ERNST: EnCana - fracking lawsuit! Lawyers abandon case!

ERNST: EnCana - fracking lawsuit! Lawyers abandon case!

Postby Oscar » Thu Apr 28, 2011 5:31 pm

----- Original Message -----
From: Elaine Hughes
To: SK Premier Wall ; Sask Environmental Society ; Sask EcoNetwork ; Council of Canadians
Cc: SK Liberal - Leader - Ryan Bater ; SK Green - Leader - Larissa Shasko ; SK NDP Caucus ; SK Party Caucus ; Sierra Club Prairie ; Sierra Club - US ; Sierra Club - Can. ; SDWF ; Sask. Wildlife Fed. ; Safe And Green Energy ; Pollution Probe ; Pembina Institute ; Nature Canada ; Lake Ontario Waterkeeper ; Mosset, Kandi ; Gearon, Jihan ; Cobenais, Marty ; Goldtooth, Tom ; Greenpeace ; Friends of the Earth ; Food For All Coalition ; Environmental Defence ; Ecologist ; Ecojustice ; Dr. David Schindler ; Dr. David B. Brooks ; David Suzuki Foundation ; Breitkreuz, G. MP
Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2011 5:25 PM
Subject: Nikiforuk: Scientist Jessica Ernst hits gas giant EnCana, regulators with fracking lawsuit.

= = = = =

Saskatchewan government can't sell farm land and grassland prairie fast enough.

We can expect similar problems in our Back 40 any day now.....!

Elaine Hughes
Archerwill, SK

= = = = = = =

Albertan, Tired of Her Tap Water Catching Fire, Sues
Scientist Jessica Ernst hits gas giant EnCana, regulators with fracking lawsuit.

by Andrew Nikiforuk, Today,

[ Ernst claims flame is produced by mixture of water and gas from groundwater source ruined by fracking. Photo: Colin Smith.]

Vaclav Smil, one of Canada's smartest energy experts, calls "unrestrained energy use in affluent societies" a dangerous habit.

Just imagine a 50 kilogram Filipino nanny driving a 5,000 kilogram SUV through the traffic clogged streets of Calgary to purchase a litre of candy for her obese white charges and, well, you've got asnapshot of civilization's bankrupt energy aspirations.

Along with this sort of libertarian spending comes much moral carelessness. As Smil notes, most energy markets don't take into account the growing environmental costs that accompany unconventional hydrocarbon production such as bitumen, shale gas or methane trapped in coal seams.

In many respects, the brute force, high-energy extraction methods deployed to capture these hydrocarbons aren't any more sensible than a whaling fleet chasing sardines or a harried nanny behind the fuel guzzling SUV venturing out for a stick of gum.

Perhaps no story better illustrates these bitter energy truths than that of Jessica Ernst and Alberta's coal bed methane (CBM) boom. And it concerns the energy debate of the hour: hydraulic fracturing.

Fracking comes to Rosebud

Beginning nearly a decade ago, the natural gas industry carpet-bombed some of the Alberta's best agricultural land with 10,000 shallow CBM wells. It also fracked everything underneath. No company disclosed what toxic chemicals they actually deployed to break open these shallow coal seams. And no regulator recorded the original state of the groundwater either.

And then along come Ernst, a 54-year-old scientist and oil patch consultant. Before the boom she lived on top of an unfractured coal seam on a quiet piece of fescue just north of Calgary in a town called Rosebud. Clean and nonflammable water flowed through coal formations that fed her water well and that of her neighbors. Historical water records confirm it.

But during the boom things changed. The region's geological formations got blasted so many times by highly pressurized injections of nitrogen, water, sand and toxic chemicals that methane started to seep up all over the place. Even Ernst's dogs stopped drinking the water. Today the landowner can now set her tap water on fire. In fact, she now trucks in fresh water to avoid inconvenient kitchen explosions while making dinner. Nor is she alone.

