Fracking Immunity: Holding regulators accountable

By Anna Maria Tremonti - CBC (Photo Credit AP/Brennan Linsley)

Jessica Ernst says she could light her water on fire as it came out of the tap from her well in rural Rosebud, Alberta. She blames hydraulic fracturing or fracking for her problems but her attempts to sue Alberta's Energy Regulator have hit a snag: the regulator has immunity.

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While First Nations protest fracking in New Brunswick, Alberta woman
Jessica Ernst is waging her own battle over fracking in the courts.

Jessica Ernst's believes her water is contaminated by hazardous levels of methane gas released by the process known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking that took place near her Alberta home.

Two years ago she decided to seek compensation in the courts and filed a 33 million dollar lawsuit against the energy company Encana, the Alberta government, and Alberta's Energy Regulator, the body that has replaced the Energy Resources Conservation Board.

But last week an Alberta justice ruled provincial law protects the energy regulator from her suit. The decision raises concerns about the ability to hold regulators accountable.

Jessica Ernst joined us from her home in Rosebud, Alberta. We are talking to her about the content of her legal claim. What she is telling us is now before the courts.

Murray Klippestein is the lawyer representing Ms. Ernst. He was in our Toronto Studio.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Here is Jessica Ernst who has to travel half an hour to get drinkable water.

With more on immunity for energy regulators, we were joined by Richard Dixon. He's the Executive Director of the Centre for Applied Business Research in Energy and the Environment, at the University of Alberta. Richard Dixon was in Edmonton.

Encana sent a statement but declined to speak to us. As did the Alberta Energy Regulator. We also requested an interview with Diana McQueen, Alberta's environment minister, but her press secretary replied - quote - "Because a lawsuit has been filed it would be inappropriate for the Minister to offer any comments on this or fracking in general." The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, or CAPP, also declined our request for comment.