Ridout Barron


Justice hears arguments in fracking case

Both sides presented arguments in an Alberta courtroom over a highly publicized fracking and contamination of groundwater case in mid-April. The $33 million lawsuit stems from a property owner who is claiming that a shale gas driller, the Energy Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Environment contaminated her well water. She further alleges that the government did not properly investigate the matter. The property owner charges that Encana, the driller, acted negligently and that the ERCB violated her freedoms. She further claimed bad faith on the part of the Alberta Environment.

International companies are also watching the case with interest. The lawyer for the government insisted that the civil litigation could lead to additional lawsuits that eventually costs upwards of millions of dollars. The Alberta government wanted to vacate the claim because an earlier ruling determined they were immune from civil action.

The government insisted that the Crown was not responsible to offer private care to landowners. However, the justice did not feel that the government's argument was valid. He further questioned the strength of the immunity claims in defence of the government. He also wondered about a government report that claimed the property owner's case did not have merit. Her lawyer stated that the case is about the recklessness of the government that led to the contamination of her water and listed numerous infractions they reportedly committed, including failure to take samples correctly and failure to confirm chemicals normally used during fracking.

Should this landmark case continue forward and yield a positive outcome for the landowner, it could lead to significant reforms in how governmental entities are held accountable for their actions by the court. It would give hope to property owners whose rights have similarly been infringed upon and offer an incentive to bring their cases before the court as well.

Source: The Tyee, "Alberta Moves to Strike Down Anti-Fracker Ernst's Lawsuit", Andrew Nikiforuk, April 17, 2014

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