica pointed out, we are so much better informed than she was at this stage of the process. She quoted a Chinese proverb, ’Many fleas make big dog move’. We need to become that mass of fleas – quickly. [Emphasis added]
A Candian Scientist is visiting St Annes to share her expiriences of fracking for shale gas. Jessica Ernst is visting the area as part of a national tour to highlight the dangers associated with the conterversial gas extraction. She’s suing the company that has been fracking near her home. Proposals have been made to make more than 800 wells in the Fylde. Local residents’ group, RAFF (Resident Action on Fylde Fracking hope that the meeting will provide residents a wider picture so they can make an informed decision. They’re meeting at the United Reformed Church on St George’s Road.
Permalink to: Fracking on the Fylde
Alberta energy specialist Andrew Nikiforuk (Tyee, Feb. 22, 2013) reports the involvement of the federal Minister of Justice in what may be called direct interference with the rule of law in Alberta. The story Nikiforuk tells leaves the trail of malfeasance clear and examinable. In “a stunning move the Harper government” – through the Department of Justice (reports Andrew Nikiforuk) – has promoted a key judge (in a landmark fracking case) from the Court of Queen’s Bench to the Alberta Court of Appeal. As Andrew Nikiforuk puts it, the move was made in order to remove Justice Barbara L. Veldhuis, presiding judge, from “the multi-million dollar ($33 million) lawsuit” being pressed by Jessica Ernst in the matter of fracking pollution and those responsible for it.
Madam Justice Veldhuis will be replaced. Her replacement will automatically be questionable – suspected of being a “plant” to prejudice the case in favour of Stephen Harper and Encana, one of Canada’s largest natural gas producers. Readers need to know that the judge on a case is usually – for very obvious reasons – bound to that case. The judge is said to be “seized” with the case – meaning responsible for all aspects of it from beginning to end. Being “seized” usually means not to be interfered with, not unnecessarily delayed, NOT REPLACED without very sound reason – because the judge knows most about the complications of the case. The judge is “seized” also because law and courts have a long history of powers of all kinds wanting to get rid of judges in order to tamper with, change, and/or redirect the judgement in cases. That is one of the reasons a judge is “seized” – so that any meddling by power can be seen for what it is, an action intended to violate the fair administration of justice.
Jessica Ernst is fighting Encana. and was close to getting a ruling from Madam Justice Veldhuis that she could sue “Alberta’s energy regulator … for failing to uphold provincial rules, protect groundwater, and respect the constitutional rights of Canadians”. That ruling would have placed a burden of responsibility upon frackers that they have been doing everything they can to avoid [with the full support of Stephen Harper, anti-environmentalist]. The Harper Junta interference is, I suggest, mischievous, prejudicial, scandalous, and stunning in its obviousness.
But we have been there before. In the trial of Dave Basi, Bobby Virk, and Aneal Basi (part of the corrupt transfer of BC Rail to the CNR by the Gordon Campbell group) the judge “seized” with the matter was Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett. The pre-trial and trial ran from after the laying of charges in December 2004 to the outrageous explosive-ending of the trial in October 2010. But that ending happened without Elizabeth Bennett presiding.
For – like Justice Barbara L. Veldhuis in the fracking case – Bennett was removed in what many believe was a Stephen Harper decision to protect his ‘friends’ – Gordon Campbell and others.
If the cross-examination had continued in the same way – and it might have grown worse – the cover-up of major wrongdoers would, I am sure, have exploded. Something had to be done to end it. Backroom dealing went into high gear. The three accused agreed to what might be called charges reduced to almost nothing. The government of Gordon Campbell agreed to pay all of the ($6 million) costs of Defence. The $6 million (that might be called a bribe by some) to avoid criminal charges against top politicians and corporate ‘leaders’ (and perhaps some years behind bars for them) was cheap. It was a breach of procedure and was paid out of the pockets of the taxpayers of British Columbia – but what the hell! It worked. Stephen Harper’s ‘friends’ got out of it all unscathed – and without paying a penny – by the simple action of the Minister of Justice in Ottawa stepping in (on Stephen Harper’s orders?), and promoting Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett from the B.C. Supreme Court to the B.C Appeal Court. To prove his prowess in the matter, Stephen Harper then appointed Gordon Campbell to what is perhaps the highest diplomatic position a Canadian can hold – Canadian High Commissioner in London.
In both cases, in B.C. and Alberta, the Stephen Harper Junta has used the courts and the administration of justice, I believe, to violate trust, to support alleged wrongdoers who might be found to be in serious fault or even criminally responsible, and to make justice in Canada a plaything of corrupt power. I suggest that only a government powered by a psychopath could so viciously and openly attack the rule of law in Canada. [Emphasis added]
Dans une décision étonnante, le gouvernement Harper met une autre embûche dans une procédure légale très suivie en Alberta qui veut juger la règlementation de la fracturation hydraulique sur la place publique. Traduction libre d’un reportage d’Andrew Nikiforuk publié dans le journal indépendant The Tyee. Le fédéral jette un bâton dans les roues d’un procès très médiatisé
La semaine dernière, le Ministère de la Justice Canada a nommé l’honorable juge Barbara L. Veldhuis, une juge de la cour du banc de la reine qui présidait sur le cas juridique très médiatisé, à la cour d’appel de l’Alberta. La promotion, en fait, retire Veldhuis du procès de plusieurs milliers de dollars. De plus, Veldhuis était sur le point de prononcer sa décision à savoir si le régulateur de l’énergie de l’Alberta pouvait oui ou non se faire actionner par un propriétaire terrien pour avoir failli à des règlements provinciaux, manqué à la protection de l’eau souterraine et au respect des droits constitutionnels des Canadiens. La promotion du gouvernement Harper veut maintenant dire qu’un autre juge devra être nommé pour entendre la cause, ce qui a été remarqué au travers le globe, notamment aux États-Unis, en Australie, en Pologne et en Irlande.
’Une autre tentative pour retarder et épuiser’ dit Ernst
Gaz de houille – le fédéral veut décourager Jessica Ernst translation of Andrew Nikiforuk’s article by Amie du Richelieu February 24, 2013
Fracking: Feds Throw Wrench in High Profile Lawsuit, Judge suddenly promoted; plaintiff Ernst sees strategy to ‘delay and exhaust.’ by Andrew Nikiforuk, February 22, 2013, TheTyee.ca
In a stunning move the Harper government has thrown another hurdle before a high profile Alberta lawsuit that seeks to put the regulation of hydraulic fracturing on public trial. Last week the Department of Justice appointed Honourable Barbara L. Veldhuis, a Court of Queen’s Bench judge presiding over the landmark case, to the Court of Appeal of Alberta. The promotion effectively removes Veldhuis from the multi-million dollar lawsuit. Moreover, Veldhuis was about to rule on whether or not Alberta’s energy regulator could be sued by a landowner for failing to uphold provincial rules, protect groundwater and respect the constitutional rights of Canadians.
Photo by Derek Ernst (d. December 23, 2009)
Edmonton – In a surprising move, Environment Minister Diana McQueen announced that the Alberta government would engage the public in consultations (February 19 – March 21) province-wide on the controversial hydraulic fracking practice and water use in Alberta. … Though opinions will be collected from public forums in 20 towns and cities across Alberta with the intention of taking information from the public to create a new water energy strategy, Albertans already have strong views about water. With the passing of the federal Bill C-45, some major environmental challenges loom on the horizon but no one seems to be listening to the concerns of Albertans about potential water contamination due to lax environmental laws recently passed. … McQueen stressed, “Water is our most important resource, all of us use water in our daily lives, and so this is probably one of the most important conversations.” McQueen wants all Albertans included in this decision making process for future generations. “You’ll see that we’ll be making decisions together with Albertans as we move forward; the intent is not for this to be another document that will sit on a shelf.” The results of the consultations will also be made public but it is not certain when they will be released.
The riveting article in The Tyee entitled How Alberta Will Fight Fracking Folk Hero Jessica Ernst, details how hydraulic fracking contaminated Ernst’s groundwater and why she fought back. Ernst is a 55 year-old scientist and oil patch consultant who is suing the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), the Alberta Environment, and Encana for contaminating her well water with toxic chemicals about ten years ago. In another article Tell Us What’s Being Done to Our Groundwater, Demand Albertans, the necessity for transparency on aquifer quality after Alberta closed the public records is heating up. If transparency is allowed, it could very well expose the harmful toxic effects of shale gas operations on Alberta and Canada’s aquifers that may lead to more protests, potential lawsuits, and a definitive ban on fracking if the public puts pressure on provincial and federal governments. [Emphasis added]
B.C. is already in bed with the oil and gas industry and now the Liberal government wants us to make babies and grow old together. The most telling part of Tuesday’s throne speech — which banks on untold billions from liquefied natural gas taxes and royalties — was how cool the industry responded to the idea, especially the tax part. “I think it will cause industry to reflect on their business assumptions,” said Geoff Morrison on behalf of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, adding that companies will “likely have a discussion with government about that.” Ah yes, a discussion.
Alberta has been married for decades to the oil patch, but a few years back when the Ed Stelmach administration tried to impose modest royalty increases, the industry showed who was boss. It shut down the patch and killed the province’s economy, cozying up instead to friendlier regimes in B.C. and Saskatchewan. It also breathed life (money) into the Wildrose party, putting the ruling PCs on notice. The PCs dropped the royalty hike and got back in line, but Stelmach was politically a dead duck. Moral: don’t screw with the oil and gas boys.
Last month in Alberta, a landmark civil trial resumed. A 55-year-old scientist named Jessica Ernst is suing Encana, the Alberta government and its regulator for allegedly polluting the groundwater under her home in Rosebud. The whole world is watching this case because it targets the practice of hydraulic fracturing — fracking — which over the past decade has become the primary extraction method for much of the industry. Fracking injects massive amounts of water, sand and toxic chemicals into the ground in order to break through rock formations and release gas trapped below. Ernst claims the methane gas migrates through the cracks and contaminates the aquifer on its way to the surface. The Alberta government says there has never been a documented case, but Ernst maintains there are “hundreds of other cases sealed by confidentiality agreements” that disprove that claim.
Methane gas contamination is only one of the fears from fracking. I heard Ernst speak about a year ago in a little community southwest of Red Deer called Eagle Valley. Fracking had come in a big way to Eagle Valley and the intensity of public anger and apprehension was palpable. One woman, Kim Mildenstein, a mother of three, had just been charged with uttering threats against an oil company (she was later sentenced to one year of probation). A major concern was the amount of heavy traffic on the roads, some carrying toxic materials. There was fear of environmental contamination from the undisclosed cancer-causing chemicals used in the process, both during the injection phase and in the wastewater. Another issue was the massive volume of fresh water being consumed.
Some of the biggest fracks in the world have been operating in northeastern B.C. Last fall, the Fort Nelson First Nation launched a petition campaign called “Don’t Give Away Our Fresh Water for Fracking” and collected 24,000 names in one month. The northeast is B.C.’s Alberta. It’s a terrific revenue generator because it’s out of sight and out of mind. As environmentalist George Smith said at the Feb. 2 Idle No More gathering in Sechelt, “Everybody knows what’s happening in the tar sands, but in northeastern British Columbia the amount of gas being taken out of the ground is second only to the tar sands — an enormous industrial project that’s causing incredible problems.” The industry, he said, is now looking at northwestern B.C. for “a huge operation that will rival what’s happening” in the northeast. And so it goes. The Liberal government is banking on all that lucre for your future. But at the end of the day, who do you think is going to be running this province? [Emphasis added]
Two Edmonton lawyers have been appointed justices of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. Federal justice minister Rob Nicholson announced the appointments Feb. 8 of Thomas Wakeling, a lawyer with Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP in Edmonton, and Russell Brown, an associate counsel with Miller Thomson LLP and law professor at the University of Alberta. Three other judicial appointments were made to fill vacancies in the province, effective immediately. Nicholson appointed Calgary judge Barbara Veldhuis to the Court of Appeal of Alberta.
