The Lawsuit

Supreme Court of Canada Docket for Ernst vs AER (previously ERCB) case

2016 04 28: CHEMICALS ILLEGALLY INJECTED REPEATEDLY BY ENCANA IN 2004 INTO ROSEBUD’S DRINKING WATER AQUIFERS REMAIN SECRET, CONTRARY EVEN TO ALBERTA’S RULES OF COURT:

Encana still has not filed with Ernst cleaned up records for document exchange (which had a December 19, 2014 deadline ordered by Chief Justice Wittmann); chemicals Encana injected directly into Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers are also not yet filed with Ernst, even though required under the Court Rules, including all trade secrets.

Encana has also not disclosed the chemicals the company secretly injected into hundreds of other gas wells in various formations in fresh water zones around the community.

Investigative Journalist Andrew Nikiforuk attended the January 12, 2016 hearing:

2016 01 13: In Supreme Court, a Battle Over Fracking and Citizens’ Rights, Jessica Ernst’s long fight to challenge legislation putting energy regulator above the law reaches top court

2016 01 12: Webcast Supreme Court of Canada hearing Ernst vs AER, 2.5 hours. (Some browsers won’t play it, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer do.)

Reminder: Glenn Solomon, counsel for the AER, repeatedly lies in his “Fact”um and misstates Ernst’s Factum and those of the Inteverners (all accessible further below):

The AER’s factum:

55. On Ms. Ernst’s construction, to immunize these judicial decision-makers from claims for personal Charter damages would “gut the remedial power of 24(1)” and “cannot be countenanced.”97 [Appellant’s Factum at para. 67.]

Ernst’s factum at para. 67 doesn’t mention judicial decision-makers:

67. Moreover, the effect of upholding the Court of Appeal’s ruling would be immediate and, in the Appellant’s view, disastrous. General statutory immunity clauses are very common across Canada; there are currently nearly identical statutory immunity clauses in the statute books of every jurisdiction in Canada.83 A ruling that s. 43 of the ERCA is constitutionally applicable to claims for personal remedies pursuant to s. 24(1) of the Charter would mean that dozens of other general statutory immunity clauses also block any and all attempts by Canadians to challenge the constitutionality of the actions taken by hundreds of governments and government agencies across Canada. Such a finding would gut the remedial power of 24(1), and render functionally useless this Court’s previous jurisprudence on s. 24(1). Such a result cannot be countenanced

Court Hearing starts at 90:29 Min.

Cory Wanless, counsel for Ernst, presents to 152:28 Min.

Ryan Dalziel, counsel for Intervener, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, 152:40 – 163:28 Min.

Raj Anand, counsel for Intervener, David Asper Centre, 163:28 – 174:41 Min.

Break goes to 191:22 Min.

Glenn Solomon, counsel for AER, 191:22 – 238:40 Min.

“How you get in, starts with a prior assertion. I don’t want to offend anyone by saying it, but you’ve opened a brave new world, in terms of Charter damages.”

Cory Wanless, Reply 238:50 – 250:08 Min. (End)

Judgment reserved OR rendered with reasons to follow

2016 01 14 Supreme Court Canada Docket 36167, webcast Ernst vs AER

2016 01 08: Attorney General of Quebec chose not to appear.

2016 01 07: Supreme Court Order granting BC Civil Liberties Association and David Asper Centre 10 minutes each to present oral argument at the hearing and the Quebec AG 15 minutes (Click link or snap below to read in French)

2016 01 07 Supreme Court Canada Order, BCCLA & David Asper Centre granted 10 min oral arguments at hearing, PQ AG 15 minutes snap

2016 01 06: AER Reply Factum to Intervener Factums (accessible below) and Book of Authorities

After misrepresenting Alberta’s Responsible Energy Development Act (REDA), Ernst’s Factum and Statement of Claim and lying about Ernst in the AER’s Factum, the AER misrepresents Factums of the Interveners in the AER Reply Factum:

From the BC Civil Liberties Association’s Factum:

This is a case about the day-in-and-day-out workings of bureaucrats said to have run amok to a degree harmful to freedom of expression. … The regulator has no business seeking to punish those with whom it communicates; doing so would thus amount to an “abuse of power”.

From AER’s Reply Factum, Page 6:

15. The CCLA, BCCLA and the David Asper Centre all assert that the Appellant has made out a valid cause of action. 28 The BCCLA goes further, positing that the AER arguably engaged in conduct it had “no business” engaging in, and that the impugned conduct of the AER may have amounted to “an abuse of power”.29 This Appeal arises from an application to strike or to summarily dismiss the Plaintiff’s fourth iteration of her Statement of Claim. The BCCLA should not, through an intervener’s Factum, be seeking to redraft the Plaintiff’s pleadings. An intervener has no place entering the fray by making new allegations of abuse of power.

2015 12 30: Kent Roach appointed Member of the Order of Canada. (Affidavit of Kent Roach was filed in David Asper Centre’s Motion for Leave to Intervene in Ernst vs AER. Intervener Factums included below; the Court is deciding whether or not to grant interveners hearing time.)

2015 12 29: Press Release by Supreme Court of Canada / Cour suprême du Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada announced today the list of motions and appeals that will be heard in January. This list is subject to change.

La Cour suprême du Canada a publié aujourd’hui la liste des requêtes et appels qui seront entendus en janvier. Cette liste est sujette à modification

2016-01-12  Jessica Ernst v. Alberta Energy Regulator (Alta.) (Civil) (By Leave) (36167)

NOTE: This agenda is subject to change. Hearings normally commence at 9:30 a.m.; however, cases with multiple parties often commence at 9:00 a.m.  … Hearing dates and times should be confirmed with Registry staff at 613-996-8666.

Ce calendrier est sujet à modification. Les audiences débutent normalement à 9h30; toutefois; l’audition des affaires concernant des parties multiples commence souvent à 9 h. … La date et l’heure d’une audience doivent être confirmées auprès du personnel du greffe au 613-996-8666.

2015 12 24: Merry Christmas

“Despair is a free man, hope is a slave.”
— L.M. Montgomery, The Blue Castle

2015 12 23: Canadian Civil Liberties Association files Factum and Book of Authorities Vol 1 and Vol 2

1. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (“CCLA”) intervenes in this Appeal to argue
that the constitutional entitlement to a remedy for a breach of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”) cannot be ousted by a general statutory immunity clause. The interpretation made by the courts below is contrary to our system of constitutional supremacy and to long-standing jurisprudence of this Honourable Court.

2. Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982 provides that “[t]he Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect”.1 Section 32(1)(b) of the Charter provides that the Charter applies “to the legislature and government of each province in respect of all matters within the authority of the legislature of each province”.2 Taken together, the two provisions mean that a province lacks the authority to enact legislation that runs counter to, or conflicts with, the Charter.

3. In this case, the courts below have interpreted and applied section 43 of the Alberta
Energy Resources Conservation Act3 (“Section 43”) to prevent the Appellant from seeking to vindicate her rights under section 2(b) of the Charter by pursuing a properly pleaded claim that the Respondent breached those rights. Section 43 cannot be construed or applied in that manner.

4. Under section 24(1) of the Charter4, a court of competent jurisdiction has the power to
order an appropriate and just remedy for the breach of an individual’s Charter rights, including the authority to award monetary damages where necessary. That remedial power creates a constitutional entitlement that cannot be undermined or ousted by statute.

5. The courts below concluded that the Appellant had pleaded a tenable claim that the provincial regulator breached her rights under section 2(b), but dismissed her Charter claim on the ground that the remedy she was seeking was barred by Section 43. That ruling is inconsistent with this Court’s cases holding that there must be an effective remedy for any Charter breach.

6. The courts below also failed to follow the framework devised by this Court in Vancouver
(City) v. Ward (“Ward”). Under Ward, a plaintiff who pleads a viable claim that her Charter
rights have been breached is entitled to proceed to discovery. Considerations of good
governance, such as concerns that awards of monetary damages against the government may impede governmental functions, relate to what remedy is appropriate and just, not to whether a Charter breach has taken place. Those considerations should be addressed on a fully developed factual record after the plaintiff has established a breach, not at the pleadings stage.

7. The CCLA maintains that Section 43 cannot be interpreted or applied to bar a claim
against the provincial regulator for breaching the Appellant’s rights under section 2(b) of the Charter or to bar the Appellant from seeking an appropriate and just remedy for that breach under section 24(1) of the Charter. The CCLA accordingly submits that the constitutional question posed in this appeal should be answered in the affirmative.

