Alberta government agency tries to dodge $33M fracking lawsuit

Fiona Lauridsen, Dale Zimmerman, and Jessica Ernst travelled to the Alberta Legislature Tuesday. The three Albertans are living with contaminated water supplies they say are linked to CBM (Coalbed Methane) drilling close to their properties. Lauridsen and Ernst are from the Rosebud Alberta area, while Zimmerman is from the Wetaskiwin Alberta area.

Credits: Sun Media Photo by DAVID BLOOM


CALGARY - 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.

Ernst is seeking $11.7 million in damages from Encana and $10.7 million each from both the ERCB and province.

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.

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