ALBERTA JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS ANNOUNCED by the Department of Justice Canada, February 8, 2013
The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today announced the following appointments:
The Honourable Barbara L. Veldhuis, a judge of Her Majesty’s Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in Calgary, is appointed a judge of the Court of Appeal of Alberta to replace Mr. Justice K.G. Ritter (Edmonton) who elected to become a supernumerary judge as of May 1, 2011. Madam Justice Veldhuis received a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Alberta and was admitted to the Bar of Alberta in 1987. Madam Justice Veldhuis was appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in 2011 and to the provincial court in 2007. Prior to these appointments, she worked with the Department of Justice Canada from 1998 to 2006; additionally, Madam Justice Veldhuis was a Crown prosecutor with Alberta Justice from 1991 to 1993 and again from 1996 to 1998. She was in private practice, focusing on criminal law, from 1988 to 1991 with Logan Watson & Company and from 1993 to 1995 with Clarkson Mochan Veldhuis. Madam Justice Veldhuis was the president of the Grande Prairie Bar Association from 1992 to 1996 and served as vice-chairman of the Grande Prairie Regional College Foundation from 1993 to 1996. ..
These appointments are effective immediately. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Landmark fracking lawsuit starts with twist by Andrew Nikiforuk, April 27, 2012, The Tyee.ca
ALBERTA JUDICIAL APPOINTMENT ANNOUNCED: The Honourable Barbara L. Veldhuis Appointed Judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in Calgary June 24, 2011
December 2007: Development of a memorandum of understanding between Alberta Environment (AENV) and the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB, now ERCB) to enhance collaboration for the protection and management of groundwater
EUB [now ERCB] Bulletin 2005-33, December 9, 2005: Shallow Fracturing Operations: New Requirements, Restricted Operations, and Technical Review Committee Incidents of shallow fracturing operations impacting nearby oilfield wells have been reported to the EUB. … The EUB has recently met with most major coalbed methane operators and service companies to discuss their fracturing practices, including program design. These discussions have indicated that design of fracture stimulations at shallow depths requires improved engineering design and a greater emphasis on protection of groundwater [Emphasis added]
FrackingCanada: The Last Road to Redemption ]
Permalink to: Alberta Energy Board Appealing
A David versus Goliath court case about contaminated aquifers at Jessica Ernst’s Alberta home is under way, essentially putting the controversial practice of hydraulic fracking on trial.
The case will have ramifications for the natural gas industry and environmental law everywhere.
The decisions made in the Calgary courtroom over the coming weeks and months will shape fracking policy in North America and possibly the world.
It could also help push environmental law in a new direction – one in which the environment itself has legal standing.
If you ask environmentalists, they’ll say fracking leads to uncontrollable leaking gas, massive amounts of dangerous chemicals, destroyed water sources and flammable tap water.
If you ask anyone in the natural gas industry, they’ll give you a different story.
The oceans of untapped, clean-burning natural gas are the future of their business and the eventual foundation of our global economy, like oil is now.
It’s a classic environment versus economy situation.
Where gas companies stand to make a huge profit, citizens stand to take a huge loss.
Fracking involves pumping high pressure chemicals into the earth’s crust to push out every last bit of oil and gas. These chemicals, and the gas itself, eventually seep into groundwater and poison aquifers – and eventually entire watersheds.
Without strict regulations, our entire continent’s natural water systems could become poisoned beyond repair.
As of now, there are little to no regulations to prevent this from happening.
The Nova Scotia government is reviewing fracking, so for the time being it’s not allowed. But in most places citizens aren’t so lucky.
Ernst v. Encana is important because it will set a precedent, which will be cited time and again in courtrooms all over the continent. This case will influence fracking policy everywhere.
It could also affect environmental law.
Well known environmental lawyer Christopher Stone wrote an essay in the ’70s called Should Trees Have Standing? – Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. His thesis that nature deserves legal rights is moving from academic to real world application.
Last year the New Zealand government granted the Whanganui River, New Zealand’s third largest, the right to defend itself in court.
This is the first time this has happened anywhere.
The historic granting of legal status to a natural entity was spurned by over a century of legal battles with the Whanganui Iwi, the indigenous tribe who depend on the river for survival.
This development, coupled with the groundbreaking precedent to be set by Ernst v. Encana, could change international environmental law forever.
Imagine if the Gulf of Mexico could defend itself in court against British Petroleum for the record-breaking oil spill in 2010? Or if an aquifer Encana poisoned could sue the company directly?
Having a legal responsibility to the ecosystem itself, and not just the people who live there, would change the landscape from one that lets polluters off with minimal fines, to one that would demand more accurate compensation for the damages.
The environment versus economy battle has historically been despairingly lopsided in favour of the economy.
With the example of nature’s legal standing in New Zealand, and fracking essentially on trial in Calgary, all that could change.
Christian Pollard is a fourth-year student interested in environmental sustainability and economics. He has experience drafting and editing op-ed columns for publications around the world, and hopes to cover environmental issues in the future.
Permalink to: Fracking gets its day in court
Demain, vendredi le 18 janvier 2013, le procès de Jessica Ernst franchit une autre étape à la cour de Calgary. Cette cause pourrait créer un précédent judiciaire au Canada: Jessica accuse une gazière d’avoir contaminé son puits d’eau potable, et dénonce le manque de vigilance du ministère de l’environnement de sa province pour ne pas avoir pris des mesures nécessaires afin de protéger l’eau potable de ses citoyens. Ses avocats l’ont prévenue: c’est une cause légale qui pourrait s’étirer durant des années, mais c’est du jamais vu, et Jessica entend bien se rendre jusqu’au bout. Mme Ernst admire beaucoup les Québécois d’avoir tenu tête aux gazières et au gouvernement Libéral qui en faisaient la promotion. Le Québec est une province qu’elle aime beaucoup, et n’aimerait pas nous voir vivre les épreuves qu’elle et sa communauté doivent endurer à Rosebud, en Alberta.
Lien pour le communiqué de presse
Looking for change by Peter Lauridsen, February 1, 2013, Page 10 Strathmore Times
How this case affects the regulatory process down the road is still an open question. As Justice Veldhuis told the participants early on in the day’s proceedings, “this is a very complex case (and) there is a huge volume of material. It would be impossible to give any kind of answer today.” Or, it seems, anytime soon. If the hearing in Jessica Ernst’s lawsuit shows us anything, it’s that the wheels of justice, like molasses on an unseasonably warm January day, move very slowly.
Rosebud fracking lawsuit takes next step by Peter Lauridsen, January 23, 2013, Front Page The Drumheller Mail
Rimbey area dairy farmer and National Farmers Union co-ordinator Jan Slomp has been following Ernst’s case closely. “I think Jessica’s case is so interesting. I’m very curious how it develops.” Noting the mountain of evidence she has gathered in her journey thus far, he adds: “She has a perfect case to win.” Scarcely a moment later, he admits, “My faith in the government as an oil and gas regulator is zero right now. We’re pushed into not trusting anything. I’m desperate. How do I defend my land for the use of future generations?”
How Alberta Will Fight Fracking Folk Hero Jessica Ernst, In famous flaming water case, regulator to argue ‘no duty of care’ to landowners or groundwater by Andrew Nikiforuk, January 16, 2013, TheTyee.ca
[Refer also to:
Fracking will not contaminate groundwater, very shallow fracking has contaminated groundwater. To suggest that the ERCB does not look after the interests and safety of the people of Alberta is not only incorrect, but it also does a great disservice to the employees of the ERCB.
December 2007: Development of a memorandum of understanding between Alberta Environment (AENV) and the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB, now ERCB) to enhance collaboration for the protection and management of groundwater
Man’s alleged e-mail threats against Redford ‘did not cross the line,’ says judge ]
Remembering Rumsey Ranch
T.S. Eliot: Little Gidding
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
Thank you Rosebud, my community.
Quotes in video by Capturemefilms Jessica Ernst: The Consequences of Fracking, transcribed by Bill Huston, January 20, 2013, Bill Huston’s Blog (Binghamton, NY), ~@2:50 Min:“No healthy community will allow hydraulic fracturing
so they have to make the community sick –
And they do so by feeding the dark side [of] human nature
which is greed, sloth, selfishness they feed the ego
they promise a little bit…
…and then whammo, the community is divided.
The people with concerns are then abused
by the people who want more money
and Encana doesn’t even have to do the dirty work!
A lot of the other companies;
the people in the communities
do the dirty work for them.
It’s an incredibly brilliant technique
which works very well.
Everywhere they’re fracking this is happening.
And my conclusion as a scientist,
and as an environmental biologist–
as an environmental specialist that has worked in this industry…
My conclusion is that
No healthy community on this planet
would allow hydraulic fracturing
because it is not safe,
It is impossible to do
even with the best rules and regulations.”
Alberta’s Best in the World ERCB: “No Duty of Care to Landowners and Groundwater”
Rule 1 of APEGA’s Code of Ethics:
Ewart: Critic boycotts Encana hearing, but crusade against fracking far from over by Stephen Ewart, January 19, 2013, Calgary Herald
On Saturday, Jessica Ernst – ever mindful the case is playing in the legal system and the court of public opinion – responded to a request to arrange a photo at the Calgary court appearance by supplying a photo taken Friday of her at the doors of the Drumheller Court House.
Jessica Ernst’s long battle with natural gas giant Encana moved into a packed Calgary courtroom Friday, but with the lead player boycotting the proceeding because it was moved from central Alberta, there was little in the way of courtroom drama. Ernst wants the case — her supporters bill it as a “landmark lawsuit” against fracking — to be heard in Drumheller, which is closer to her home in the village of Rosebud. “This is where I live. This is where my water is. This is where the coal bed methane wells were drilled. This is where my wells were contaminated,” Ernst said in a statement read to the court by lawyer Murray Klippenstein.“It is important to rural Albertans that disputes and harms that occur in their communities are judged in those communities.”
Regardless, the hearing took place on the 15th floor of the Calgary Courts Centre, surrounded by the office towers that are home to the Canadian oil and gas industry.
The boycott adds another element to an already complex case that began almost a decade ago as Ernst grew increasingly worried about the water from a well on her property as Encana conducted a drilling program in the area. The $33-million lawsuit “effectively puts on trial the practice and regulation of hydraulic fracturing.” said Klippenstein, Ernst’s Toronto-based lawyer. In addition to Encana, the suit also names the Alberta government and the provincial Energy Resources Conservation Board. The ERCB is cited by Ernst for not taking adequate steps to protect her water and disregarding her constitutional right to freedom of speech.
That only scratches the surface of the legalities in the case. “There is nothing simple about this case,” said Justice Barbara Veldhuis of the Court of Queen’s Bench. “There is a lot of material … everyone agrees this is a complex case.”
Ernst’s original statement of claim, filed in 2007, has been amended four times. … Nobody is expecting swift justice. At one point, Veldhuis acknowledged any ruling she made on the Crown immunity issue would likely be appealed to a higher court while Klippenstein said Ernst recognizes it will likely take years for the larger case to be resolved. … Friday’s proceedings were part of the “case management” aspect of the justice system that deals with the logistics of getting large, complex litigation through the courts.
The dry subject matter involving a half-dozen grey-suited lawyers didn’t deter about 70 people — many of them farmers from central Alberta — from cramming into the courtroom. The court clerk had to corral extra chairs to accommodate all the onlookers.
If Ernst wasn’t present in person, she certainly was there in spirit.
“Jessica is not alone,” said Jan Slomp, a dairy farmer from Rimby and a representative from the National Farmers Union. “She represents a lot of landowners.”
Many of the people in the courtroom expressed concern they are not heard by the regulator if a dispute arises with the oil and gas industry that is the lifeblood of the provincial economy and a leading source of government revenues.
“The people who are the regular people are not being heard,” added Linde Turner, who made the drive from Drumheller and paid $31.50 to park in a downtown lot so she could support her former Rosebud neighbour. [Parking is free in Drumheller]
… Ernst’s statement of claim repeatedly refers to hydraulic fracturing although Encana contends that it applied more environmentally benign nitrogen gas fracks as per industry best practices [voluntary] for shallow gas reservoirs. … Encana was adamant: The company’s testing showed its wells did not cause Ernst’s water woes. … Ironically, if anything is evident from the last decade it’s that, boycott or not, Ernst isn’t about to walk away from this case any time soon. [Emphasis added]
The shy 49-year-old oilpatch consultant says that the ongoing controversy has been a very unwelcome experience. “I’d rather be running my business in peace,” explains Ernst, who frequently works with major oil and gas firms and First Nations on northern wildlife issues. “But I had no choice. The regulators just didn’t do their due diligence.”…both industry and government emphasized that methane naturally occurred in the province’s groundwater. Alberta Environment noted that 906 water wells in the province had gas “assumed to be methane” in their water, and that nearly 26,000 water wells had coal seams present. That revelation merely alarmed Ernst. “It was all the more reason to do baseline testing before they drilled,” she says. “They knew. All the companies should have tested for dissolved methane and gas composition.”