10. Sections 24(1), 32(1)(b) and 52(1) of the Charter – as interpreted in prior decisions of
this Court – establish that a provincial legislature may not grant itself absolute immunity from a claim for a breach of an individual’s Charter rights, including a claim under section 24(1) for a remedy for such a breach. In Nelles v. Ontario (“Nelles”), Lamer J. found that a grant of absolute Crown immunity “is not justified in the interests of public policy”7, writing as follows:

Granting an absolute immunity…is akin to granting a license to subvert
individual rights. Not only does absolute immunity negate a private right of
action, but in addition, it seems to me, it may be that it would effectively bar
the seeking of a remedy pursuant to s. 24(1) of the Charter. … When a person
can demonstrate that one of his Charter rights has been infringed, access to a
court of competent jurisdiction to seek a remedy is essential for the vindication
of a constitutional wrong.8

11. Lamer J.’s reasons in Nelles were subsequently invoked by the Ontario Court of Appeal
in support of the proposition that:

a statutory enactment cannot stand in the way of a constitutional
entitlement. Section 32(1)(b) of the Charter provides that the Charter applies to the legislature and government of each province. The remedy section of the Charter would be emasculated if the provincial government, as one of the very powers the Charter seeks to control, could declare itself immune.9

12. Likewise, in Doucet-Boudreau v. Nova Scotia (Minister of Education), this Court held
that section 24(1) affords judicial discretion to fashion remedies for Charter breaches that are appropriate and just in the circumstances, free from any statutory restrictions:

The power of the superior courts under s. 24(1) to make appropriate and just
orders to remedy infringements or denials of Charter rights is part of the
supreme law of Canada. It follows that this remedial power cannot be strictly
limited by statutes or rules of the common law.10 [Emphasis added.]

13. In Ward, which is discussed further below, this Court emphasized that “the language of
the grant [in section 24(1)] is broad,” and that “it is improper for courts to reduce this discretion by casting it in a strait-jacket of judicially prescribed conditions.”11

14. In order to give effect and meaning to the guarantees contained in the Charter, it must be open to a court to determine whether a Charter right has been breached and, if so, what remedy is appropriate and just. The full complement of remedial options, including declaratory relief, injunctive relief and monetary damages, must be available. That remedial power cannot be extinguished ab initio by a blanket immunity provision that applies to all cases regardless of their facts and circumstances.

19. By concluding that the Appellant had a tenable claim that her section 2(b) rights had been breached, and then determining that her claim could not be adjudicated because a particular remedy was not available, the lower courts extinguished the Appellant’s Charter rights before determining whether a beach had in fact occurred. ….

20. The approach taken by the courts below is particularly problematic in the context of an
alleged breach of section 2(b). Freedom of expression is the grievance procedure in a democratic society. It is vital that individuals have an opportunity to address deficiencies and breakdowns in that procedure. In circumstances where the state is denying an individual the opportunity to exercise her freedom of expression, or where state action effectively bars her from doing so, denying that individual an effective remedy constitutes an additional breach. Given that the time to engage meaningfully in the expression at issue may have passed, vindication of the right through a remedy assumes heightened significance.

23. The application of the Ward framework is necessarily context and fact specific. As the
Court observed in Ward, “[w]hat is appropriate and just will depend on the facts and
circumstances of the particular case”.21 In this case, however, the courts below cut the Appellant’s claim off at the knees, before the parties had an opportunity to develop the factual record necessary to apply the Ward framework.

27. Sections 32(1) and 52(1) of the Charter mandate that the government’s legislative
authority ends where a breach of rights guaranteed under the Charter begins. Section 24(1), as interpreted by this Court in Ward, mandates that a plaintiff who pleads a tenable claim that her rights under the Charter have been violated must have the opportunity to establish on an evidentiary record that she is entitled to an appropriate and just remedy for that breach. The government cannot legislate away either the rights or the remedy.

30. The CCLA asks that the constitutional question framed by the Court be answered in the affirmative.

2015 12 22 Email from Rosebud resident:

Hi Jess…came across something…thought of you…

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”

Abraham Lincoln

2015 12 22: Quebec Attorney General files Factum/mémoire de l’intervenante PGQ and Book of Authorities Vol 1 (13.5 MB) and Vol 2 (16.8 MB)

The Attorney Generals of Canada, BC and Saskatchewan withdrew (filings included below).

2015 12 22: David Asper Centre files Factum and Book of Authorities

1. Section 43 of the Energy Resources Conservation Act (the “ERCA”) purports to bar all actions or proceedings brought against the Alberta Energy Regulator (the “AER”), including claims for a remedy made pursuant to s. 24(1) of the Charter. It would be contrary to longstanding common law traditions and well-established principles of constitutional law to allow government bodies enabled by statutes with similar general immunity provisions to claim this absolute immunity from Charter liability. These bodies often exercise complex and overlapping functions. Accordingly, it is in the public interest to ensure that the government cannot simply insulate itself from the Charter through the mere stroke of a legislative pen.

3. It is the courts’ inherent jurisdiction to determine appropriate and just remedies under s. 24(1) of the Charter, not the government’s. Charter damages are a unique public remedy, drivenby the objectives of compensation, vindication and deterrence. Judicial review alone is incapable of meaningfully addressing the harms resulting from the breach of a Charter right. Moreover, good governance concerns do not justify the enactment of statutory immunity provisions to insulate government bodies from Charter claims;….

4. The Asper Centre submits that s. 43 of the ERCA is constitutionally inapplicable or
inoperable to the extent that it bars a claim against the AER for a breach of s. 2(b) of the Charter and an application for a remedy under s. 24(1) of the Charter. …

10. Furthermore, as Taylor 9 indicates, even judicial independence has its own constraints. In Taylor, the Federal Court of Appeal considered an application for judicial review of the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s decision not to deal with a complaint against ajudge. 10 Its decision was based on the common law principle of absolute immunity for judges. 11 The Court recognized a narrow “bad faith” exception to judicial immunity where it is shown that a judge knowingly acts beyond his or her jurisdiction. 12 Moreover, it ultimately disagreed with the proposition that placing a limit on judicial immunity would “open the flood-gates to vexatious claims.” 13

11. Additionally, judges face disciplinary proceedings and potential removal from the bench where their conduct is so “manifestly and totally contrary to the impartiality of the judiciary that the confidence of individuals appearing before the judge, or of the public in the justice system, would be undermined …. ” 14 Such conduct renders the judge “incapable of performing the duties of his [or her] office”. 15 Although protections for judges are an essential feature of our constitutional system, Taylor 16 demonstrates that even judicial immunity must be limited to preserve the integrity of the judiciary.

12. While the respondent points to Henry 17 , Mackin 18 and Taylor 19 as evidence of
circumstances in which immunity has been granted, the immunity illustrated by these cases is limited rather than absolute. Furthermore, the Respondent’s reliance on Taylor is misplaced, as the Appellant’s claim does not pertain to the AER’s adjudicative function.

15. Any policy reasons for affording immunity to statutory bodies such as the AER would not be as compelling. The AER is a government entity responsible for, among other things, regulating the oil and gas industry in Alberta and responding to public complaints in relation to that industry. 25 There is no indication that exposing the AER and other statutory bodies like it to Charter scrutiny would substantially impede their ability to fulfill their functions in the same way that subjecting Crown prosecutors or judges to scrutiny would undermine their efforts to uphold the integrity of the justice system.

16. Furthermore, the Court’s decision in Henry to create a high threshold for claims for Charter damages reflects the criminal context in which it was situated. In criminal cases, the Crown’s conduct is scrutinized by the Charter at several points in the process. The accused’s legal rights under ss. 7 to 14 of the Charter are a prominent feature of the criminal justice system and protect the accused in a number of ways, including through instructions to the jury or the exclusion of evidence. Even if a claim for Charter damages for wrongful non·disclosure was barred absolutely, a wide range of other Charter protections would still be available. In contrast, there would be no Charter protections available to participants in the AER’s processes if s. 43 of the ERCA functioned as an absolute bar to Charter claims. Accordingly, since absolute immunity for Crown prosecutors was rejected in a context where numerous other Charter protections were available, the complete absence of other protections in this case suggests that the AER should not be granted immunity.

17. This Honourable Court has already presented compelling reasons for not immunizing statutory bodies from the Charter. In Blencoe, this Court found that “bodies exercising statutory authority are bound by the Charter even though they may be independent of government.”26 The underlying reasoning was that if statutory bodies could be insulated from the Charter, then the legislature could avoid the Charter’s constraints by establishing statutory bodies to fulfill government functions.27

19. There are compelling reasons why the government should not be able to grant itself
greater immunity than what the common law provides. The Charter is a check on government power. It is the courts that have the ultimate jurisdiction to determine how far the Charter can go in constraining government action. Not only are Charter rights constitutionally entrenched, which prevents the government from legislating away these protections at whim, but it would defeat the purpose of having limitations on government if government were allowed to narrow the scope of those limitations beyond what the courts have permitted. The sanctity of Charter rights is frustrated if the very institution from which the Charter provides protection is given the leeway to undermine those protections.