Being stubborn and somewhat testy about justice and the fate of public resources such as groundwater, Ernst decided to sue. She just doesn't think energy security should trump water security.

Her $30-million lawsuit penned by well-known Toronto lawyers (and that means Ernst is damn serious) is an eye popper as well as reality check on the costs of pursuing extreme sources of energy.

In fact, her well-documented case is considered by some to be so credible that 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" next week.

Both shale gas and CBM, the harnessing of blue flame slaves for urban markets, are in many ways energy's new heart of darkness. As the Ernst lawsuit shows, their production tools can be just as ugly, negligent and brutal as 19th-century slave traders in the Congo. (The men who shackled blacks for New World plantations were also creating jobs and satisfying the world's demand for more energy.)

For the record, the 79-page document alleges that EnCana, an energy trader as big as King Leopold, broke nearly a dozen laws -- an accusation that, it should be noted, remains unproven in court.

The suit says EnCana conducted "a risky and experimental drilling program" that contaminated a local aquifer with toxic chemicals. Given that "the fracturing process can connect to other fractures or can extend beyond the coalbed and into bodies of groundwater."

But companies have now done that right across the continent. Ask rural citizens from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Pavillion, Wyoming and many will tell you that hydraulic fracking is an extreme example of unrestrained greed.

The whole process takes more wells, more heavy machinery, more energy, more compressor stations, more land fragmentation, more water and more captured regulators than conventional natural gas.

But that's ho-hum part of the claim. The interesting bit comes next. The document alleges that so-called energy regulators watched EnCana contaminate an aquifer but "failed to follow the investigation and enforcement processes that they had established and publicized."

Moreover, says the suit, the regulators charged with protecting groundwater in Alberta treated "the legitimate concerns of citizens regarding resource development with contempt and hostility."

At one point, Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) even banished Ernst from its offices. It flat out refused to discuss compressor noise pollution or water contamination with the landowner. (Imagine if natural gas companies banished customers with furnace problems!)

The regulator also accused the oil patch consultant, a scientist who works with facts and thinks regulators should be concerned about facts too, of "attempting to humiliate the organization" by asking questions about the board's reluctance to investigate groundwater contamination.

The Goliath-sized regulator, which employs approximately 800 people and spends $170 million a year overseeing hundreds of thousands of oil and gas wells, finally dispatched one of its legal eagles to the scene.

According to the lawsuit, the man threatened Ernst: if the pesky landowner didn't shut up about her flaming water, "don't expect us to help you." But she kept on talking and the regulator, well, kept its promise. Shortly afterwards, Alberta Environment found 50 pollutants in local water wells that matched fracked wells.

The lawsuit says that the Alberta Research Council belatedly did a study but it was "inadequate," used "factually incorrect data" and made conclusions not supported by the facts. And on it goes.

So there is an extreme price to be paid for energy obesity especially when that energy comes from extreme sources requiring extreme practices supported by extreme regulators.

And that price is being mostly borne by the citizens of rural North America. Meanwhile urban consumers burn their blue flames with the same sort of thoughtlessness as a small person in a big car on a little errand.

Given the damning contents of the claim, every barbecue fancier and city homeowner using natural gas should read it. In fact, home gas bills should probably come with an unrestrained message: "WARNING: Urban consumption of natural gas from fracked zones sacrifices water supplies in rural neighborhoods."

This is the latest of the weekly "Energy and Equity" column by Tyee contributing editor Andrew Nikiforuk. Read his previous Tyee articles here. Nikiforuk, an Alberta landowner, first covered this story for the Globe and Mail's ROB magazine and later Canadian Business magazine.
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Ernst v. EnCana Corporation

Postby Oscar » Thu May 05, 2011 4:44 pm

Ernst v. EnCana Corporation

Landowner Jessica Ernst sues EnCana and Alberta government regulators over water contamination
Multi-Million Dollar Landmark North American Lawsuit on Hydraulic Fracturing and Its Impact on Groundwater
Suit accuses EnCana, Alberta Environment and Energy Resources Conservation Board of negligence and unlawful activities. Case to be presented at the United Nations in New York.
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.