Eau de feu (French Translation)
Ernst vs Encana Report by Alberta Surface Rights Group, January 18, 2013
At the Courthouse:
Today was a full day at the courthouse in Calgary, attending the Ernst vs Encana trial. This was a day that focused on the ERCB’s contention that they couldn’t be held accountable for any negligence, or indeed, anything they did or didn’t do! The ERCB lawyer, Mr. Soloman, argued that the law in Alberta stated very clearly that the ERCB was immune from any kind of law suit! He stated that the ERCB had no obligation to ensure the protection of any individual Albertan! For the average person this seems almost incredible…….that the government would pass laws that basically give their own regulators and agents a free ride! It seems to me that there is something really wrong when there is one rule for the government……and another rule for everyone else!
The lawyer for Jessica Ernst, Murray Klippenstein, was up next and he quickly blew a few a few holes in the governments position! He stated that because the ERCB had refused to talk to Ms. Ernst (in fact refused to even open her letters when she was trying to find out about what happened to her water!) that the ERCB had denied her charter rights to Freedom of Expression. He masterfully hammered this point home again and again. Following Mr. Klippenstein was his young colleague, Corey Wannless, who shot all kinds of holes in Mr. Solomons version of Alberta’s laws! Mr. Wanless gave a very detailed and spirited presentation, citing dozens of examples of case law that seemed to cast doubt on the validity of the “etched in stone” statutes that Mr. Solomon had presented. The judge informed the court that she would not be able to render a decision today. She stated this was a very difficult and complicated case, with far reaching consequences, and she would take her time to study the briefings before making a ruling on what could become a landmark case!
It was also noted that the courtroom was filled to overflowing with the supporters of Ms. Ernst…..to the point that extra chairs had to be brought in! It was very apparent that Ms. Ernst’s battle for her rights and the protection of her property has raised some very deep concerns about the province we live in. Alberta has been slipping further and further away from what we thought it was……..A free country where all are treated fairly……into a place where big multi national oil corporations ride roughshod over the people! Ms. Ernst has become a symbol, a real folk hero, a modern day David standing up against Goliath!
On a final note: Mr. Klippenstein and Mr. Wanless clearly were better lawyers than the array of government and oil company lawyers lined up against them! Mr Klippenstein, from Toronto, is considered one of the top litigation lawyers in the country. Mr. Wanless, also practicing in Toronto, is a home town boy raised at Red Deer Alberta. His father, Gary Wanless, was a well known lawyer, doing a lot of good work for the Farmers Advocate Office and involved in many environmental projects, planting trees through out central Alberta.
The Province of Alberta versus Fracking Folk Hero Jessica Ernst by S. Tom Bond, January 17, 2013, FrackCheckWV
Multi-million dollar lawsuit over water contamination gets underway by Tamara Elliott, January 18, 2013 4:38 PM, Global News
Alberta’s oil and gas regulator has asked to be dropped from a multi-million dollar lawsuit against energy-giant Encana. Jessica Ernst, a resident of Rosebud, Alta. is suing the company for negligence causing water contamination. …
“Albertans deserve better,” Ernst told Global News. “We are so accommodating to oil and gas. We deserve to have our rights protected and our water our health our families our properties taken care of.”
On Friday, her lawyer told court that the regulatory body, ERCB, ignored her concerns. “The regulators who are supposed to be on top of these things and say they are—namely the ERCB—were negligent in not passing any rules to restrict them,” argues Murray Klippenstein. “When they knew there was a problem they did nothing.”
However, the ERCB’s lawyer argues it’s legally immune from being sued and wants to be removed from the lawsuit. Ernst did not attend court on Friday, because she had wanted the case to be heard in Drumheller so the community could attend. [Emphasis added]
Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board says it cannot be sued by a citizen by Kevin Martin, January 17, 2013, Calgary Sun
The Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board will apply Friday to have itself removed from a $33-million lawsuit alleging fracking contaminated an Alberta woman’s well water. Lawyer Glenn Solomon, in a brief filed with the court, says the government agency is immune from any litigation by an individual citizen.
Solomon will ask Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Barb Veldhuis to drop the ERCB as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Rosebud, Alta., resident Jessica Ernst. Ernst is seeking damages from Encana Corp., the ERCB and the province over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, processes done by the Calgary company to extract methane gas near her home.
She claims the procedure has contaminated underground aquifers in the area, including those that feed her well water on her rural property. “Encana’s (coalbed methane) activities at the Encana wells have caused the severe contamination of Ms. Ernst’s well water,” says her claim, filed by Toronto lawyer Murray Klippenstein. The company’s activities between 2001 and 2006 caused the release of previously fixed and immobile gases, it says. The effect contaminated “Ernst’s well water with hazardous and flammable levels of dissolved and gaseous methane and ethane,” the claim says.
Ernst, whose lawsuit has been filed at Drumheller Court of Queen’s Bench, seeks $11.7 million in damages from Encana, and $10.7 million each from both the ERCB and province. It claims the ERCB was negligent in not ensuring the wells it licenced Encana to drill didn’t contaminate her water.
But in his brief, Solomon says the agency can’t be sued by her. He says the Energy Resources Conservation Act prohibits legal action by individual citizens against the regulatory body, even those committed deliberately.
“The Legislature expressly exempted the ERCB from any liability in any actions brought against it by any private individuals,” Solomon says in his brief to the court. “As the immunity extends to ‘any act or thing done’ it includes not only negligence, but gross negligence, bad faith and even deliberate acts,” he wrote. Solomon will argue the agency owes a duty to the public as a whole and cannot be held accountable for acts which impact individuals. “The existence of a private duty of care would necessarily have the effect of compromising the ERCB’s express public duty to act ‘in the public interest,’” he wrote.
Statements of defence disputing Ernst’s allegation against the three defendants have not been filed. [Emphasis added]
Fight on to recover damages from fracking by CTV News Calgary, January 18, 2013
Jan Slomp represents the Alberta section of the National Farmers Union and says the results of the hearing may have an impact on future cases. “Jessica is not alone. Jessica is the first one that has pursued it this far and so extensive, so well documented her case but she represents a lot of land owners, a lot of people in Alberta that feel step-by-step left out in terms of justice, in terms of equal playing fields with the energy exploration,” said Slomp. Slomp says he hopes the government will use the information to better regulate all sectors of energy exploration.
The case has not yet gone to trial and none of her allegations have been proven
French Translation of CTV News Calgary article above by Amie du Richelieu, January 21, 2013
Alberta government agency tries to dodge $33M fracking lawsuit by Sun Media, January 17th, 2013
The Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board is applying to have itself removed from a $33-million lawsuit alleging fracking contaminated an Alberta woman’s well water. Lawyer Glenn Solomon, in a brief filed with the court, says the government agency is immune from any litigation by an individual citizen. Solomon will ask the court to drop the ERCB as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Rosebud, Alta., resident Jessica Ernst. Ernst is suing Encana Corp., the ERCB and the province over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, processes done by the Calgary company to extract methane gas near her home. She claims the procedure has contaminated underground aquifers in the area, including those that feed her well water on her rural property. The process contaminated “Ernst’s well water with hazardous and flammable levels of dissolved and gaseous methane and ethane,” says her claim. … But Solomon says the Energy Resources Conservation Act prohibits legal action by individuals against the regulatory body. “The legislature expressly exempted the ERCB from any liability in any actions brought against it by any private individuals,” Solomon says in his brief. “As the immunity extends to ‘any act or thing done’ it includes not only negligence, but gross negligence, bad faith and even deliberate acts,” he wrote. Statements of defence have not been filed.
The Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board is applying to have itself removed from a $33-million lawsuit alleging fracking contaminated an Alberta woman’s well water by Kevin Martin, January 17, 2013, QMI Agency
Lawyer Glenn Solomon, in a brief filed with the court, says the government agency is immune from any litigation by an individual citizen. Solomon will ask the court to drop the ERCB as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Rosebud, Alta., resident Jessica Ernst. Ernst is suing Encana Corp., the ERCB and the province over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, processes done by the Calgary company to extract methane gas near her home. She claims the procedure has contaminated underground aquifers in the area, including those that feed her well water on her rural property. … Her suit claims the ERCB was negligent in not ensuring the wells it licenced Encana to drill didn’t contaminate her water. But Solomon says the Energy Resources Conservation Act prohibits legal action by individuals against the regulatory body. “The legislature expressly exempted the ERCB from any liability in any actions brought against it by any private individuals,” Solomon says in his brief.
“As the immunity extends to ‘any act or thing done’ it includes not only negligence, but gross negligence, bad faith and even deliberate acts,” he wrote.
Statements of defence have not been filed.
Stand up w Ernst and Tell Big Oil to Frack Off!! by Janice Plante, January 18, 2013, Global Alternative Blogspot
On the other hand here we have a perfectly “pure” (at least pure intentioned; not running for a political seat) spokesperson standing up for all of our rights and taking Encana to task and suing for the contamination of her well water and all others in the area of Rosebud, Alberta. But hey guess what, if she can win (hopefully since the defense is pretty lame), she will set a standard/precedence for EVERYONE in Canada. The precedent will be set and a message will be sent to all BIG OIL Co’s. that it is:
Can we make this stop? Can we support Jessica Ernst? Absolutely!! and it is in EVERYONE’s best interest to do so. Piss on waiting for some “talks and meetings” with Harper. This is HERE and NOW. Let’s go. If you are in Alberta, show up on the court house steps and DEMAND action. Demand that this hearing proceed without all the stall tactics that are business as usual to all the parties that have something to lose; the ones that want the complainant to either: a) run out of money; b) run out of all support and resources: c) die and/or give up.
Damn them, that they can keep getting away with those stall tactics and the courts support those tactics. Disgusting. I think the gov’t (ERCB – Energy Resouces Conservation Board) agency, by stating such a lame defense; that they are “not responsible for a duty of care”. Excuse me? If that is not their mandate, whose is it? [Emphasis added]
Excerpt: (from The Tyee): How Alberta Will Fight Fracking Folk Hero Jessica Ernst, In famous flaming water case, regulator to argue ‘no duty of care’ to landowners or groundwater by Andrew Nikiforuk, 16 Jan 2013, TheTyee.ca
A common complaint among Alberta landowners is that the ERCB reacts slowly to public concerns. It was one of the continent’s last oil and gas regulators, for example, to table regulations on hydraulic fracturing.
We stand with Jessica Ernst as she faces Encana and the Alberta government in court today. Her courage to seek truth and justice, and demand accountability from the gas industry and the government, is an inspiration to people worldwide. We, in Michigan, appreciate her sincerity and kindness in spreading the word about the dangers of fracking and making the trip here to meet with us.
Fracking lawsuit goes back to court by QR77 Newsroom, January 17, 2013
A woman who claims her drinking water became contaminated by Encana’s fracking practices a few years back is now suing the company, as well as the Energy Resources Conservation Board. Jessica Ernst, from Rosebud, near Drumheller, says it was time to act, “I realized when I began to discover that they’re planning to frack everywhere, including in Calgary within 70 metres of known zones of sour gas, I believed I had no choice but to do the lawsuit.” Ernst says she included the ERCB in the lawsuit because she feels the agency has been siding with Encana in this case and treating her rather poorly.
Calgary judge hears $33M lawsuit over natural gas drilling, Rosebud, Alta., woman says drilling contaminated her water supply by CBC News, January 18, 2013
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 Calgary courtroom is packed with about 50 landowners who are observing the case because they also have concerns about the effects of fracking. ['La salle d'audience de Calgary est bondée de propriétaires terriens qui assistent au procès parce qu'ils disent qu'ils ont eux aussi des préoccupations sur les effets de la fracturation hydraulique.' ] 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.
