ROSEBUD, AB, Nov 10, 2014 /CNW/ - The Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta has ruled that Alberta Environment can be sued for failing to properly investigate and remediate water contamination allegedly caused by Encana's hydraulic fracturing activities near Rosebud, Alberta.
The judgment can be found here: [http://www.ernstversusencana.ca/the-lawsuit]
"This is a big victory for water and for all Albertans. The decision means that landowners can stand up and hold governments and regulators to account if they fail in their duty to properly investigate environmental contamination" said Rosebud resident and plaintiff Jessica Ernst.
Alberta Environment argued in court it didn't owe a "private duty of care" to individual landowners when investigating causes of groundwater contamination that left wells so polluted with methane and other contaminants that the water could (and still can) be lit on fire. In other words, the regulator argued that individual landowners couldn't try to hold government legally responsible for negligent investigations of environmental contamination, no matter how faulty. The Court disagreed. Chief Justice Wittmann ruled that "[w]hile this is a novel claim, I find there is a reasonable prospect Ernst will succeed in establishing that Alberta owed her a prima facie duty of care."
In addition to ruling in favour of Ms. Ernst on all key points, Chief Justice Wittmann took the rare step of ordering the government to pay triple Ms. Ernst's legal costs for the improper manner in which her claim was attacked.
"Ernst was wholly successful in responding to this Application. . . . These arguments could have been raised as part of Alberta's first application, but were not. Ernst was put to the time and expense of two applications, not one. . . . As a result of these considerations Ernst shall have her costs against Alberta fixed at triple [the regular rate]"
For French translation and more information, including Encana's Statement of Defence: http://www.ernstversusencana.ca/the-lawsuit
For further information: Jessica Ernst: (403) 677-2074, [email protected]; Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors: Murray Klippenstein, (416) 598-0288 or (416) 937-8634; Cory Wanless, (416) 598-0288 or (647) 886-1914