20. Section 33 of the Charter grants government the power to legislatively shield itself from certain Charter rights and freedoms. However, section 33 provides only a qualified immunity.

21. Section 33 illustrates that the Charter can tolerate only minimal- not absolute protection for government. First, the immunity provided by s. 33 takes effect when the legislature “expressly declares” that it will be acting notwithstanding the Charter. This Court should be wary of the government’s reliance on a legislative provision to immunize itself from the Charter when that provision does not expressly declare that this is the intended effect. Second, the immunity provided by a declaration of immunity under s. 33 continues for a period of only five years, after which the declaration can be renewed. To the extent that a statutory immunity provision is the government’s attempt to shield itself indefinitely without the need for subsequent re-enactment, this nuns contrary to the temporal limitation on immunity contemplated by s. 33. Third, s. 33 applies to only sections 2 and 7 to 15. lt does not extend to s. 24(1). Accordingly, the immunity that s. 33 provides does not oust the jurisdiction of courts to provide
remedies or limit the range of remedies available.

C. ALLOWING STATUTORY IMMUNITY PROVISIONS TO BAR CHARTER CLAIMS UNDERMINES PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY AND EFFECTIVELY USURPS THE COURTS’ ROLE

(i) Public Accountability Would Be Undermined

23. A grant of absolute immunity would undermine public confidence in government bodies, which are mandated to act in the public interest. [AS OF 2013, UNDER REDA, THE AER IS NO LONGER MANDATED TO ACT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST] Accountability, public confidence and the public interest are at risk when government bodies with broad mandates and operational, administrative and quasi-judicial functions can restrict members of the public from pursuing valid Charter claims. Contrary to what the respondent suggests, it would be improper to grant a government body with administrative and operational functions- which bring it into frequent and close communication with members of the public– absolute immunity simply because it also has a quasi-judicial decision-making role. 29

24. In Ward, this Court considered the object of vindication underlying an award of Charter damages. 30 It adopted the idea that “violations of constitutionally protected rights harm not only their particular victims, but society as a whole.”31 …

25. Despite the respondent’s claims, there is no distinction in law between a “personal monetary remedy” and a “general remedy which restores the constitutional order”. 33 The respondent conflates private law and public law remedies by attempting to equate the nature of the appellant’s claim with a tort action for damages. Whiles. 24(1) of the Charter provides a personal remedy, it is distinctly public in nature and addresses public liability: “The nature of the remedy is to require the state (or society writ large) to compensate an individual for breaches of the individual’s constitutional rights. An action for public law damages~ including constitutional damages -lies against the state and not against individual actors.”34

26. Furthermore, the plain meaning of s. 43 of the ERCA must be taken into account to
understand the extent of its reach. It purports to bar all actions and proceedings, not only claims for damages. The consequences of allowing absolute immunity are also far-reaching in terms of the types of rights that could be potentially involved. Charter claims that arise out of interactions with regulatory bodies could easily engage not only s. 2(b) freedom of expression rights, but also s. 7 rights to life, liberty and security of the person, or s. 15 equality rights.

28. Ward35 is illustrative of the importance of holding government to account, even when individuals acting in good faith are protected from liability. Mr. Ward brought an action against the City, the Province and individual police and corrections officers for his arrest, detention strip search and car seizure. 36 The individual officers were shielded from tort liability by s. 21 of British Columbia’s Police Act because their actions did not amount to wilful misconduct, and were not malicious or in bad faith. 37 However, the Province and the City were still liable for breach of Mr. Ward’s s. 8 Charter rights, and damages were awarded against the Province.38 It is appropriate for s. 43 of the ERCA to protect individuals who are acting in good faith from private liability, but it would be unwarranted for it to provide absolute immunity to government bodies.

29. Accountability requires that government should face the consequences when its conduct violates rights that are protected by the Charter. By allowing governments to completely avoid Charter claims through the implementation of a statutory provision, governments would no longer have to adjust their rights-violating behaviour, and accountability to the public would be critically undermined.

(ii) The Government Would Be Permitted to Intrude Upon the Courts’ Jurisdiction Under Subsection 24(1) of the Charter

33. Section 43 of the ERCA is an attempt to displace the courts’ constitutionally guaranteed jurisdiction under s. 24(1) of the Charter, substituting a legislative decision for what should be a judicial decision about whether damages are an appropriate and just remedy. The courts below recognized that the appellant’s Charter claim makes out a valid cause of action. The determination of an appropriate and just remedy is called for after such a case is heard on its merits. It should not be determined in advance by legislative fiat.

34. Remedies cannot be illusory. For rights to be meaningful, violations of rights must be capable of being remedied. In Dunedin, this Honourable Court stated that “a right, no matter how expansive in theory, is only as meaningful as the remedy provided for its breach.”41 An individual who has had a violation of his or her Charter rights must be allowed access to an effective remedy. The government should not be empowered to interfere with that process. [Emphasis added]

2015 12 21: Attorney General of Saskatchewan files Notice of Withdrawal

2015 12 21 AG Saskatchewan files notice withdrawal in Ernst vs AER at Supreme Court of Canada, 36167

2015 12 19 HAPPY ANNIVERSARY & MERRY CHRISTMAS! CHEMICALS ILLEGALLY INJECTED BY ENCANA IN 2004 INTO ROSEBUD’S DRINKING WATER AQUIFERS REMAIN SECRET, CONTRARY EVEN TO ALBERTA’S RULES OF COURT:

Encana still has not filed with Ernst cleaned up records for their document exchange (which had a December 19, 2014 deadline ordered by Chief Justice Wittmann); chemicals Encana injected into Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers also not yet disclosed, even though required under the Court Rules, including all trade secrets.

From November 4, 2015 Supreme Court Order:

The respondent [AER] is permitted to serve and file a single factum not exceeding ten (10) pages in reply to these interventions on or before January 7, 2016.

2015 12 17: Attorney General of Canada files Notice of Withdrawal

2015 12 17 Attorney General of Canada Notice of Withdrawal of Intention to intervene, Ernst vs AER (Supreme Court Canada 36167) snap

2015 12 17Attorney General of British Columbia files Notice of Withdrawal

From: Brigitte Raymond [email hidden; JavaScript is required]
Sent: Thursday, December 17, 2015 3:49 PM
To: email hidden; JavaScript is required
Cc: Chris Rootham; Rupar, Christopher; Beedell, Jeff; Watt, Lynne; email hidden; JavaScript is required; email hidden; JavaScript is required; email hidden; JavaScript is required; Robert Houston; Collins, Karen; Christie, Christina; email hidden; JavaScript is required
Subject: Ernst v. Alberta Energy Regulator / SCC #36167

Please find attached an electronic copy of a Notice of Withdrawal on behalf of the Attorney General of British Columbia.

The hard copy will be served and filed tomorrow.

Kind Regards,

Brigitte Raymond | Law Clerk
BURKE-ROBERTSON LLP
613-236-9665 ext 257
441 MacLaren St. Suite 200 | Ottawa, ON   K2P 2H3
main 613-236-9665 |fax 613-235-4430
www.burkerobertson.com

2015 12 17 AG's Canada and BC file notices of withdrawal in Ernst vs AER at Supreme Court of Canada, 36167

2015 12 17: Intervenor BC Civil Liberties Association files Factum & Book of Authorities

2. The nature of the claim is important here, in two respects: the conduct of the Energy Resources Conservation Board (now the Alberta Energy Regulator; herein, the “regulator”) that is in question is purely operational; and the plaintiff Ernst alleges that the regulator’s conduct was punitive (Wittman C.J., paras. 17, 33; statement of claim, paras. 41, 58).

3. Sometimes, undoubtedly, the presence of legislation and the will of a legislature may
bear upon the propriety and justice of the remedy sought. But not here. The total immunity set up for this regulator by Alberta’s Legislature overshoots any legitimate policy concern warranting protection of the regulator from liability for Charter damages. It would be inappropriate and unjust to apply it to bar Ms. Ernst’s claim.

4. … The BCCLA will therefore make four points in relation to the questions raised by the parties’ submissions:1

A. Parliament and the Legislatures are incapable of denying access to a provincial
superior court to obtain the remedy the court considers “appropriate and just”.
B. Operational conduct of government bodies which is not compelled by, or
otherwise attributable to, a legislative regime or a true policy decision is
susceptible to an award of Charter damages.
C. Parliament and the Legislatures have only a limited ability to influence – but not
control – the court’s determination of what is “appropriate and just”.
D. Ernst’s pleading discloses a reasonable claim for Charter damages as an
“appropriate and just” remedy. 