Un juge de Calgary se penche sur une poursuite de 33 millions de dollars contre Encana by Radio-Canada.ca, le vendredi 18 janvier 2013
Un juge de Calgary entend la cause d’une femme qui soutient que les travaux de fracturation d’Encana ont contaminé son eau, afin de décider si sa poursuite pourra aller de l’avant. Jessica Ernst, résidente de Rosebud, à 120 km au nord-est de Calgary, a lancé une poursuite de 33 millions de dollars contre Encana, le gouvernement albertain et la Régie de contrôle des ressources énergétiques de l’Alberta (ERCB) en 2011. Mme Ernst a affirmé qu’il y avait tellement de méthane dans l’eau provenant de son robinet qu’elle pouvait y mettre le feu. Elle attribue la présence du méthane aux travaux de fracturation hydraulique de l’entreprise albertaine. … Vendredi, les avocats représentant l’ERCB ont indiqué au juge qu’en tant qu’organisme provincial de réglementation, la Régie n’était pas dans l’obligation de privilégier des intérêts individuels au détriment des intérêts publics et qu’elle était protégée de toute poursuite privée. La salle d’audience est remplie de propriétaires de terrains qui se sentent concernés par les effets de la fracturation hydraulique. [Calgary courtroom was packed yesterday]
Le juge soutient que la cause de la plaignante est complexe et n’a pris aucune décision vendredi.
[Refer also to: Wheatland County (Alberta) Councillors call for Fracking Halt until Protective Methods are Developed ]
In Calgary, on Jan.19, a hearing was held on the lawsuit by Jessica Ernst against Encana and the Alberta Gas and Oil Regulator for the contamination of her well water from coal bed methane extraction. What has this to do with the Idle No More protests that are occurring in Manitoba and nationwide? Everything. The lawsuit launched by Ernst will drag on for years while the resource extraction and contamination continues unabated. Similarly, dialogue promised by the federal government concerning the Idle No More environmental and treaty issues will be just talk. The federal government has no intention of deviating from its current course of abetting reckless and irresponsible resource extraction. After we have extracted the last drop of oil and gas from shale, coal and tar sands what will be the legacy after the petro dollars are gone? Despoiled surface environments, polluted aquifers and waterways, toxic fish and wildlife, global warming from the carbon dioxide we have belched into the air. The environment affects us all. It is our heritage and our responsibility for our children and future generations. Let us join our partners who have the courage to take a stand. Let us all be Idle No More. [Emphasis added]
Wheatland County Council is hoping to pressure the government into taking more care in protecting the environment when exploring and developing natural resources. The County is aiming to introduce a resolution to the Alberta Association of Municipal District and Counties (AAMD&C) asking steps be taken to protect the environment. Its resolution, which has not been brought to the AAMD&C yet, requests the province to:
- Take all necessary steps to ensure natural resource exploration does not pose a threat to the environment.
- Require industry reports prior to the commencement of natural resource exploration, an evaluation of the geologic conditions, and pre and post monitoring for seismic activity.
- Require the mapping of all aquifers prior to any natural resource exploration.
- Protect surface and groundwater supply by imposing a minimum well bore casing depth below aquifer zones.
Wheatland County, in particular the Rosebud area, has become a focal point in many discussions about the possible damage caused by fracking to develop resources. Landowner Jessica Ernst has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Encana, Alberta Environment, and the Energy Resource Conservation Board. The area is rich in coal bed methane. Fracking is the process of injecting water, sand, and chemicals to stimulate gas production. Landowners have reported a decline in water levels and quality they believe is related to resource development. “It is more or less to make sure the government has done the proper work and the proper studies on the impacts of fracking on our aquifers and make sure the chemicals they are using are safe. We don’t want harmful chemicals injected into our aquifers,” said Koester. … “We have little water in the county that doesn’t come from wells. All our farms and close to all of our acreages are dependent on aquifers for a safe water supply,” [Emphasis added]
Wheatland County (Alberta) Councillors call for Fracking Halt until Protective Methods are Developed ]
Permalink to: Wheatland County in Alberta pushes fracking resolution
Wheatland County councillors submitted their views, in a resolution proposal to the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Communities (AAMDC) zone office, regarding the County’s stance on Resource Development in Alberta.
It includes a call to halt Coalbed Methane retrieval and the use of hydraulic fracture practises until protective methods are developed.
“Subsequent to natural resource exploration and activities, concerns have been received from landowners, reporting a decline in their water levels and contamination of their water wells, including and not limited to sulphur gases. Other residents have reported changes in land formations, opening of natural springs and sinkholes. While there is no proven link between these incidences and natural resource exploration, some residents are of the opinion that “fracking” activities have initiated these occurrences. We need to ensure the protections of our environment and our water – our most valuable natural resource,” Wheatland councillors stated in their member background report.
Wheatland councillors are not alone in concerns about the current technology used for unconventional oil and gas development.
“The fracturing of deep rock formations with water, sand and chemicals is a non-linear process that can open fractures to freshwater formations, as well as other oil and gas wells. Also, in absence of the public reporting on fracking chemicals, industry water withdrawals and full mapping of the provinces aquifers, rapid shale gas development could potentially threaten important water resources. An example is the Horn River Basin in British Columbia that has a distinctive geology and hydraulic fracturing that has caused rare and minor seismic activity,” they stated. In September 2012, an investigation by the ERCB confirmed operator error in leaking frac fluid, contaminating of a water well in Grande Prairie. In December 2012, similar issues appeared a national study conducted by the US Environmental Protection agency www.epa.gov/hfstudy/pdfs. They found chemicals in wells and ground water close to hydraulic fracturing sites. The final report is set for release in 2014, leaving time for industry response.
Water is the world’s most precious resource and one frac takes up to 7 million gallons of water. The water used comes from the closest above ground source, or underground aquifers. Fresh water, if brackish or saline water is not available. Chemicals are added, or the water absorbs chemicals from the rock formations, leaving the fresh water unusable. Reuse of the water is encouraged by the industry, but it is sometimes impractical. Contaminated water is then disposed of in underground cavities, or sealed in abandoned wells. Public information on chemicals used, or where they are disposed of is not currently available in Alberta, however as of Dec. 31, info will be posted on www.fracfocus.org. The venting and flaring of gas to relieve well pressure increases greenhouse gases, and several studies show health issues like respiratory illnesses result. No provisions by companies or government compensate human disability or animal health issues in flare areas.
Increased evidence of hydraulic fracturing generates seismic activity and causes earthquakes is mounting. In December 2012, the American Geophysical Union www.agu.org supported this. Studies in Oklahoma showed earthquake activity increased in 2011, from one to three a year, up to 250. Fluid injection was as close as 250 metres from the quakes. Studies in BC, Northern Alberta, Colorado, New Mexico, Trindad, and Britain show similar conclusions. Ohio had a moratorium on wastewater injection and only reopened permits with tougher regulation. “The future probably holds a lot more in induced earthquakes as the gas boom expands,” said US Geological Society researcher Art McGarr, in the MIT Technology review.
Many want a moratorium on fracking practises that would allow new environmentally sensitive technologies to develop. One recent innovation is a new gel made of liquefied petroleum gas developed by GASFRAC www.gasfrac.com , which will replace water in fracking operations.
Wheatland councillors state new ways should be developed for resource extraction that would protect the environment. They suggested the government and industry take the following measures:
• Require industry reports prior to the commencement of exploration
• Evaluate geological conditions with a pre and post monitoring for seismic activity
• Protect surface and groundwater supplies by imposing a minimum well bore casing depth below aquifer zones.
Alberta Surface Rights Group
cc: Directors of ASRG
Why would EnCana Corporation send water reports to the County of Wheatland with a copy of a Land Usage Authorization Agreement that I never signed? [Emphasis added]
Dec 1 2012 – Dec 3 2012, 08-33-053-10W5
CARRIER FLUID TG-740 Not Available
ADDITIVE HB-4 Trican Breaker 0.46%
ADDITIVE HX-2W Trican Crosslinker 0.44%
ADDITIVE Hg-2 Trican Gelling Agent 0.46%
ADDITIVE S-12 Trican Surfactant 0.16% ]
Researchers and regulators have taken an interest in whistle-blowers, too, and have asked: What is it that makes a person more likely to blow the whistle-is it a sense of injustice, or is it the possibility of being rewarded for doing the right thing? The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is betting on the latter. It recently implemented provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and authorized large bounty payouts to whistle-blowers for securities laws violations. However, a collaborative 2009 study conducted by law professors Yuval Feldman, of Bar-Ilan University’s faculty of law, and Orly Lobel, of the University of San Diego school of law, suggest that they needn’t have bothered. … Interestingly, Feldman and Lobel concluded, “often, offering monetary rewards to whistle-blowers will lead to less, rather than more, reporting of illegality.” The reasons? First, the researchers found that, while men in the survey said they would be more motivated to report wrongdoing by receiving a monetary reward, women were more inclined to be motivated by intrinsic factors such as duty, and by anti-retaliation protection. Perhaps the most interesting finding was that “women were far more likely than men to blow the whistle.” …
Under Canadian Law there are some regulatory schemes-provincial occupational health and safety legislation and environmental protection laws, for example-to protect whistle-blowers. Federally, the Criminal Code affords whistle-blowers the broadest safeguards from reprisals. … SLAPP lawsuits are attempts by corporations to duck accountability by countersuing their critics, claiming the critics are harming their reputation.
“There is a cozy relationship between industry and government regulators that operates in secrecy.” – Dr. Michelle Bill-Edwards
Similar criticism has been levelled against the oil and gas industry and its Alberta regulators – the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) [previously EUB, soon to be AER] and Alberta Environment [name changed twice since, now Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development] – against whom scientist Jessica Ernst has been waging a battle for nearly a decade. Ironically, Ernst, who had been contracted by Encana as a biologist to conduct environmental impact assessments, has now experienced first-hand the devastating ecological impacts of oil and gas development.
“If people are told more clearly what whistle-blowers go through, the public would say no, this has to end.” Like Ernst, Brill-Edwards, Olivierie and others, Gualtieri has spoken critically and openly about government corruption in the hope that the public will demand and come to expect greater accountability frmo government and corporate officials. She believes the ordeals of the whistle-blower magnify the most pressing questions of the 21st century: What is it that we value? Why is power being abused? Why are so many people compliant?
Women, in ever greater numbers, are becoming integrated in all professions and are assuming greater positions of power–as premiers, CEOs, judges and senior public administrators. Perhaps the greatest challenge still lies ahead of us, as the new generation of female leaders is confronted with a quandary: Should women exercise power for the greater good or simply for their own self-interest and the narrow interests of the institutions that employ them?
A toxic practice, a poisonous relationship: what’s the connection between water for fracking and SNC-Lavalin’s Chair Gwyn Morgan, past CEO of Encana? ]
Permalink to: When Women Blow the Whistle
The Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) is in the process of a large-scale review of its fracking regulations, with changes implemented sometime in 2013. The ERCB is specifically concerned with water aquifer protection, preventing above-ground chemical spills, and interwellbore communication. “That’s when you have two oil or gas wells that are close enough down-hole that there is some sort of impact on one due to activities in the other well,” explains ERCB spokesperson Bob Curran. That kind of underground communication between Midway Energy’s fracking operation and a nearby well operated by Wild Stream Exploration caused a blowout near Innisfail last January. At their closest point, those two wells are 129 metres apart. When the pressure that built up in one escaped to the other bore-hole, fracking fluid leaked to the surface. Curran says that since the ERCB began monitoring interwellbore communication this year, there have been 21 incidents, but they rarely cause damage. … Curran says geologists understand the technology and its potential consequences quite well, and that the ERCB is not struggling to align rule-changes with a poorly developed science. “Hydraulic fracturing as a technology is very well understood, and it’s been applied here extensively in Alberta over our history…. There’s been over 171,000 wells that have been hydraulically fractured in Alberta since the practice began in the 1950s,” he says. Curran says it’s this understanding of the technology, Alberta’s geology, and a long-standing “stringent” regulatory system that have prevented negative incidents in Alberta that are making headlines in other parts of the continent.