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Alberta landowner seeks $33 million over methane in drinking water

By Kelly Cryderman, Postmedia News April 26, 2011
CALGARY — A southern Alberta landowner who has long claimed coal bed methane drilling polluted her well has launched a lawsuit demanding more than $10 million each from Encana, the Alberta government and the province's energy regulator.
Jessica Ernst, 54, is one of the province's most outspoken critics of drilling methods such as fracking — where water, chemicals and sand are blasted deep underground to break up coal formations and release natural gas.
In a statement of claim filed at the courthouse in Drumheller, Alta., she states the failure of Alberta's Environment Department and the Energy Resources Conservation Board to investigate her case and enforce regulations "served as a government coverup of environmental contamination caused by the oil and gas industry."
Ernst claims that a decade ago Encana "began a risky and experimental drilling program for shallow coal bed methane at dozens of wells in the area around Rosebud," a small hamlet northeast of Calgary.
Ernst, an environmental consultant for the oil and gas industry who lives near the hamlet, alleges the natural gas giant released a large amount of contaminants into underground freshwater supplies.
"As a result, Ms. Ernst's water is now so contaminated with methane and other chemicals that it can be lit on fire," said the legal statement. [ . . . ]

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Rosebud landowner sues over alleged well contamination

May 3, 2011 By: Enrique Massot

A landowner in the southern Alberta hamlet of Rosebud is claiming millions in damages from an oil and gas company for allegedly rendering her water undrinkable in the last decade because of hydraulic fracturing — a practice being used north of Cochrane for oil drilling operations there.
On April 27, Jessica Ernst presented at a Calgary press conference a 73-page statement of claim that has been filed at the Drumheller’s judicial centre of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.
The claim, prepared by Toronto-based lawyers Murray Klippenstein and Cory Wanless of Klippensteins Barristers and Solicitors, alleges EnCana Corporation “negligently injected chemical fracturing fluids at high pressure into coal seams located at shallow depths below ground.”
Ernst, a 54-year-old oil patch consultant, also alleges Alberta Environment and the Energy Resource Conservation Board (ERCB) failed to use their powers to protect the citizens’ water supply in the area. [ . . . ]

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Fracking’ starts to bring on legal challenges

TORONTO AND CALGARY— From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Published Monday, May. 02, 2011 7:30PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, May. 03, 2011 7:40PM EDT
A controversial method of drilling for natural gas that has revolutionized the industry is confronting a growing backlash across North America, and the fast-spreading technique faces a legal test in Canada’s oil and gas heartland.
In the latest sign that pressure against the practice, known as “fracking,” is mounting, a Southern Alberta woman filed a $33-million lawsuit alleging that nearby drilling by Encana Corp. (ECA-T30.99-0.25-0.80%)is responsible for contaminating her water with enough methane that it can be lit on fire.
The allegations have not been proven in court. The case comes just weeks after Quebec put all projects using fracking – short for fracturing – on hold while it studies the environmental effects.
Fracturing involves injecting substances below ground to break up rock formations and force up natural gas. Often companies use large volumes of sand, water and chemicals. In other places, they use gases like nitrogen.
Controversy over its effects, including the alleged contamination of groundwater, has raged in the United States.
Last week, Jessica Ernst, 54, a landowner near Rosebud, Alta. – about 120 kilometres northeast of Calgary – filed a lawsuit against EnCana, the province and the province’s energy regulator.
Ms. Ernst, who has worked as an environmental consultant to the oil and gas industry, accuses Encana in her statement of claim of engaging in a “risky and experimental drilling program” to extract shallow coal-bed methane from several wells near her property in the Rosebud area.
The lawsuit, which she launched after waging a long local campaign against fracking, also targets the provincial government and the province’s Energy Resources Conservation Board, which she accuses of failing to police the industry since her water starting irritating her skin in 2004.
“I’m not the only one. There are many others that this has happened to, and my story is not unique,” Ms. Ernst said in an interview from New York, where she is taking part in a panel discussion on fracking being held at the United Nations.
The fracturing used to extract coal-bed methane is technically different from methods employed in extraction of shale gas, which has generated major controversy around the globe. But the alleged impacts are largely the same, as are the questions surrounding how industry taps novel energy sources.
Encana spokesman Alan Boras defended the company’s natural gas production, saying it is safe and that there are “numerous precautions put in place that ensure that we do not interact or contaminate groundwater.” [ . . ]
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Woman suing EnCana to speak at UN conference