It is important to note here the questions that are not before the Court in this case. First, there is no question about whether, as a matter of interpretation, s. 43 (or equivalent provisions) ought to be interpreted to apply to Charter claims in the first place. Second, this case does not involve quasi-judicial decision-making. Decision-making of that kind is obliged to be consistent with constitutional values, and can be judicially reviewed directly on that footing: Doré v. Barreau du Québec, 2012 SCC 12, [2012] 1 S.C.R. 395. A case of that kind may raise questions about the preclusive effect of adequate alternate remedies, given the decision-maker’s duty to take up the constitution in its reasoning, and the deference to which it would be entitled in that regard: cf. Vancouver (City) v. Ward, 2010 SCC 27, [2010] 2 S.C.R. 28, para. 35. Finally, there is no question about the liability of Alberta. Professor Roach, endorsing the Privy Council’s decision in Maharaj v. Attorney-General Trinidad and Tobago (No. 2), [1979] A.C. 385, would attribute direct liability to “the state” for constitutional violations by state actors: Constitutional Remedies in Canada (loose-leaf), s. 11.510. The regulator here (unlike, for instance, an individual employee) is part of the government “by its very nature”: Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority v. Canadian Federation of Students — British Columbia Component, 2009 SCC 31, [2009] 2 S.C.R. 295, para. 15. The regulator is thus is a defendant from whom Charter damages may appropriately be sought, and it has made no argument to the contrary: cf. Ward, para. 22.

13. Section 43 of the Energy Resources Conservation Act intuitively attracts the Crevier
mode of analysis. The Legislature may legitimately extinguish tort and other common law or equitable claims against an administrative body, and in the vast majority of its applications, that is what s. 43 does. But the Legislature may not limit the right of anyone whose Charter rights have been infringed to seek resort to a provincial superior court for “appropriate and just” remedies, as to do so trespasses upon the “core jurisdiction” of the s. 96 court. In the face of such claims s. 43 is ineffective – or inapplicable, or inoperable; the nomenclature matters not – and the analysis necessarily then turns to whether the remedy sought is “appropriate and just”.

17. There is a space left by these principles: where the Charter infringement is not
attributable to legislation; and where the Charter infringement does not flow from a true policy decision; and where there is no common law or other established legal principle conferring any further or special immunity applicable in the circumstances, then it follows that the “good governance” element of the Ward framework provides no impediment whatsoever to a Charter damages claim.7 What will matter instead are the “objects of compensation, vindication of the right, or deterrence of future Charter breaches”: Ward, para. 32.8 Fulfilment of these objects rules out the Court of Appeal’s suggestion, echoed in this Court by the regulator, that Ernst’s remedy is to be found by way of judicial review (Court of Appeal, para. 30(c); respondent’s factum, para. 129). Damages are not available on judicial review. Compensation and deterrence could not thereby be achieved.

Wittmann C.J. placed particular emphasis on a floodgates concern – that “[p]arties would come to the litigation process dressed in their Charter clothes whenever possible” (para. 81; see also para. 87). The Supreme Court of the United States has regarded such concerns about constitutional damages claims as unfounded in light of existing qualified immunities, observing as well that “plaintiffs may not play dog in the manger; and firm application of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure will ensure that federal officials are not harassed by frivolous lawsuits”: Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478 (1978), p. 508 per White J. The superior courts of this country have no less power to weed out unmeritorious claims, through motions to strike and, where evidence is needed, motions for summary judgment.

18. The regulator argues nonetheless that good governance dictates that this damages claim be struck, essentially on the ground that s. 43 of the ERCA “promotes good governance by shielding the AER” (factum, para. 125). This submission necessitates consideration of the extent to which legislation may influence the court’s determination of what is “appropriate and just”.

22. … The plain words of the Charter dictate that claimants must always be free to show that a legislative limit on a superior court’s power to grant remedies under s. 24 would be inappropriate, or would be unjust, in all the circumstances.

23. In the present case, the total immunity set up by s. 43 of the ERCA vastly overshoots any plausible articulation of what good governance requires for this regulator. Recall that if the regulator acts pursuant to statutory dictates, it will not be liable absent conduct that is “clearly wrong, in bad faith or an abuse of power”. The same is true if the regulator is engaged in any truly policy-based function. Mackin and Ward make those protections secure. Yet s. 43 would insulate from liability purely operational conduct, conduct that is clearly wrong, conduct that is an abuse of power, and conduct undertaken in bad faith. Such blanket extinguishment of recourse to the Charter bears no relationship to propriety or to justice. It should be given no weight.

24. Ernst alleges that steps taken by the regulator were intended to punish her past public expression, and to prevent future public expression (see in particular Wittmann C.J., para. 33; statement of claim, para. 55). If nothing else, her claim alleges that a government actor has taken steps with the purpose of restricting freedom of expression: cf. R. v. Khawaja, 2012 SCC 69, [2012] 3 S.C.R. 555, para. 65.10 This suffices to disclose an arguable claim for breach of s. 2(b). The ultimate merit of that claim, including all its other and varied facets, can be developed and resolved at trial.

10 Similar reasoning has led to the conclusion it is contrary to s. 2(b) for the government to bring, or even to threaten to bring, defamation claims: Dixon v. Powell River (City), 2009 BCSC 406, 310 D.L.R. (4th) 176; and see Derbyshire County Council v. Times Newspapers Ltd., [1993] A.C. 534 (H.L.), per Lord Keith of Kinkel.

25. There can be no suggestion, on the facts alleged, as to the application of the qualified immunity for policy decisions. Nor can there be any attribution of the alleged conduct to any legislative or regulatory regime. The conduct in question is the manner of the regulator’s communication with Ernst over the years. This is a case about the day-in-and-day-out workings of bureaucrats said to have run amok to a degree harmful to freedom of expression.11 Manifestly, there was no legislative compulsion at work, nor “social, economic, and political considerations” at play in the regulator’s alleged decision-making.

11 Indeed, given Ernst’s allegation of punitive conduct on the part of the regulator, arguably this claim would also meet the higher Mackin standard. The regulator has no business seeking to punish those with whom it communicates; doing so would thus amount to an “abuse of power”. [Emphasis added, but not the italics]

2015 11 26: Supreme Court of Canada scheduled the appeal hearing for January 12, 2016 (previously it was tentatively set). Click to read the Court’s letter and hearing notice.

Hope is a tease designed to prevent us accepting reality.

Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham

Hope is a horrible thing, you know. I don’t know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it’s not. It’s a plague. Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth and somebody just keeps pulling it and pulling it.

Ann Patchett in “State of Wonder”

2015 12 14: Supreme Court of Canada dismisses Rupert Goodhart’s request for time extension and his motion for leave to intervene:

2015 12 14 Supreme Court Canada dismisses Rupert Goodhart's time extension request, leave to intervene in Ernst vs AER

2015 12 03: Gowling’s Jeff Beedell, Ottawa agent for AER, responds to Rupert Goodhart’s motion for leave to intervene. The AER and Gowlings never asked Ernst or her lawyers for permission to speak on her behalf. Ernst is happy to read any late submission, formal or informal, at any time, and is keeping her Christmas schedule empty so she has ample time to read the intervenor factums and any late filings. (The Supreme Court set the intervenor factum filing deadline for December 23, 2015.) The hearing is, after all, about whether or not Charter rights of Canadians can be trumped by energy regulators and their enabling governments. Christmas can wait.

***

2015 12 03 Gowlings Jeff Beedell, Agent for AER, speaking for all, including Ernst, on Rupert Goodart motion to intervene snap

2015 12 01: Motion for leave to intervene by frac-poisoned Rupert Goodhart, Lochend landowner, just outside Calgary, Alberta

2015 11 24: November 9, 2015 Letter from Supreme Court of Canada on the Rosebud community petition to the court signed by 74 residents

“On behalf of the Supreme Court of Canada, we acknowledge receipt of your letter of November 1, 2015 and your petition concerning the Jessica Ernst vs Alberta Energy Regulator case (docket 36167). Your correspondence has been referred to me for reply.  I regret to inform you that the Court is only permitted to consider material submitted by parties to an action or by an intervener.  I am also sure that you will understand that it would be inappropriate for the court to comment on a case presently before it.”

Chantal Portelance

Director, Communication Services

2015 11 19: Ernst Reply Factum

        Ernst Book of Authorities, Reply Factum

2015 11 06: Letter in support of Ernst by Diana, Derek, Dagan and Deity Daunheimer

2015 11 06: AER’s Factum repeatedly misstates Ernst’s claim and her Factum.

In 2004, when the EUB violated Ernst’s Charter rights, it was a government agency mandated to regulate industry in the public interest.

After the Ernst lawsuit went public, the Alberta government created REDA and turned the regulator into a corporation and removed “public interest” from it’s mandate.