While the ERCB is confident in the safety of fracking, the matter is still up for debate elsewhere. Dr. David Layzell, the head of the University of Calgary’s Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy, says there are significant questions about the technology. “We do not have good peer-reviewed data from controlled experiments on the costs, benefit and trade-offs (environmental, economic, risk) of the various fracturing technologies. We also need independent, arm’s-length analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions (especially methane) that typically occur during the fracturing process. Some studies have suggested that these emissions can be quite high, while others provide data suggesting that the emissions are insignificant. Most of the evidence to date suggests that there are few environmental impacts associated with the fracturing itself. The problems that have arisen seem to come from spills at the surface, poor integrity of the well casing, or re-injection/disposal of the spent fracturing fluids creating small seismic events,” Layzell explains by email. He calls on the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of Canada, and Canadian Council of Academies to take the lead in designing and carrying out studies in order to avoid conflict of interest and other issues that have arisen from industry and university-led research. It’s not that studies haven’t been conducted — many have — but contradictory findings and questionable research practices have led many of them to cancel each other out. In February 2012, Layzell participated in a panel discussion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Vancouver on fracking’s effect on water quality. The research that discussion was based on was a highly publicized University of Texas study that found no link between fracking and water contamination. The paper suggested public anxiety over fracking was based on biased media reports rather than scientific evidence, and concluded regulatory regimes need not be changed. In the following months, the University of Texas discovered the lead researcher, Dr. Chip Groat, sat on the board of a fracking company while authoring the paper. A subsequent university review declared “the design, management, review and release of the study… fell short of contemporary standards for scientific work,” and that the study was “inappropriately selective in the use of material.” Ironically, that study was originally supposed to be funded by an oil company, but funding was rejected when the company insisted it be allowed to vet the final report.
The study has since been trashed and Groat has left the university, yet even solid science remains inconclusive. The surface, groundwater and air pollution associated with fracking is unknown. High-pressure wastewater storage wells may or may not be causing earthquakes. Specific chemicals used in fracking fluid are a mystery in many jurisdictions. Curran says industry has long been obligated to disclose to the ERCB what is in the injection fluid, and Layzell says it is well known that water, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and propane are most commonly used. “What we’ve seen is some jurisdictions where there’ve been problems, there have been regulatory gaps,” Curran insists. It is “because of that some of these accidents have occurred. And in Alberta those regulations are already in place to prevent that from occurring.” [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to: ERCB Lawyer 2012 letter to Ernst: “However, the ERCB does not currently require licensees to provide detailed disclosure of the chemical composition of fracturing fluids.”
FrackingCanada: No Duty of Care and Fracking Calgary and Community Voice The Campbells
Hydraulic fracturing with gelled propane by Gasfrac/Crew Energy Inc./Caltex Energy Inc. contaminated groundwater near Grande Prairie: ERCB Investigative Report and groundwater monitoring by Alberta Environment
171,000 frac’d wells later, the Alberta energy regulator, the ERCB trots out Draft Hydraulic Fracturing Directive ]
I know how demeaning it is to shower only once a week. Since April 2008, when the government broke its 2006 legislature-made promise to provide “safe alternative water … now and into the future” to all adversely affected families suffering with explosive and toxic tap water in rural frac fields, I must haul my own.
It is too difficult for me to haul water in winter, so I often have less than one shower a week. It’s pure hell. Knowing that companies take profit out from under Albertans while keeping their frac chemicals secret, doubles the hell. Reading Don Braid’s column triples it.
It is one thing for the government to abuse a citizen like me seeking justice. It is horrifying and unforgivable for this government to abuse seniors when it gives multinational oil and gas companies so much.
Permalink to: Staying dirty
November 8th, 7 PM, St Paul’s Anglican Church, Antigonish; and
November 9th, at the annual gathering of the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network at the Tatamagouche Centre
Responsible Energy Action and Antigonish Breaking the Silence are hosting a presentation by Cory Wanless, of the progressive Toronto law firm Klippensteins, Barristers & Solicitors
Klippensteins is currently counsel to Alberta oil consultant Jessica Ernst in her lawsuit against the oil company EnCana, the ERCB and Alberta Government for the contamination of her water through shallow hydraulic fracturing. They are also representing community members from El Estor, Guatemala in a civil suit against the Canadian company HudBay Minerals, Inc. In 2010, Klippensteins represented filmmaker Steven Schnoor in a successful defamation lawsuit against Canadian Ambassador to Guatemala Kenneth Cook,who had made false claims that Mr Schnoor’s documentary misrepresented the eviction of residents of El Estor by Vancouver-based nickel mining company Skye Resources.
[Refer also to: Breaking the silence ]
The Great Getaway: Secrets of a Frac Cover-Up Plenary Panel with Jessica Ernst and Peter von Tiesenhausen Mount Royal University Under Western Skies 2, Calgary, Alberta, October 12, 2012
Permalink to: The Great Getaway: Secrets of a Frac Cover-Up
Il faut bannir la fracturation hydraulique by Jacqueline Vigneaux, 10 October, 2012, Page 4, L’aurore boréale Vol. 29, No. 19
Permalink to: Water equals life. Who is Jessica Ernst?
Back in Oct. 2010, Mount Royal took a lead role in interdisciplinary and community-minded environmental studies in Alberta and Western Canada, launching the inaugural Under Western Skies Conference (UWS). Professor Mario Trono is the co-convener of the Under Western Skies conference. The Conference, which focuses on the western half of North America, was the largest in Mount Royal’s history, establishing a high-profile venue where scholars, artists, students and concerned citizens gathered to share ideas concerning all aspects of the environment. … Funded in part through a $50,000 grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and working from the theme of “Under Western Skies 2: Environment, Community and Culture in North America”, this year’s focus is shifting beyond the West, recognizing the impact of environmental issues that ignore human-created borders.
Associate Professor, Robert Boschman, founder and co-convener of the Conference, is excited to see the results of this conference and is already planning for Under Western Skies 3 in 2014 with the help of an interdisciplinary team that includes a number of Mount Royal students. “This whole thing started in a conversation with a colleague over drinks four years ago,” says Boschman, shaking his head. “As people, ideas and money came on board, we were already planning this conference before the first one was done. “The eyes of the world are focused on what is being done here [Alberta]. It allows academics to share their work every two years and really take the temperature of the moment. With major funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and participation and supper from a number of stakeholders, I know that we are going to be able to deliver something really important every two years.”
“This is an opportunity to shine the light on individuals who are doing remarkable things. Among the other events I am participating in, I am particularly excited to chair a plenary panel featuring Peter von Tiesenhausen, who successfully claimed copyright over his land as an artwork, complicating attempts by multinational oil companies to purchase his property, and Jessica Ernst, who has fought the use of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas extraction and its effects on water systems.”
Obviously, under the right conditions – it could happen – and it has happened, as the EPA tests just confirmed. The way it happened in Wyoming is fairly straightforward – the shale gas is close enough to the aquifer that when a frack goes out of zone, it can penetrate the aquifer above it, polluting it with gas and frack fluids. Propane and ethane are not “naturally occurring” in groundwater. “Several different hydrocarbon gasses, including methane, ethane, propane, and several higher molecular weight compounds, were detected in the groundwater-quality samples.” – pg 20.
This is what happened to the Fentons, a ranching family we met at a conference in Colorado. We were both speaking at the conference and we stayed at the same lodge. John Fenton and I went for a walk one day and he told me how deep his water wells were (pretty deep) – and how deep the shale was (fairly shallow). They were too close for comfort – any errant frack could ruin his water – and it did. So Encana proved the “impossible” – a frack can indeed go into a water bearing strata – either on its own or via a localized naturally occuring fault – and once that happens, there’s not a fracking thing you can do about it – except sue the frackers – which is what the Fentons did. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Source: EnCana Corporation Site Investigation Report by Hydrogeological Consultants Ltd.
File No.: 04-510, January 2005
Permalink to: Fracking Aquifers
A conversation on fracking between A New Day host Sandi Coleman and Jessica Ernst
Jessica Ernst ne peut pas nous dire ce qu’elle espère accomplir en étant conférencière sur les dangers de la fracturation hydraulique durant la présentation de samedi soir à l’église Sacred Heart Cathedral. “La fracturation tue l’espoir.” dit-elle. “Je n’ai plus d’espoir, s’il me reste quelque chose. Après ce que j’ai découvert, et ce que j’ai vu, ils ont tué tout espoir en moi.”
Mme Ernst présentera de l’information sur la méthode controversée ainsi qu’une partie de son périple de vivre dans une région fracturée. Sa visite coïncide avec la Journée mondiale contre la fracturation, et peu après la date limite pour recevoir les commentaires sur le projet de Northern Cross à Eagle Plains. La compagnie n’exclue pas la fracturation hydraulique dans sa proposition de forer 2 puits pétroliers et gaziers juste à côté de l’autoroute Dempster Highway. Cela fait des années que Mme Ernst nous prévient des dangers de la fracturation hydraulique. Bien que ses efforts lui ont valu beaucoup d’éloges (les Nations Unies lui ont accordé le prix “Femme de Courage” de 2011), cela lui a coûté presque tout ce qu’elle possède. En 1998, Mme Ernst est déménagée à Wheatland County, tout près de la communauté de Rosebud, en Alberta, pas loin de Drumheller. C’est un petit patelin de moins de 100 personnes, entouré de fermes céréalières. Plusieurs des résidents sont des enfants, souligne Mme Ernst.
Il y a une petite école d’arts et de théâtre à Rosebud. Mme Ernst a acheté une maison à cet endroit à cause de la beauté du paysage dans la région. Mais maintenant, à cause des travaux de la compagnie pétrolière EnCana, elle devra probablement vendre sa maison. Mme Ernst entame un procès contre EnCana, l’agence Energy Resources Conservation Board de l’Alberta et le gouvernement de l’Alberta. Elle prétend que la compagnie a pollué les puits potables de la région, dont le sien. Au début des années 2000, EnCana a commencé à forer pour du méthane dans les formations de charbon partout dans le coeur de l’Alberta. La compagnie a foré plus de 200 puits près de la nappe phréatique. Cela a tout été fait dans le secret, selon Ernst. Mme Ernst est une scientifique et a travaillé pour l’industrie du pétrole et du gaz comme consultante. Elle a même fait du boulot pour EnCana, souligne-t-elle.
Son robinet de bain a commencé à souffler du gaz en 2004. Elle pensait avoir un problème de plomberie. Ensuite sa peau a commencé à avoir des signes d’irritation et rougir après un bain. Elle croyait que c’était un symptôme de sa ménopause. Son comportement a changé de d’autres façons. Elle ne faisait plus aussi souvent la vaisselle. Ensuite ses chiens ont commencé à boire l’eau fraîchement puisée du puits: c’est là qu’elle a réalisé qu’il y avait un sérieux problème. Son eau est blanche laiteuse maintenant à cause de tous les produits chimiques qui sont dedans, dit-elle. Mme Ernst a commencé à faire sa propre recherche et sonner l’alarme. Des gens se sont moqués d’elle et la critiquer.
“Je pense (qu’EnCana) se servait des gens ici, ma communauté, comme des rats de laboratoire, pas seulement une expérience géologique, mais aussi comment la compagnie pouvait se servir de la nature humaine et la cupidité à leur avantage.” dit-elle. La compagnie a promis de donner $150,000 à leur compagnie de théâtre communautaire en 2004, mais elle a remis le chèque en 2010, dit-elle. Mme Ernst s’est fait dire qu’elle empêchait les gens de recevoir l’argent qui leur était due et mettait sa communauté en danger, dit-elle.
Mais elle continue de se battre.
EnCana a entravé à plusieurs lois pendant leurs travaux, avance Mme Ernst. Le cas n’est pas passé devant le juge encore. Une nouvelle déclaration de revendications a été déposée en juin. Les déclarations de la défense n’ont pas été présentées encore, et ses avocats lui ont prévenu que les délais peuvent s’étirer encore pendant des années. C’est un cheminement qui lui coûte très cher. Travailler à exposer la situation est devenu un travail à temps plein. Elle a déjà eu une compagnie, mais s’attend à déclarer faillite bientôt. Elle a déjà dépensé plus de $200,000 en frais légaux. Bien qu’elle entend souvent des gens partout dans la campagne qui sont préoccupés par la fracturation hydraulique et durant ses voyages à raconter son histoire, sa propre vie se vit en solitude. Elle a dépensé ses économies pour couvrir les frais de son cas légal et ne peut plus s’offrir des voyages pour visiter ses amis. Mais elle ne le fait pas seulement pour son puits, dit-elle. C’est pour l’eau potable de tout le monde.
