Dianne Saxe: Fracking, drinking water and regulation

May 2, 2011 via envirolaw

Jessica Ernst has launched a multi million dollar lawsuit against Encana Corporation, the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board, and the Alberta government for contamination of her property and drinking water due to Encana’s fracking program.

Encana fractures rock to extract coal bed methane, much as fracking is used to extract natural gas from shale. (In March, after a public hearing, Quebec put a moratorium on shale gas exploration pending a full environmental assessment of the potential damage from fracking.) According to the Statement of Claim, many Albertans depend on drinking water from coal bed aquifers, but Ms. Ernst’s water is now so contaminated that it can be lit on fire.

She is also suing Alberta’s oil and gas regulator, alleging that it not only tolerated illegal behaviour by Encana and failed to protect her, but actively attempted to silence her complaints, and that Alberta Environment showed bad faith in “investigating” those complaints.

The lawsuit, together with the Quebec moratorium, signals the likelihood of stronger environmental regulations of fracking in the pursuit of shale gas or coalbed methane.

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