The AER’s factum states:

6. The AER is a statutory agency responsible for regulating the development of Alberta’s energy resources. Through its governing statutes, it has broad purposes that range from the conservation of energy resources in Alberta, to appraising energy resources in Alberta, and providing for the economic, orderly and efficient development of the oil and gas resources of Alberta in the public interest. [AER’s counsel Glenn Solomon didn’t reference this statement.]

From REDA – the Alberta government’s legislation that created the AER:REDA, no public interest mandate for AER, doesn't have to provide for economic development but does have to be safe

The AER’s factum states:

39. … Ms. Ernst claims in her Factum that she seeks declaratory relief in respect of her Charter claim.76 [ Appellant’s Factum at para. 23.] 

Ernst’s factum at para. 23 states:

23. Ms. Ernst has applied to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta seeking a remedy for the breach of her constitutional rights under s. 24(1) of the Charter. Ms. Ernst’s Charter claim includes both a claim for Charter damages, as well as a general claim for “further and other relief as seems just to this Honourable Court.”32 At trial, Ms. Ernst will seek both a judicial finding that her Charter rights to free expression were breached, as well as an appropriate Charter remedy for this breach, which may include monetary damages and/or declaratory relief.

The AER’s factum states:

46. The AER is a statutory regulator that owes only public duties.

But REDA doesn’t define any “public duties” for the AER, removed “public interest” from the regulator’s mandate and established it as a non-Crown “corporation.”

REDA, 'The Alberta Energy Regulator is established as a corporation...has the rights, powers and privileges of a natural person.'

The AER’s factum twists Ernst’s:

47. … In her view, once a claim is brought under the Charter, any limits in respect of that claim would “effectively [neuter] s. 24(1) and [reduce] it from the supreme law of the land to meaningless words on a page.”89 [Appellant’s Factum at para. 66.]

Ernst’s factum at para. 66 states:

The unsupportable logical conclusion of the Court of Appeal’s ruling in this matter is that all governments in Canada have the ability to legislatively immunize themselves and all of their government agencies against any claim for a personal remedy brought pursuant to s. 24(1) of the Charter. As noted by McLachlin C.J.C., the purpose of section 24(1) is to provide “personal remedy against unconstitutional government action.”81 Allowing governments the ability to immunize themselves from such claims effectively neuters s. 24(1) and reduces it from the supreme law of the land to meaningless words on a page.

The AER’s factum leaps:

55. On Ms. Ernst’s construction, to immunize these judicial decision-makers from claims for personal Charter damages would “gut the remedial power of 24(1)” and “cannot be countenanced.”97 [Appellant’s Factum at para. 67.]

Ernst’s factum at para. 67 doesn’t mention judicial decision-makers:

67. Moreover, the effect of upholding the Court of Appeal’s ruling would be immediate and, in the Appellant’s view, disastrous. General statutory immunity clauses are very common across Canada; there are currently nearly identical statutory immunity clauses in the statute books of every jurisdiction in Canada.83 A ruling that s. 43 of the ERCA is constitutionally applicable to claims for personal remedies pursuant to s. 24(1) of the Charter would mean that dozens of other general statutory immunity clauses also block any and all attempts by Canadians to challenge the constitutionality of the actions taken by hundreds of governments and government agencies across Canada. Such a finding would gut the remedial power of 24(1), and render functionally useless this Court’s previous jurisprudence on s. 24(1). Such a result cannot be countenanced

The AER’s factum states:

77. A public decision-maker should be free to make the decisions it deems appropriate, having regard to all the various interests involved. It must be able to remain impartial in this important sense.

Like this? The Alberta government appointed Ex-VP Encana, advisor to Cenovus, CAPP creator and Chair for many years, Gerard Protti (photo below) Chair of the AER.

2013 05 03 Fox Henhouse CAPP and EnCana's Gerard J Protti

REDA states:

2015 11 08 snap from REDA, Duty of Care, act honestly, in good faith, avoid conflict of interest

***

2015 11 04: BC Tap Water Alliance Board submission to Supreme Court of Canada

74 MIRACLES! 2015 11 04: Rosebud Hamlet Petition to the Supreme Court of Canada (with the 9 signature pages removed to reduce file size)

From: Shauna Murphy
Date: Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 3:35 PM
Subject: Fwd: to fwd
To: Jessica Ernst <email hidden; JavaScript is required>
Cc: email hidden; JavaScript is required, email hidden; JavaScript is required, email hidden; JavaScript is required

Dear Ms.Ernst,

Please find attached a digital copy of the petition from Rosebud residents in support of your case, Ernst vs. AER, Docket 36167, mailed on November 2, 2015 to the Supreme Court of Canada.  The signatures have been blocked to protect the residents and their privacy, the Supreme Court of Canada received the original petition complete with signatures.

It is through your case that we have been made aware of the huge threat fracking is to our precious water sources and that our charter rights are under attack. Thank you so much.

Shauna Murphy

PETITION to the Supreme Court of Canada

Re: Jessica Ernst vs Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) Supreme Court of Canada Docket #36167

We, the undersigned residents of the Hamlet of Rosebud, wish to add our voices to an urgent call to allow the AER to be held accountable for any damages incurred to our water source and reservoir as a result of fracking operations by Encana. Beforehand, the AER and Encana failed to consult with us about fracking planned in our drinking water zones. Since then, they have never confessed that Encana fracked our water source, the exact chemicals injected or what dangers residents are living with and the AER continues to let Encana frack in the fresh water zones here.

The only reason we know anything about the illegal fracking here is through Jessica Ernst’s legal case and investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk who recently released a book called Slick Water.

For the AER, mandated to protect the public, to be legally immune from violating our charter rights in such an important drinking water contamination case is wrong and must be overturned.

We are not asking to file a factum or for time at the hearing.

Thank you for your consideration.

74 Rosebud residents signed!

Click to see the petition & supporting documents with signature pages

Click to see the supporting documents without signature pages

THANK YOU, MY COMMUNITY!

***

2015 11 04: Supreme Court Order: Motion by Alberta landowners Dahm and Plowman dismissed. CCLA, BCCLA and David Asper Centre may each file 10 page factums each. The Court will decide after review, on whether or not to grant hearing time. The respondent is permitted to serve and file a single factun not exceeding ten (1 0) pages in reply to these interventions on or before January 7, 2016.

2015 10 19: David Asper Centre responds to AER

….the Court of the Queen’s Bench did hold that the appellant’s Charter claim may make out a valid cause of action, a finding that the Court of Appeal of Alberta did not overturn and which is not at issue in this appeal. [Emphasis added]

2014 10 15: AER’s Glenn Solomon files complaint about the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights and BCCLA motions to intervene

From Justice Wittmann’s September 2013 ruling (Not appealed by the AER, included in Ernst’s filings with the Supreme Court and copied to the AER):

… V. Overall Conclusion

… b. The Charter claim of Ernst against the ERCB is valid, subject to the application of the Limitations Act and section 43 of the ERCA.

2015 10 09: David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights Motion for Intervention

… 12. Absolute immunity from Charter scrutiny is not available at common law. This
Honourable Court’s decision in Henry illustrates that the common law provides government with very limited protection from claims for damages under the Charter. 4 In addressing the Crown’s liability under the Charter for wrongful non-disclosure in criminal prosecutions, this Court held that the claimant must overcome a “high threshold” to make out a successful Charter damages claim but does not bar absolutely any such claims.5 The effect of this threshold is to provide some protection to the Crown in fulfilling its prosecutorial function. However, the Crown’s conduct is still subject to a degree of Charter scrutiny.

13. For the reasons that follow, the Asper Centre submits that it would be an anomaly if statutory immunity provisions like s. 43 of the ERCA could provide even greater immunity from Charter liability than the limited protection available at common law.

14. Immunity from the Charter is granted only in very narrow circumstances where there are compelling policy reasons for doing so.

16. Furthermore, this Honourable Court has already presented compelling reasons for not immunizing statutory bodies from the Charter. In Blencoe, this Court found that “bodies exercising statutory authority are bound by the Charter even though they may be independent of government.”10 The underlying reasoning was that if statutory bodies could be insulated from the Charter, then the legislature could avoid the Charter’s constraints by establishing statutory bodies to fulfill government functions.11

17. In Godbout, La Forest J. expressed concern that allowing government to escape the
Charter in this way would “indirectly narrow the ambit of protection afforded the Charter in a manner that could hardly have been intended and with consequences that are, to say the least, undesirable.”12 A government’s attempt to restrict access to appropriate and just remedies by granting itself immunity from Charter claims should not be given greater effect than the limitations on immunity already imposed by this Honourable Court.