“Toutes les lois et les règlements en Alberta qui sont sensées protéger l’eau potable n’ont pas été respectées, et le gouvernement et ses règlements ont aidé EnCana à garder tout çà secret et s’en sortir sans problèmes.” Elle a moins d’eau, maintenant. Elle doit conduire pendant 40 minutes pour se rendre à Rosedale pour s’en procurer, 681 litres à la fois. Quand elle a froid, l’hiver, elle ne peut pas produire assez de chaleur pour se chauffer et se donner un bain chaud en même temps. Mais elle ne baissera pas les bras. Elle est sceptique quand les gouvernements disent qu’ils vont interdire la fracturation hydraulique. “Quand il y a de sérieux dégâts causés par des tempêtes de vent, ou de la sécheresse, le gouvernement aide les personnes lésées. J’ai vu çà partout.” Mais quand vient le temps d’aider les citoyens qui ont de l’eau contaminée, l’aide ne vient pas, dit Ernst.
Mme Ernst commencera sa présentation à 19:00 heures samedi le 22 septembre 2012 dans la salle CYO dans le sous-sol de l’église Sacred Heart Cathedral à Whitehorse.
[Refer also to: Foe of fracking offers grim warning ]
At one point, says the lawsuit, excess methane gas caused by hydraulic fracturing was whistling out of her taps, creating “a serious risk of explosion.” Her water became unusable for washing and bathing, she claims. The oil and gas industry, says Ernst, maintains fracking is safe, and challenges anyone to bring forward evidence to prove otherwise. Ernst says there’s not much negative proof on the record because the industry settles its disputes outside the courtroom, and attaches gag orders as part of the settlement conditions. … “I really do not believe scientifically it can be done safely, because you are shattering the underground formation and nobody can go down there and study it, and nobody can go down there and fix it,” she says. … The Yukon, she says, is in the position to stand back before it makes the same errors Alberta and others have made by allowing hydraulic fracturing to occur.
Northern Cross Ltd. has filed a project proposal with the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board to drill two more exploration holes near Eagle Plains this winter. The company has indicated it does not intend to use hydraulic fracturing, but can’t say for sure until it begins drilling and learns more about the underground formations. It has also indicated to the assessment board that it has been assured by the Yukon government that should Northern Cross decide sometime down the road to use fracking, a separate environmental assessment would not be required. Three First Nations have indicated in their submissions to the assessment board that if there’s even a remote chance Northern Cross will use hydraulic fracturing, the company should have to demonstrate it can be done with no negative impacts to the environment. Northern Cross received permits in 2007 and 2008 for its first four exploration wells, though work did not start until this summer. It began drilling its first hole in August. A Chinese company purchased the controlling interest in Northern Cross last year for $20 million.
The lawsuit filed in Alberta’s highest court reads: “Prior to the arrival of CBM (coal bed methane) development in the Rosebud area, Ms. Ernst’s water well … produced large quantities of very clear, high-quality water.” Well water tests on record prior to the arrival of drilling in the area, tests conducted as part of routine monitoring or for real estate purposes, showed the water was free of contaminants, the suit says. It points out EnCana began drilling in the area back in 2001. By the end of 2005, Ernst was forced to abandon her well, according to the lawsuit. “Tap water resting in a bowl or cup would catch fire if an open flame was brought close to the water,” reads the lawsuit. “If water was placed in a plastic pop bottle and capped for a minute or less, the gas coming off the water would explode in a flame a foot high if a lit match or lighter was placed near the mouth of the bottle.” “… Ms. Ernst experienced eye irritations from merely being in the house,” says the lawsuit.
Ernst says her lawyers have told her to be prepared for a long haul, as there will surely be attempts to drag out the matter for as long as possible. … “I am putting all my time into the case,” she says. “I am working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and I have been for the last six years. “I am using up all my savings on the case, and I actually recognize I have given up the rest of my life for this.” Ernst points out as she continues her fight, the practice of hydraulic fracturing and its impact is drawing more and more attention from governments in Canada, United States and around the world. Ottawa announced last year it would be appointing a task force to examine hydraulic fracturing to determine if it was harming the environment, though the work has not yet begun in earnest. The suggestion by industry that hydraulic fracturing has been in common use for 50 years, as Northern Cross points out in its application, is a red herring, she argues. Never, Ernst says, has hydraulic fracturing been used with such “brute force to blast open” formations as it has been in the last decade. [Emphasis added]
[French Translation: Gaz de schiste – la mission de Jessica, “J’ai laissé tombé tout le reste de ma vie pour ceci.” ]
Part 1 only of 3: Hydraulic Fracturing Presentation by Jessica Ernst at Yukon College, Whitehorse 20:05 Min. video by eco researcher, January 2, 2012
Jessica Ernst at Whitehorse, Yukon, September 22, 2012, Global Frac Down
Cenovus Energy Inc. is taking its fight for environmental credibility to a new battleground: its kitchens inside The Bow. All 78 of them. The oil sands company talks about its space – floors three through 28 – in language similar to what it uses when talking about bitumen and water ratios. It has three kitchens on each floor, and with their open-air design, stainless-steel appliances, soft seating, white countertops and pale wooden cupboards, they look more like hipster coffee shops than corporate lunch rooms. They have “enhanced recycling” systems, in the words of Denise Froese, Cenovus’s director of administrative services – pull-out bins with tags indicating which waste goes where. Even the plates – normal white plates – in the cupboards are touted because they discourage disposable versions. “Again, it is part of our commitment to a sustainable environment,” she said. The Bow, a glass, curved structure with 58 storeys, is more than just a big office tower – the tallest west of Toronto, in fact. … Construction workers are outside assembling an artwork by Barcelona’s Jaume Plensa. “Dude, we’re getting a Plensa,” Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said at an announcement last month. The employee offices reflect “best practices in ergonomics,” Ms. Froese said on a media tour of Cenovus’s share of the building, and even inner board rooms and cubicle clusters give employees the “right to light.” … The first employees to swipe their key cards in The Bow, Calgary’s much-hyped shiny office tower, arrived Monday, unpacking family pictures and playing with their white desks – adjustable, programmable desks that move up and down with the touch of a button. While Encana Corp. will dominate the building, Cenovus’s employees beat them to the elevators. One hundred and sixty-five Cenovus employees are now in The Bow, with about 2,000 more to come. “We like to describe ourselves as being very fresh and progressive and the building reflects our commitment to sustainability and a healthy organization and supports our culture of collaboration and innovation,” Ms. Froese said. … The Bow, controlled by H&R REIT, has been talked about since at least 2004, when Encana began to consider consolidating its office space. Encana owned the project when Gwyn Morgan ran the company, but current CEO Randy Eresman sold it, just as he spun out Cenovus. A second tower was put on ice….
Permalink to: Calgary’s towering environmental statement
Ms. McLachlin said the issue is especially relevant to civil courts, where there are not enough judges, lawyers are expensive – “I am not criticizing that, but it’s a fact” – and there are delays. The issue, she noted, is under review by the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, which includes the Canadian Bar Association, Justice Canada, and the Canadian Judicial Council. … She said funding is part of the issue. “Courts have to be adequately staffed. You have to have court clerks; you have to have registrars; you have to have people to run the courtrooms. “Everybody knows that and that costs some money, but you’re providing a public service. Whether it’s more or less (money), those are matters I can’t get into. I simply say courts have to be staffed. There are many other things that have to be done properly. It’s a complex picture.” … McMcLachlin, 69 and chief justice since 2000, said she has no plans to retire. [Emphasis added]
Several cases of suspected groundwater contamination due to faulty well casings from fracking operations have been documented, and one landmark case concerning fracking for shallow coal bed methane, Ernst v. Encana, is currently making its way through the courts in Alberta.
This paper will focus on the legal provisions governing groundwater pollution due to fracking for shale gas. More specifically, it will examine the legal liability regimes that regulate the compensation of individuals and the public in the event of groundwater pollution due to fracking activities in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta. It will conclude with several recommendations for strengthening the regulatory regime to enhance frackers’ incentives to take care and to ensure that those who are adversely affected by fracking can be “made whole.”
Because the use of fracking in the extraction of shale gas in Canada is still very limited, there has been little opportunity to test the laws governing it. The lack of precedent makes it unclear whether the current legal liability regime is sufficient to ensure the sustainability of the fracking industry and the safety of the groundwater it potentially endangers.
There are several flaws with the current regulatory scheme. The Crown can choose whether to prosecute a polluting company or give it a free pass, with little recourse for concerned citizens. As long as a company takes “all reasonable precautions,” groundwater pollution could go unpunished (except, in some circumstances, in Ontario), and adversely affected individuals uncompensated. Individuals can sue under the common law, but only for damage to their own property. Additionally, there do not appear to be specific provisions to ensure that fracking operators are financially able to pay any fines or damages awarded against them.
On the other hand, those fracking for shale gas are subject to greater liability than are some other players in the energy industry. The current scheme leaves frackers open to potentially unlimited liability. The high daily fines, especially in Ontario and British Columbia, could lead to possible bankruptcy if the maximum fine is awarded for a longterm leak of fracking fluids or gas into groundwater. Additionally, there is no prohibition on common-law actions nor is there a cap on damages, leading to the potential for enormous penalties.
As governments around the world conduct environmental reviews of this burgeoning industry, it would be wise to further consider the implications of the current regulatory scheme and design a system of legal liability that ensures that 1) fracking operators have every incentive to take care and 2) adversely affected individuals can be “made whole.”
Incorporating the following recommendations would be a strong starting point:
• Eliminate the due diligence defence. At a minimum, limit the defence by creating a two tier regulatory scheme that imposes some level of absolute liability for administrative penalties and strict liability for criminal prosecutions.
• Ensure that administrative penalties are set at a level that accurately reflects potential damage.
• Require fracking operators to hold sufficient insurance to be capable of cleaning up groundwater pollution and paying substantial fines or damages.114
• Explicitly permit citizens to prosecute fracking operators for statutory violations where the Crown is unwilling to do so.
• Provide the court with explicit authority to impose additional penalties over and above the maximum in the case of negligence.
• Require companies to include a tracer in their fracking fluids so any potential groundwater contamination can be easily linked to a specific fracking operation.
• Ensure that individuals directing fracking operations are held personally liable for statutory and/or common-law violations.
An Adjudicator has ruled that Alberta Health must make records for water well information available to an Applicant
Summary: Under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the “Act”), the Applicant asked Alberta Health (the “Public Body”) for water well information from 1986 to the present, which consisted of water chemistry and microbiological data. The Public Body withheld the requested information under section 17(1) of the Act, on the basis that its disclosure would be an unreasonable invasion of the personal privacy of third parties. While not actually applying section 16(1), the Public Body also raised the possibility that the requested information fell within the exception to disclosure set out in that section, on the basis that disclosure of the information might harm the business interests of third parties. The Applicant requested legal land descriptions associated with the wells from which water had been tested, but excluded the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the well owners, tenants or other individuals who had submitted the water samples. The Adjudicator found that the legal land descriptions, in conjunction with the water analyses contained in the records at issue, generally did not constitute anyone’s personal information, as that term is defined in section 1(n) of the Act. Rather, the information requested by the Applicant was about land, property, wells and/or water. Section 17(1)
therefore could not apply.
However, the Adjudicator found that the records at issue consisted of a small amount of personal information, namely in instances where the legal land description contained in the records, in conjunction with the history of occupants of the land available from other sources, would identify a particular individual who had submitted well water for testing. However, he found that section 17(1) of the Act did not apply to this personal information, as disclosure of the information would not be an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy. The Adjudicator also found that the records at issue would reveal personal information in instances where the water quality data indicated that groundwater was polluted or contaminated, and the source of the pollution or contamination could, by virtue of other available information, be traced to an identifiable individual. However, on consideration of the relevant circumstances, the Adjudicator found that section 17(1) of the Act did not apply to this personal information. Its disclosure was likely to promote public health and safety and the protection of the environment, within the terms of section 17(5)(b), which outweighed the possibility that the individuals in question had supplied personal information in confidence under section 17(5)(f). The Adjudicator further noted that an individual responsible for pollution or contamination would not be exposed “unfairly” to harm within the terms of section 17(5)(e), or have his or her reputation “unfairly” damaged, within the terms of section 17(5)(h). The relevant circumstances set out in those two sections were therefore not engaged so as to weigh against disclosure.