Postby Oscar » Thu May 05, 2011 6:05 pm

Woman suing EnCana to speak at UN conference

Sayeh Tavangar Gas Daily (02-May-11)

An Alberta environmental consultant slated to speak Tuesday before a United Nations-related meeting on sustainable development has sued Encana, alleging that shallow coalbed methane wells the Calgary-based producer drilled years ago contaminated her well water.

Attorneys for Jessica Ernst, who lives in Rosebud in rural southern Alberta, filed the 73-page suit last week in the Court of Queens Bench of Alberta. In addition to Encana, the suit names as defendants two provincial regulatory agencies: the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Environment. Ernst is seeking punitive, exemplary and other damages of about C$32 million.

Encana spokesman Alan Boras, citing company policy concerning active litigation, declined to comment on the suit. A spokeswoman for Alberta Environment would not comment, and ERCB officials could not be reached Friday.

The suit alleges that beginning in 2001, Encana "began a risky and experimental drilling program for shallow coalbed methane at dozens of wells in the area around Rosebud." Ernst alleged that in at least one instance the producer injected hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into the shallow aquifer, from which area residents obtained their drinking water.

She also claims Encana's activities caused her water well to be polluted with "a large amount of methane and other contaminants," making it unfit to use and creating a potential explosion hazard.

In addition, the suit alleges that the ERCB, which regulates all aspects of the oil and gas industry in the province, and Alberta Energy failed to enforce environmental regulations with regard to Encana's practices.

Ernst told Platts that she decided to file suit after spending years fighting with Encana and the two government agencies trying to obtain information about the producer's CBM program in the Rosebud area. "It takes a long time to prepare these things. It's taken years of research. They're still keeping secrets and we cannot get the data disclosed."

Ernst said Encana has refused to release information about the chemicals used in fracking and in other downhole operations it performed on the CBM wells. "They've been quoted as saying they're going to make the information public," she said. "We still don't know all the chemicals."

Ernst is expected to tell her story before an international audience when she makes a presentation at the UN in New York. She will be speaking at a side event to the 19th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development sponsored by Unanima International, a nongovernmental organization.

Catherine Ferguson, Unanima coalition coordinator, said the Ernst presentation will be part of a two-week program the NGO will present on clean water issues related to mining and mineral extraction. [ . . . ]
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Re: ERNST: EnCana - fracking lawsuit! Lawyers abandon case

Postby Oscar » Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:50 am

Another Setback in Landmark Fracking Case as Lawyers Pull Out

[ ... e-Setback/ ]

Jessica Ernst’s 12-year legal battle over water contamination no nearer resolution.

By Andrew Nikiforuk , August 8, 2019 |

Andrew Nikiforuk’s book on the Ernst case, "Slick Water", won a Science in Society Journalism Award from the U.S. National Association of Science Writers in 2016.

(‘What I have learned is that Canada’s legal system is a farce,’ says Jessica Ernst. Photo by Kim Silfving. )

Jessica Ernst has spent 12 years and $400,000 pursuing a lawsuit against the Alberta fracking industry and its regulator.

Now her Ontario lawyer has let go most of his staff and given up the case.

“I was shocked and felt terribly betrayed,” said Ernst. “The legal system doesn’t want ordinary people in it. They don’t want citizens who will not gag and settle out of court for money so corporations and government can continue their abuse.”

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