18. Even in those narrow circumstances where compelling policy considerations justify granting protection, this Court has steered away from absolute immunity and taken a nuanced and qualified approach that is absent in the legislation at issue. As articulated in Henry, the courts must attain a “reasonable balance” between respecting the serious policy issues that may justify extending immunity and the importance of remedying rights violations.13 Interpreting s.43 of the ERCA as an absolute bar to claims for Charter remedies would upset that balance by placing undue weight on policy factors while ignoring the claimant’s rights entirely.

19. Finally, the Asper Centre submits that this Court should be attuned to the consequences of allowing statutory immunity provisions to bar Charter claims: government would be capable of insulating itself from the Charter with the mere stroke of a legislative pen. In essence the government has through this provision attempted to pre-empt the analysis of what constitutes a good governance concern that justifies such protection and has substituted a legislative decision for a judicial decision about when and if damages are an appropriate and just remedy. The Asper Centre intends to argue that there is a presumption that such statutory articulations of good governance concerns, particularly where the immunity appears to be absolute, are overbroad and ought to be interpreted as incapable of ousting the constitutionally guaranteed s.24( 1) jurisdiction.

20. The courts below recognized that the appellant’s Charter claim makes out a valid Cause of action. The determination of an appropriate and just remedy is called for after such a case is heard on its merits. It should not be determined in advance by legislative fiat. As explained by this Court in Henry, once a claimant has made out a breach of his or her Charter rights and has demonstrated that an award of damages would serve a compensation, vindication or deterrence function, the onus then shifts to the state to rebut the claim based on countervailing considerations (the existence of alternative remedies and good governance considerations).14

21. The language of s. 24(1) of the Charter confers the widest possible discretion on a court to craft remedies for violations of Charter rights. Courts must be able to exercise wide discretion to fashion remedies that are just and appropriate to the particular violation. In Doucet-Boudreau, Iacobucci and Arbour JJ. stated:

The power of the superior courts under s. 24(1) to make appropriate and just orders to remedy infringements or denials of Charter rights is part of the supreme law of Canada. It follows that this remedial power cannot be strictly limited by statutes or rules of the common law. We note, however, that statutes and common law rules may be helpful to a court choosing a remedy under s. 24(1) insofar as the statutory provisions or common law rules express principles that are relevant to determining what is “appropriate and just in the circumstances”.5

22. Remedies cannot be illusory. For rights to be meaningful, violations of rights must be capable of being remedied. In Dunedin, this Honourable Court stated that “a right, no matter how [PAGE 20 AND 21 ARE MIXED UP IN THE PDF AT LINK] expansive in theory, is only as meaningful as the remedy provided for its breach.”16 An individual who has had a violation of his or her Charter rights must be allowed access to an effective remedy.

2015-10-09: Attorney General of British Columbia Response to the motion for leave to intervene: “The AGBC takes no position on this motion.”

2015 10 05: Dahm and Plowman respond to the AER

2015 10 07: BC Civil Liberties Association Motion for Intervention in 36167 Ernst vs AER

… 21. The BCCLA will also address the related question of the role of limitation periods in the s. 24(1) analysis. Ravndahl v. Saskatchewan, 2009 SCC 7, [2009] 1 S.C.R. 181, loomed large in the Court of Appeal’s reasoning, as it was taken as authority for the proposition that the Legislature could limit personal Charter claims (at para. 26). There are two points in this regard. First, the BCCLA will explain why limitation periods could theoretically be regarded, at least in some circumstances, as defining what is “appropriate and just”. Second, the BCCLA will show that this Court has in fact never held that limitation periods extinguish Charter damages claims, and that the reasoning of the Alberta courts was to at least some extent based on a misreading of Ravndahl. 

22. Finally, with respect to the capacity in which this regulator acted, it is notable that the defendant here is an administrative tribunal, and potentially, there is a corresponding need to ensure the decision-making of such bodies remains independent and is not impeded by threats of damages claims, under the Charter or otherwise. The BCCLA will address the application of Mackin, Ward, and Henry in the administrative law context in particular, explaining why the Mackin rule provides sufficient protection for the work carried out by decision-makers such as the regulator in the present case, when acting as such. 

25. Although the BCCLA generally supports the position taken by Ms. Ernst, the content of the BCCLA’s analysis will strive to avoid duplication of the points made in the appellant’s factum, and to assist the Court by providing the BCCLA’s wider perspective on s. 24(1) of the Charter. …

29. Third, unlike Ms. Ernst, the BCCLA does not accept the lower courts’ premise that it is necessarily constitutionally legitimate to constrain Charter claims by way of limitation periods. The BCCLA’ s discussion of Ravndahl will be distinctive.  [Emphasis added]

2015 10 01: AER objects to Alberta Landowners’ (Dahm and Plowman) Motion

2015 09 24: Motion for Intervention by Canadian Civil Liberties Association

2015 09 14: Motion for Intervention by Donna Frances Dahm and Robert Pius Plowman

2015 09 11: Jessica Ernst’s Factum filed for Ernst vs AER at Supreme Court Canada

Appeal Record filed with Ernst’s Factum

Book of Authorities filed with Ernst’s Factum

2015 08 27: Attorney General of Quebec filed Notice of Intention to Intervene

2015 08 27: Attorney General of British Columbia filed Notice of Intention to Intervene

2015 08 24: Attorney General of Saskatchewan filed Notice of Intention to Intervene

2015 08 17: Attorney General of Canada filed Notice of Intention to Intervene

2015 06 29: Notice of constitutional question(s) Ernst served on all Attorneys General in Canada (click to see distribution).

The Attorney Generals must file their arguments for or against Ernst’s constitutional question until December 23, 2015. The question is:

Is s. 43 of the Energy Resources Conservation Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. E-10, constitutionally inapplicable or inoperable to the extent that it bars a claim against the regulator for a breach of s. 2( b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and an application for a remedy under s. 24( 1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

2014 11: No Deference Without Independence, on Ernst losing in Alberta Courts against AER by: Jason MacLean, Assistant Professor, Lakehead University Faculty of Law

2015-06-25: Decision on the motion to state a constitutional question

1 . Is s. 43 of the Energy Resources Conservation Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. E-10, constitutionally inapplicable or inoperable to the extent that it bars a claim against the regulator for a breach of s. 2( b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and an application for a remedy under s. 24( 1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? …

1. Any attorney general wishing to intervene pursuant to par. 61(4) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada shall serve and file their factum and book of authorities on or before December 23, 2015.

2. Any interveners granted leave to intervene under Rule 59 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada shall file and serve their factums and books of authorities on or before December 23, 2015.

June 12, 2015, Ernst filed with Supreme Court of Canada: Ernst Memorandum of Argument on Constitutional Questions, Response to Glenn Solomon, AER

June 5, 2015, AER filed with Supreme Court of Canada: Glenn Solomon, AER Response to Ernst Motion to State a Constitutional Question

May 29, 2015, Ernst filed with Supreme Court of Canada: MOTION TO THE CHIEF JUSTICE OR A JUDGE TO STATE A CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTION, Jessica Ernst-Appellant

2015 04 30: GRANTED WITH COSTS / ACCORDÉES AVEC DÉPENS Press Release by Supreme Court of Canada

 Jessica Ernst v. Alberta Energy Regulator (Alta.) (Civil) (By Leave) (36167)

The application for leave to appeal is granted with costs in the cause.

2013 09 19 Justice Neil C Wittmann ERCB AER judged Ernst a terrorist in total absence of evidence still gave ERCB complete immunity even for Charter violation

La demande d’autorisation d’appel est accueillie avec dépens selon l’issue de la cause.)

Coram: Abella / Karakatsanis / Côté

2015 01 11: Alberta courts stop publishing judgments to cut costs; Why not reduce the billions given to the oil and gas industry instead? [Some court links below may go nowhere. Time permitting, case judgements will be uploaded directly to the website.]

Que décidera la Cour Suprême? On saura après-demain si la Cour Suprême entendra l’appel de Jessica Ernst:

April 30, 2015, 9:45 AM (Ontario time), Ernst vs ERCB (now AER):

The Supreme Court of Canada will release their decision regarding Ernst’s leave application.

Press Release by Supreme Court of Canada / Cour suprême du Canada

 (le français suit)

JUDGMENTS TO BE RENDERED IN LEAVE APPLICATIONS 

April 27, 2015

For immediate release

OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada announced today that judgment in the following applications for leave to appeal will be delivered at 9:45 a.m. EDT on Thursday, April 30, 2015.  This list is subject to change.

PROCHAINS JUGEMENTS SUR DEMANDES D’AUTORISATION

Le 27 avril 2015

Pour diffusion immédiate 

OTTAWA – La Cour suprême du Canada annonce que jugement sera rendu dans les demandes d’autorisation d’appel suivantes le jeudi 30 avril 2015, à 9 h 45 HAE.  Cette liste est sujette à modifications.