The Adjudicator found that section 16(1) of the Act did not apply to the records at issue, as disclosure would not be harmful to the business interests of any third parties. While suggested in the course of the inquiry, the water quality data requested by the Applicant was neither the “scientific and technical information” nor the “commercial information” of any businesses occupying the land from which the water was extracted. Further, even if the analyses of the water constituted information falling within the terms of section 16(1)(a), and even if the information could be characterized as being supplied in confidence under section 16(1)(b), the Adjudicator found that disclosure of the information could not reasonably be expected to bring about any of the consequences set out in section 16(1)(c). The Applicant argued that disclosure of groundwater data was clearly in the public interest under section 32(1)(b) of the Act. The Adjudicator found that the threshold for triggering that section had not been reached. While research into groundwater was an important objective, the circumstances were not so compelling as to require disclosure to the public.
As neither section 16(1) nor section 17(1) applied to the records at issue, the Adjudicator ordered the Public Body to give the Applicant access to copies of the responsive information in its possession, being copies of any and all Certificates of Chemical Analysis, Microbiological Reports and Chemical Content Summaries (but not including any names, addresses and telephone numbers). The Adjudicator’s order was conditional on the Applicant paying any required fees, or else being excused from paying fees, which was yet to be determined. Also yet to be determined was whether the Applicant was entitled to the creation of a record from the Public Body in a particular format under section 10(2).
Statutes Cited: AB: Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. F-25, ss. 1(n), 1(n)(i), 4(1)(l)(v), 6(3), 9(1), 9(2)(a), 10(2), 15, 16, 16(1), 16(1)(a), 16(1)(a)(ii), 16(1)(b), 16(1)(c), 16(1)(c)(i), 16(1)(c)(ii), 16(1)(c)(iii), 17, 17(1), 17(2), 17(2)(a), 17(2)(g)(ii), 17(4), 17(4)(a), 17(5), 17(5)(a), 17(5)(b), 17(5)(e), 17(5)(f), 17(5)(g), 17(f)(h), 18(1)(b), 30, 32, 32(1), 32(1)(a), 32(1)(b), 40(1)(bb), 67(1)(a)(ii), 71(1), 71(2), 72, 72(2)(a), 72(4), 93(1), 93(4) and 93(4)(b); Personal Information Protection Act, S.A. 2003, c. P-6.5, s. (1)(i)(k); Water Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. W-3, s. 3.
Authorities Cited: AB: Orders 96-003, 96-011, 96-013, 96-021, 97-011, 98-014, 98-018, 2000-017, F2002-002, F2004-013, F2004-024, F2004-028, F2005-011, F2006-010, F2006-014, F2006-030, F2007-019, F2008-018, F2008-020, F2008-025, F2008-031, F2009-023, F2009-028, F2010-001, F2010-009, F2010-013 and F2012-06; Qualicare Health Service Corporation v. Alberta (Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2006 ABQB 515; Leon’s Furniture Ltd. v. Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2011 ABCA 94, leave to appeal refused  S.C.C.A. No. 260 (QL); Edmonton (City) v. Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2011 ABQB 226. ON: Orders PO-2322 (2004), MO-2053 (2006), MO-2199 (2007) and PO-2900 (2010). CAN: Gordon v. Canada (Minister of Health), 2008 FC 258. Other Sources Cited: Alberta Energy and Utilities Board and Alberta Environment, Development of a Memorandum of Understanding between Alberta Environment and Alberta Energy and Utilities Board to Enhance Collaboration for the Protection and Management of Ground Water (December 20, 2007); Alberta Environment, Alberta Tier 1 Soil and Ground Remediation Guidelines (Edmonton, December 2010); Government of Alberta, Alberta Environment’s Drinking Water Program: A ‘Source to Tap, Multi-Barrier’ Approach (Edmonton, May 2009); Government of Alberta, Water for Life: Alberta’s Strategy for Sustainability (Edmonton, 2003); “Multi-million Dollar Landmark North American Lawsuit on Hydraulic Fracturing and Its Impact on Groundwater” (online: retrieved October 12, 2011); “Province to scale back water monitoring”, Calgary Sun (online: March 14, 2010); Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy, Report of the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy to the Ministry of Environment, Province of Alberta (Berkeley, February 2007); “Tell Us What’s Being Done to Our Ground Water, Demand Albertans”, The Tyee, B.C.’s Home for News, Culture and Solutions (online: October 17, 2011). [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to: Edmonton man wins dispute for water info
LISTEN: New report says Alberta’s FOIP laws worst in country
Woman wins hard fought battle for information
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner Orders Alberta Innovates to release baseline testing and water contamination investigation information, including draft reports
Alberta among worst in responding to queries
Energy and Utilities Board found in contravention of FOIP New FOIP documents confirm the EUB hired Private Investigators in past EUB proceedings
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner Investigation Report into AEUB hiring Private Investigators
Full Criminal Investigation of the EUB requested ]
Encana Corp. could face increased opposition from land owners following reports the Calgary energy company plotted with Chesapeake Energy to keep land prices at a Michigan gas play low. Allegations Encana Corp. conspired with a rival U.S. natural gas producer to keep land prices low in a promising Michigan shale gas play could have damaging repercussions on the Calgary-based energy company, say analysts. The Canadian natural gas giant said Monday it launched an investigation after a media report indicated its U.S. operations colluded with Chesapeake Energy Corp. in agreeing not to “bid up” land in the Collingwood, Michigan region. “In accordance with Encana’s policies, an investigation of this matter was immediately initiated,” says Encana chair David O’Brien, Monday afternoon in a release. “Encana therefore will not provide any further information at this time.” The incidents revealed in e-mails exchanged by employees of the two companies indicate the rivals repeatedly discussed how to avoid bidding against each other in a public land auction in Michigan two years ago and in at least nine prospective deals with private land owners here, according to Reuters. Encana and Chesapeake, the second larges natural gas producer in the United States, face stiff anti-competition fines should the e-mails prove to be evidence of collusion, but already must deal with a blow to their reputation which could affect access to land, said observers. “Whether it’s true or not this is only going to hurt Encana’s reputation, and it’s going to hurt with its key stakeholders,” said Loren Falkenberg, professor of business ethics at the University of Calgary. “You’ve already got angry landowners … this isn’t going to help (Encana), it’s going to really hurt them.” Encana has been embroiled in allegation natural gas operations in a tiny community in Wyoming led to contamination of groundwater, and must contend with growing opposition to fracturing as one of the largest producers of the resource in North America. … “This creates another level of uncertainty for investors,” said Phillip Skolnick, with Canaccord Genuity, from New York. “The thing is we are in a risk-off market, the last thing you want to be exposed to is any legal uncertainty. That’s why it did underperform.” … In one e-mail, dated June 16, 2010, chief executive Aubrey McClendon told a Chesapeake deputy that it was time “to smoke a peace pipe” with Encana “if we are bidding each other up.” The Chesapeake vice-president responded that he had contacted Encana “to discuss how they want to handle the entities we are both working to avoid us bidding each other up in the interim.” McClendon replied: “Thanks.” That exchange — and at least a dozen other e-mails reviewed by Reuters — could provide evidence that the two companies violated federal and state laws by seeking to keep land prices down, antitrust lawyers said. “The famous phrase is a ‘smoking gun.’ That’s a smoking H-bomb,” said Harry First, a former antitrust lawyer for the Department of Justice. “When the talk is explicitly about getting together to avoid bidding each other up, it’s a red flag for collusion, bid-rigging, market allocation.” … Encana said last week it would spend an additional $600 million this year to produce natural gas liquids, which more closely track oil prices than dry natural gas prices. Encana shares closed down nearly eight per cent on Thursday when it made that announcement.
‘BID ROTATION’ Attempts at price-fixing by rival corporations are typically difficult to prove in court. That’s because competitors rarely commit collusive agreements to writing. Top Chesapeake and Encana executives, however, spelled out their ideas in great detail, the emails show, from the beginning of June 2010 through that October. “This looks like a great start,” Encana’s Schopp replied June 7 to Chesapeake’s Jacobson’s proposal to divide bidding responsibilities. “A few suggestions that would maximize our effectiveness.” Among his recommendations was that the companies split owners into two groups; Chesapeake would handle negotiations with one and Encana with the other. That way, the two wouldn’t bid against one another. Also copied on the June 7 email from Schopp: Encana CEO Randy Eresman. About one week later, June 15 at 6:51 a.m., McClendon himself weighed in. He copied Encana’s U.S. president Wojahn and Eresman. Referring to one company that owned mineral leases on more than 30,000 Michigan acres, McClendon wrote that it “looks like Northstar wants us to bid against each other next week, let’s discuss who should handle that one – thanks.” NorthStar is an energy company based in Traverse City, Mich. The company declined to comment. Another note about NorthStar appeared in a June 16 Chesapeake summary of Michigan land deals. It said that McClendon “does not want to complete (sic) with Encana on this deal if CHK is interested.” “We call that bid rotation,” a violation of antitrust law in which participants in a transaction select who will be the winner in advance of bidding, said Herbert Hovenkamp, a law professor and antitrust expert at the University of Iowa. Later on June 16, Jacobson asked Schopp how soon he thought Encana could craft a formal deal to work together. … DIVIDING MICHIGAN Perhaps the most sophisticated plan the two companies forged was developing a bidding strategy for the auction of state land in Michigan on October 26, 2010. Bidding at the state’s May 2010 auction had been vigorous and contested. That helped the state raise a record $178 million from the sale of more than 118,000 acres, according to a review of state auction data by Reuters. At that auction, 83 percent of the more than 1,200 winning bids had competitive offers. Five months later, at the October auction, the bidding and the results proved remarkably different and far less lucrative. It raised just $9.7 million from the leasing of about 274,000 acres – more than twice the acreage sold in May but almost $170 million less in revenue. The average winning bid in October was $46, the Reuters analysis shows. In May, it had been $1,413. Most of the winning bids in October were for the minimum price set by the state: $13 per acre. One possible reason for the dreary auction results in October is that prices for natural gas had fallen significantly, about 20 percent. Another possible reason, according to documents reviewed by Reuters: Two of the largest buyers in October – Chesapeake and Encana – had been discussing how to avoid bidding against the other. On October 14 – a dozen days before the state auction – Kurt S. Froistad, a land executive with Encana, emailed Gary Dunlap, Chesapeake’s vice president of land. The subject line: “Michigan State Lease Sale.” … CHIEFS IN THE LOOP … On October 20, Wojahn sent McClendon an update: “From what I understand (Encana’s) John Schopp has been leading the charge on working with your team on arranging a bidding strategy. I have a meeting with John planned on Friday and a review with Randy Monday.” Randy is Randy Eresman, Encana’s CEO.
Related to Jessica’s case, the NFU passed a resolution at the 2011 convention calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. In the NFU news release of February 2012, the call for a moratorium was made, as well as the conditions that would have to be met before it could be lifted. All voluntary recommendations issued by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) need to become mandatory, which means, aquifer protection is guaranteed by better casing construction, volumes and essence of fluids, and the use of all chemicals are disclosed and recorded. In addition, the NFU demands that instead of industry’s self-policing a truly independent regulator also enforce regulation and fines in case of non compliance, and that a third party regulator needs to be present on sites during all drilling and fracturing processes. Typically, when there is a case of contamination or disruption of neighbouring water wells, the common practice of energy companies ERCB and/or Alberta Environment is to address it somewhat and to have land owners sign a confidentiality agreement. That practice must be made illegal as it camouflages the extent of the environmental damage and it forms an affront to the public interest.
Permalink to: An extraordinarily brave woman coming to convention
Bureaucrats planned an elaborate party to celebrate the birthday of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but the Conservative government refused to RSVP, newly released documents suggest. Instead, the idea of a ceremony to commemorate the charter’s 30th anniversary in April was overruled by Heritage Minister James Moore in favour of a terse press release. … The celebration envisaged by bureaucrats was billed as an opportunity to “underline the importance of the Constitution Act on Canada’s system of government, laws, and civil rights, including fundamental rights and freedoms of all Canadians.” The plan called for a televised event on Parliament Hill featuring the Governor-General, cabinet ministers and Canada’s chief librarian. One of two versions of the Proclamation Act of 1982 was also going to be on display. But when the proposal reached Mr. Moore’s office, it was rejected. … Instead, a short press release was issued marking the date and calling the charter “an important step in the development of Canada’s human rights policy.” At the time, the Tories were criticized for all but ignoring such a pivotal – and recent – event in Canadian history, while at the same time choosing to play up events from generations ago, like the War of 1812, which marks its bicentennial this year.
Permalink to: Tories nixed proposed Charter birthday party
The federal government has set up a counter-terrorism unit in Alberta and one of its main jobs will be to help protect the energy industry from attacks by extremists. The integrated national security enforcement team will be led by the RCMP and include officers from CSIS, the Edmonton and Calgary police forces and federal border patrol. Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud said the key to effectively guarding the labyrinth of oil and natural gas wells, pipelines and refineries in Alberta will be to gather intelligence to prevent attacks before they happen. … “We are basically looking at any individuals or groups that pose a threat to critical infrastructure, to our economy, to our safety that is based on either religious, political or ideological goals.” … Michaud said the terrorist threat in Canada could come more from people inside the country than outside the border. … Michaud said the Alberta unit hasn’t been formed to snoop on people…. “There has to be violence attached to their activities in order for us to pay attention to them,” he said. “…it is important that intelligence is collected against the activities of groups before they become violent.”
The federal government has set up a counter-terrorism unit in Alberta and one of its main jobs will be to help protect the energy industry from attacks by extremists. The integrated national security enforcement team will be led by the RCMP and include officers from CSIS, the Edmonton and Calgary police forces and federal border patrol. Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud said the key to effectively guarding the labyrinth of oil and natural gas wells, pipelines and refineries in Alberta will be to gather intelligence to prevent attacks before they happen. “When we look at the booming economy of the province of Alberta over the years, one would be led to believe that there is an increased threat to the infrastructure,” Michaud said Wednesday. “We are basically looking at any individuals or groups that pose a threat to critical infrastructure, to our economy, to our safety that is based on either religious, political or ideological goals.”
There are about 400,000 kilometres of provincially regulated energy pipelines criss-crossing Alberta. That does not include federally regulated or smaller distribution pipelines. The Energy Resources Conservation Board estimates there are 176,000 operating oil and natural gas wells dotting Alberta’s landscape. There are also eight oilsands mines, five upgraders and more than 250 in situ oilsands facilities.
The industry says energy infrastructure is critical to Canada’s security. … Alberta has been working for years with the RCMP and the energy industry to better protect critical infrastructure from threats and began developing its own counter-terrorism management plan in 2002. … The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers welcomed Wednesday’s announcement. “Obviously it is important to protect the vital pieces of infrastructure that we have in the province,” association spokesman Travis Davies said from Calgary. “Whether it is oil and gas, wells, pipes, rail, electricity facilities — these are all critical to Canadian security.”
You know the David and Goliath story – In the version you will hear on today’s show, David is a 54 year old Canadian scientist by the name of Jessica Ernst .
Permalink to: LISTEN: The Capitol Pressroom
Vermont has become the first state to order a ban on hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking. When Vermont governor Peter Shumlin signed the state-wide prohibition into law on May 16, he said: “This bill will ensure we do not inject chemicals into groundwater in a desperate pursuit for energy. It is a big moment. I hope other states will follow us. The science on fracking is uncertain at best. Let the other states be the guinea pigs. Let the Green Mountain State preserve its clean water, its lakes, its rivers and its quality of life.” … “Industry claims that there are no known cases of water contamination, but it is because the government has failed to do testing of water sources before and after the fracking process,” says Lui. “A clear problem with Alberta’s regulations is that oil and gas wells are exempted from an individual environmental assessment process,” she says. “Jessica Ernst, a landowner in Rosebud, Alberta, claims that fracking has contaminated her well water, and provincial regulators have failed to investigate and enforce their processes.”
A Canadian scientist was in Owego last night speaking about the potential dangers of hydrofracking.
Permalink to: WATCH: Scientist Fracking Concerns
Truth and Consequences of Fracking 74 min. by ShaleShockMedia
Ms. Ernst tells her story of living frac’d and presents both industry and regulatory research showing the impact of industry-caused gas migration into ground water. She is introduced by Dr. Anthony R. Ingraffea, the Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, School of Civil Engineering at Cornell University. D. Ingraffea is Director of Cornell Fracture Group, Acting Director of the Cornell Theory Center, and Principal/Co-principal investigator of over M in sponsored RD at Cornell. He specializes in fracture mechanics.
Questions and Answers after Truth and Consequences of Fracking 45 min. by ShaleShockMedia
Dr. Anthony R. Ingraffea, the Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, School of Civil Engineering at Cornell University joins Jessica Ernst for the Q and A session
Jessica Ernst at Traverse City, Michigan by newculture, June 5, 2012
The province’s top court has dismissed the University of Calgary’s appeal for autonomy in disciplining students for non-academic conduct. Alberta Court of Appeal, in its written decision released on Wednesday, concluded the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should apply in such situations. It upheld a judicial review by a Court of Queen’s Bench ruling that found the school infringed upon the freedom of expression of twin brothers Keith and Steven Pridgen, 22, when it sanctioned them for criticizing their professor on Facebook. “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to the disciplinary proceedings undertaken by the university,” Justice Marina Paperny wrote in the unanimous decision. “The decision of the Review Committee failed to take into account the Pridgens’ right to freedom of expression under the Charter. The decision breached the Pridgens’ freedom of expression and cannot be saved by the Charter. Moreover, the Review Committees’ decision was unreasonable from an administrative law perspective. The decision of the chambers judge to quash the Review Committee’s decision is upheld and the appeal of the university is dismissed.” Justices Bruce McDonald and Brian O’Ferrall agreed. … “Given the prolonged and protracted history of this unfortunate matter, I decline to exercise our jurisdiction to refer these matters back to the Board, which after all had wrongly declined to hear the respondents’ (Pridgens’) appeals in the initial instance,”
She is visiting New York to help residents understand the dire consequences of fracking from the “ruthlessly cruel” industry before it begins in the state.
Ernst, an environmental consultant to the oil and gas industry, will present “The Truth and Consequences of Fracking” on four nights, May 21-24, in Elmira, Owego, Ithaca and LaFayette. All of the following events start at 7 p.m.:
» May 21, Elmira Heights Theater, 210 E. 14 St., Elmira Heights, sponsored by People for a Healthy Environment Inc.
» May 22, Hubbard Auditorium, Tioga County Office Building, 76 Main St., Owego, sponsored by Residents Against Fracking Tioga, and Coalition to Protect New York.
» May 23, First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, 306 N. Aurora St., Ithaca, sponsored by Shaleshock, Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition, and the Social Justice Committee of First Unitarian Society.
» May 24, LaFayette High School, 3122 Route 11 N., LaFayette, sponsored by Gas Drilling Awareness of Cortland County, ShaleshockCNY, Syracuse Peace Council, and Skaneateles Citizens Hydrofracking Committee.
Alberta’s freedom of information laws rank last in the country when it comes to transparency.
A Canadian scientist fighting a gas company over contaminated well water in her home province is touring the Southern Tier and central New York with a message against the large-scale hydraulic fracturing technique proposed for the state. … “We are fortunate that Jessica Ernst is taking the time from her difficult and painful situation to share her cautionary story with us,” said Maura Stephens, a member of two of the sponsoring grassroots groups. “Even as a person who works in the industry, she had her water poisoned. And she’s been treated abominably by the corporation that poisoned it and the regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect people from such assault.”
Permalink to: Canadian activist touring N.Y. against fracking
But my experience has shown that by concentrating all legislative, executive and judiciary authority in one regulatory agency just makes it easier for it to be corrupted by the industries it regulates. I worked for the US Environmental Protection agency for 30 years and lived through many cycles of “Regulatory Reform,” doing the same “reforms” over and over again and expecting different results. … The theme of this article is that by dispersing regulatory authority, rather than concentrating it, we would make corruption more difficult and facilitate more sensible regulation.
Why can’t you fill regulatory agencies with honest people who won’t cave in to special interests? … The life, the existence, the future of the regulated industry depends on the pressure it can exert on the regulatory agency. … The regulated community constantly deals with regulatory agencies through congressional committees, the courts, and meetings with top government officials. … Industry also constantly interacts with individual agency employees at every level, working directly with the field inspectors and permit writers responsible for making regulatory decisions. For example, the inspector general of the Minerals Management Service concluded that officials in the agency had frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives (1) … People who cooperate with industry also find that its lobbyists will work for their advancement with upper management. Those who don’t cooperate find the lobbyists lobbying for their heads.
This process of regulatory agencies being gradually taken over by the regulated parties has been the subject of academic study for many years and has earned economist George Stigler a ‘Nobel’ prize. The upshot of this research is that regulatory agencies captured by the industries they regulate are worse than no regulation at all since capture gives industry the power of government.
Why are regulations so ineffectual? The short answer is that regulators are pulled many different ways simultaneously. When I was writing regulations, I was told on more than one occasion to make sure I put in enough loopholes. The purpose of the complexity is to hide the loopholes.
The reason salaried government regulators can be corrupted is that writing and enforcing effective regulations is not their number one priority. Their main objective is keeping their job and advancing their careers. The reason regulated industries ceaselessly exert pressure to corrupt government officials is that they believe managing their regulators is their only way to survive. …
In their infinite wisdom, the Founding Fathers chose to separate the legislative, executive and judicial functions of government. For some reason, this example was not followed when regulatory agencies were established. …
How do we get out of this? Legally: not very difficult. Politically: very difficult. [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: Designed to Fail: Why Regulatory Agencies Don’t Work
New Zealand, I’m begging you to ignore what my province is telling you about fracking. A woman in Alberta, a long time oilfield employee trying to live in a rural area, has a water well that went to sweet to undrinkable (and flammable) on either side of the date when gas wells in her area were fracked. Despite her having mountains of evidence to support her claim, industry insists she has proven nothing. Our government accepts this. If criminal courts ran this way, convictions would be a thing of the past. [Emphasis added]
Permalink to: Fracking down Under
Permalink to: Landmark Fracking Lawsuit starts with Twist in Alberta
A landmark lawsuit against an energy giant and two Alberta government regulatory agencies concerning water well contamination by hydraulic fracturing started with an unusual twist in Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench yesterday. Judge B. L. Veldhuis began the proceedings in a Drumheller courtroom attended by 20 landowners from across the province by admitting that she was going to do something unexpected: she then asked for a shorterstatement of claim. … Neither EnCana nor the Alberta regulators have fielded statements of defence on shallow fracking incidents that took place eight years ago during a frenzied coal-bed methane drilling boom in central Alberta. Instead, lawyers for both EnCana and the ERCB came prepared to argue a variety of motions to dismiss the entire case or strike out entire paragraphs from Ernst’s highly readable 73-page statement of claim as “inflammatory” and “embarrassing.” In particular, the ERCB, whose mission is to develop oil and gas “in a manner that is fair, responsible and in the public interest,” was prepared to argue that it has “no duty of care” to a landowner with contaminated water. Toronto lawyer Murray Klippenstein, who represents Ernst, agreed with the judge’s request and says he will submit a shorter claim within a month. (Klippenstein, a no-nonsense litigator on critical justice issues, successfully represented the family of slain First Nation activist Dudley George against the Ontario government of Mike Harris.) “We know that EnCana and the Board and the government did not like the detailed description of Jessica’s case and were trying very hard to have parts removed,” explained Klippenstein outside the courtroom. “The judge wanted a more concise description and that can be easily provided.” … Ernst’s case recently received a major boost from Alberta’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. For four years Alberta Innovates (formerly Alberta Research Council) refused to answer Ernst’s repeated requests for the results of environmental testing on dozens of water wells near her home. Adjudicator Teresa Cunningham ruled that the withholding of such public information was illegal. It not only ordered the government to release thousands of documents but also reimburse Ernst more than $4,000 for information searches it did not conduct in good faith. The commissioner also ruled that the Alberta agency “had not established that it had conducted an adequate search for responsive records that might be in its control, but not its immediate possession.” Alberta has one of the worst records of public transparency in Canada, according to the Centre for Law and Democracy. [Emphasis added]