7.       Jessica Ernst v. Alberta Energy Regulator (Alta.) (Civil) (By Leave) (36167)

2014 03 31: PRESS RELEASE by Klippensteins (French Translation below):

2015 03 31 Quote from Klippensteins Press Release on Encana's dreadfully deficient Disclosure records

2015 03 31 Ernst Quote on wn.com from Klippensteins Press Release on Encana's dreadfully deficient Disclosure records

2015 03 31: Concerns raised regarding EnCana’s “extraordinarily deficient” disclosure of records in Rosebud fracing water contamination case

ROSEBUD, AB, March 31, 2015 /CNW/ – Plaintiff Jessica Ernst is raising serious concerns regarding blatant, widespread and systemic deficiencies in Encana’s disclosure of records, including Encana’s failure to disclose key records in a landmark lawsuit against EnCana, Alberta Environment and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (now AER) regarding water contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing.

“To be frank, EnCana’s disclosure was embarrassingly pathetic – it was an incomplete, disorganized, error-laden, repetitive and insulting mess that wastes everyone’s time and money, including the Court’s,” said Jessica Ernst. “This is yet another example of the disrespect with which Encana treats regular Albertans, and a further indication of how difficult it is for individuals to stand up to large corporations in court.”

The blatantly deficient nature of the List of Records filed by EnCana will make it very difficult for the court to understand the case, and have the very real effect of causing considerable delay and increasing costs on all sides. According to the Foundational Rules of the Alberta Rules of Court, full disclosure of documents by parties named in a lawsuit “provide a means by which claims can be fairly and justly resolved in or by a court process in a timely and cost effective way.”

Most concerning are key documents that are missing from EnCana’s disclosure. In particular, Encana failed to disclose:

  • records regarding hundreds of gas wells fractured in drinking water zones at Rosebud;
  • the chemicals used by EnCana at hundreds of wells near Rosebud; and
  • investigations into other contaminated water wells in the Rosebud Area.

Ms. Ernst’s lawyers have written to EnCana’s lawyers noting that in light of Encana’s “extraordinarily deficient disclosure,” the only reasonable solution is for EnCana to redo its disclosure of records. A copy of the letter outlining the severe and widespread deficiencies in detail can be found here.

2015 03 31 Snap Conclusion Murray Klippenstein to Osler, re Encana's blatantly incomplete, deficient, disclosure of records

SOURCE Klippensteins

For further information:

Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors:

Murray Klippenstein / Cory Wanless, (416) 598-0288;

Jessica Ernst: 1-403-677-2074, email hidden; JavaScript is required

2015 03 27 Murray Klippenstein Letter to Maureen Killoran, Osler – Ernst v EnCana – Disclosure of Records:

2012 11 28: Power of Attorney Calgary managing partner for Osler Hoskin Harcourt, Maureen Killoran, lawyer representing Encana in the Ernst vs Encana lawsuit:

And, to be perfectly frank, when you do energy law, as I do, or corporate litigation, you’re not dealing with life and death situations and people whose lives have been turned upside down, plaintiffs who are weeping. It’s just about money. [Emphasis added]

Encana se moque de Jessica et du système judiciaire!

Communiqué de presse

Préoccupations soulevées au sujet de la divulgation “extraordinairement déficiente” des dossiers d’Encana sur le cas de contamination d’eau fracturée à Rosebud

Rosebud, Alberta – Le 31 mars 2015 – La plaignante Jessica Ernst soulève des préoccupations sérieuses au sujet des déficiences flagrantes, généralisées et systémiques dans la divulgation des dossiers de la part d’Encana, dont la divulgation de documents clés dans le cas de jurisprudence contre Encana, Alberta Environment et le Energy Resources Conservation Board (maintenant AER) au sujet de la contamination de l’eau causée par la fracturation hydraulique.

“Pour être bien honnête, la divulgation d’Encana est franchement pathétique – elle est incomplète, désorganisée, pleines d’erreurs, répétitive et un gâchis insultant qui fait perdre le temps et de l’argent à tout le monde, incluant la Cour,” dit Jessica Ernst. “C’est un autre bel exemple du manque de respect qu’a Encana pour tous les Albertains ordinaires, et une autre signe qui illustre comment c’est difficile pour les individus de tenir tête à de larges corporations devant la cour.”

La nature déficiente si évidente de la List of Records déposée par Encana rendra les choses très difficiles pour la cour de comprendre le dossier, et a comme effet très réel de causer des délais considérables et augmenter les coûts pour tous les partis. Selon le Foundational Rules of the Alberta Rules of Court, une entière divulgation de documents par les partis nommés dans un procès “fournit les moyens pour qu’un cas soit résolu de manière équitable et juste en ou selon un procès de cour en temps opportun et selon un rapport coût/efficacité raisonnable.”

Les plus préoccupants sont des documents clés manquant dans la divulgation d’Encana. Notamment, Encana n’a pas dévoilé:

  • les documents au sujet des centaines de puits de gaz fracturés dans des zones d’eau potable de Rosebud;
  • les produits chimiques utilisés par Encana dans des centaines de puits près de Rosebud; et
  • les enquêtes faites sur d’autres puits d’eau potable contaminés dans la région de Rosebud.

Les avocats de Mme Ernst ont écrit aux avocats d’Encana que vu la “divulgation extraordinairement déficiente” d’Encana, la seule solution serait qu’Encana refasse sa divulgation de dossiers. Une copie de la lettre exposant les déficiences sévères et généralisées en détails peut être consultée ici.

Conclusion

Comment un travail si évident d’insuffisance professionnelle et de si grande portée peut même être considéré comme étant acceptable pour nous le faire parvenir est incompréhensible. Peut-être qu’il s’agit de normes de qualité de travail si faibles de la part de quiconque aurait effectué ou supervisé cette tâche, ou le mépris envers une Albertaine ordinaire qui ose défier la puissante Encana, ou un placement semi-délibéré d’un obstacle aux tentatives de Mme Ernst d’emmener cette question devant la cour, ou une indifférence cavalière envers l’entente que vous avez faite ou les besoins de la cour, ou une certaine combinaison de tout cela. Ce n’est pas facile de trouver une quelconque justification raisonnable pour  la livraison d’une version si manifestement déficiente d’une partie importante de cette poursuite. Dans tous les cas, vu la nature, le nombre et la sévérité de ces déficiences, la seule solution doit être qu’Encana refasse sa divulgation de ses documents de façon à ce qu’elle se conforme au Alberta Rules of Court et le Protocol Regarding Electronic Discovery comme il avait été convenu.

Contacts:

Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors:

Murray Klippenstein / Cory Wanless, (416) 598-0288;

Jessica Ernst: 1-403-677-2074, email hidden; JavaScript is required

Supreme Court of Canada Summary: Jessica Ernst v. Alberta Energy Regulator

Keywords Canadian charter (Non-criminal) – Constitutional law, Enforcement, Remedy, Freedom of expression (s. 2(b)).

Case summaries are prepared by the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada (Law Branch) for information purposes only.

Charter of Rights – Constitutional law – Enforcement – Remedy – Freedom of expression – Statutory immunity clause held to preclude adjudication of individual’s action in damages for alleged Charter breach by the regulator – Can a general “protection from action” clause contained within legislation bar a Charter claim for a personal remedy made pursuant to s. 24(1) of the Charter – Can legislation constrain what is considered to be a “just and appropriate” remedy under s. 24(1) of the Charter – Vancouver (City) v. Ward, 2010 SCC 27, [2010] 2 S.C.R. 28.

The applicant owns land near Rosebud, Alberta. She brought an action against: i) EnCana Corporation for damage to her water well and the Rosebud aquifer allegedly caused by its construction, drilling, hydraulic fracturing and other activities in the area; ii) Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, claiming it owes her a duty to protect her water supply and had failed to address her complaints about EnCana; and iii) the respondent regulator, for “negligent administration of a regulatory regime” related to her claims against EnCana. She brought a further claim for damages against the regulator under s. 24(1) of the Charter for alleged breaches of her s. 2(b) Charter rights. She alleges that from November, 2005 to March 2007, the Board’s Compliance Branch refused to accept further communications from her through the usual channels for public communication until she agreed to raise her concerns only with the Board and not publicly through the media or through communications with other citizens. She submits the respondent infringed her s. 2(b) Charter rights both by restricting her communication with it and by using those restrictions to punish her for past public criticisms and prevent her making future public criticisms of the respondent.

The respondent brought an application to strike paragraphs from the Statement of Claim or grant summary judgment in its favour. The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta granted the application and struck out the applicant’s negligence and Charter claims. While the Court held that the Charter claims were not doomed to fail and did disclose a cause of action, it held that the courts were precluded from considering the claims by the statutory immunity provision in the Energy Resources Conservation Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. E-10. The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.

36167 Jessica Ernst c. Alberta Energy Regulator
(Alb.) (Civile) (Sur autorisation)

Charte des droits – Droit constitutionnel – Exécution – Réparation – Liberté d’expression – Il a été jugé qu’une disposition législative accordant l’immunité empêchait de trancher une action en dommages-intérêts fondée sur une violation de la Charte censément commise par l’organisme de règlementation – Une disposition accordant une protection générale contre les actions prévue dans la loi rend-elle irrecevable une demande de réparation personnelle faite en application du par. 24(1)  de la Charte ? – Une loi peut-elle restreindre ce qui est considéré comme une réparation « convenable et juste » au sens du par. 24(1)  de la Charte ? – Vancouver (Ville) c. Ward, 2010 CSC 27, [2010] 2 R.C.S 28.

La demanderesse est propriétaire d’un bien-fonds à Rosebud (Alberta).  Elle a intenté une action contre i) EnCana Corporation, pour des dommages à son puits d’eau et à l’aquifère de Rosebud, censément causés par les activités que l’entreprise exerce dans la région, notamment ses activités de construction, de forage et de fracturation hydraulique, ii) Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, alléguant que ce ministère avait envers elle une obligation de protéger son approvisionnement en eau et qu’il avait omis de donner suite à ses plaintes au sujet d’EnCana et iii) l’organisme de réglementation intimé, pour [traduction] « négligence dans l’administration d’un régime de réglementation » en lien avec ses réclamations contre EnCana.  Elle a en outre présenté une demande en dommages-intérêts contre l’organisme de réglementation en application du par. 24(1)  de la Charte  pour de présumées atteintes aux droits que lui garantit l’al. 2b)  de la Charte .  Selon la demanderesse, de novembre 2005 à mars 2007,  la Direction de la conformité de l’organisme intimé avait refusé d’accepter d’autres communications de sa part par les canaux habituels de communication publique jusqu’à ce qu’elle accepte de ne faire part de ses préoccupations qu’à l’organisme, et non publiquement par les médias ou par des communications avec d’autres citoyens.  Elle prétend que l’intimé a porté atteinte aux droits que lui garantit l’al. 2b)  de la Charte  en restreignant ses communications avec l’organisme et en utilisant ces restrictions pour la punir de ses critiques antérieures et l’empêcher de formuler d’autres critiques publiques de l’intimé.

L’intimé a présenté une demande pour obtenir la radiation de certains paragraphes de la déclaration ou un jugement sommaire en sa faveur. La Cour du Banc de la Reine de l’Alberta a accueilli la demande et a radié les réclamations pour négligence et les réclamations fondées sur la Charte présentées par la demanderesse. Même si la Cour a statué que les réclamations fondées sur la Charte n’étaient pas vouées à l’échec et qu’elles révélaient effectivement une cause d’action, elle a statué que les tribunaux ne pouvaient connaître des réclamations en raison de la disposition législative accordant l’immunité, prévue dans l’Energy Resources Conservation Act, R.S.A. 2000, ch. E-10. La Cour d’appel de l’Alberta a rejeté l’appel.

19 septembre 2013: Cour du Banc de la Reine de l’Alberta (Juge Wittmann) 2013 ABQB 537
Décision accueillant la demande de l’intimé en radiation des réclamations en négligence portées contre lui; radiation ou rejet des réclamations de la demanderesse afin d’obtenir une réparation personnelle pour violation de la Charte

15 septembre 2014: Cour d’appel de l’Alberta (Calgary) (Juges Côté, Watson et Slatter)
2014 ABCA 285; 1301-0346-AC
Rejet de l’appel

13 novembre 2014: Cour suprême du Canada
Dépôt de la demande d’autorisation d’appel

February 9, 2015: Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella, Justice Andromache Karakatsanis and Justice Suzanne Côté to review Ernst’s application for leave (to decide if the court will hear her case).

2013 01 07: Osler Hoskin & Harcourt (National – 2012)

In Montréal, Suzanne Côté is trumpeted by several peers as being “very strong” in her commercial, insolvency, and securities practice. Côté is defending Université de Montréal, Vivendi Canada, and École Polytechnique de Montréal, and Hydro-Québec in a class action challenging pension plan and retiree benefit program amendments and calculations. … The firm is also recognized for its blossoming Calgary office, where a “noticeably younger” team of litigators attends to matters concerning Alberta’s flourishing oil and gas markets as well as technology providers, insurers and corporate officers. … In the energy litigation capacity, Maureen Killoran is also thought of by peers as “bright, strong, and capable.” Killoran’s clients include EnCana, which Killoran represents in several matters, including a public prosecution by the Federal Government for an alleged breach of the Canada Wildlife Act, as well as an action brought against the client by a landowner for alleged damages caused by fracking. [Emphasis added]

2014 11 27: Suzanne Côté is a partner and head of the Montréal litigation practice at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP – firm representing Encana in the Ernst vs Encana lawsuit.

2014 05 09: Ernst Argues Alberta’s Energy Regulator (AER) Not Immune to Charter [Encana’s Ex VP Gerard Protti  is Chair of the AER]

… Ernst’s lawyer Murray Klippenstein argued yesterday that no government or province can legislate themselves out of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter of Rights, on which Ernst’s claim is based. He called the Charter “the supreme law of the land.”

He argued that Ernst’s right to freedom of expression was breached in 2005 when the regulator sent her a letter accusing her of making “criminal threats.” It informed her that regulator staff had been told “to avoid any further contact” with Ernst.

A letter by Ernst seeking clarification on that decision and what basis it was made was refused by the board and returned unopened. …

In a taped conversation in June 2006 with ERCB lawyer Rick McKee, McKee said that “criminal threats” were never an issue, but that the board was upset with the landowner for airing her grievances in public and therefore embarrassing the regulator.*

“What you are doing is, hey, I don’t want to make it sound like people are a bunch of sensitive, you know, but at the end of the day, you are, you seem to be, attempting to humiliate the organization. And if that is your intention good on you, but don’t expect us to help you,” McKee told Ernst.

(The Tyee has heard the recording, read the transcripts and checked with actual witnesses. The incident is detailed in the original statement of claim.)

“Jessica is fighting for the welfare of the public in general,” said Shawn Campbell, a semi-retired 65-year-old rancher from Ponoka, Alberta. “To me, the issue is government transparency, and we have none of it. They’re in the deepest closet they can find.”

January 30, 2015: the Alberta Government filed their Statement of Defence:

34. Further, and in the alternative, if the Plaintiff did incur any loss or damages as
alleged in the statement of claim, or at all, which the Province does not admit but rather denies, then any such loss or damages were caused solely or substantially contributed to by the negligence of EnCana, for which the Province is not liable.

January 15, 2015, the Alberta Government suddenly announced it had other unexpected issues arise and was unable to file its Statement of Defence by mid-January, as promised in 2014.

“Triple costs” the court ordered the Alberta government to pay (works out to much less than what Ernst had to pay to fight Environment’s third and “improper” attack on the case):

Fees: $ 7,500.00
Disbursements: $ 230.10
Other Charges: $ 366.00
GST: $ 408.81

TOTAL: $ 8,500.91

(On January 20, 2015, the government, with banks full of cash they do not need to account for – according to AER’s lawyer Mr Glenn Solomon, finally paid Ernst these costs. The ruling was dated November 7, 2014)

COMPARE: So far, the court ordered (even though the case is clearly in the public interest) Ernst to pay industry, aka the ERCB (AER, 100% funded by industry, headed by Ex-Encana VP Gerard Protti) $21,840.79 for Mr. Solomon’s costs. Ernst paid as ordered to.

2014 12: PM Harper appoints Suzanne Côté, partner at law firm representing Encana in Ernst vs Encana, to Supreme Court of Canada

DOCKET: Supreme Court of Canada (SCC): Jessica Ernst v. Energy Resources Conservation Board

January 18, 2014: Jessica Ernst v AER (File No 36167 Supreme Court Canada, filed copy) Reply to ERCB Response for Leave to Appeal

December 5, 2014: ERCB response to Ernst Memorandum of Argument, SCC

November 13, 2014: Ernst vs ERCB Memorandum of Argument, SCC

Memorandum with supporting documents

PRESS ADVISORY

Court rules that Alberta Environment can be sued for failing to properly investigate and remediate water contamination near Rosebud

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

“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]”

SOURCE Klippensteins

For further information:

Jessica Ernst: (403) 677-2074email hidden; JavaScript is required;

Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors:
Murray Klippenstein, (416) 598-0288 or (416) 937-8634;
Cory Wanless, (416) 598-0288 or (647) 886-1914

Communiqué de presse

La cour statue qu’Alberta Environment peut se faire poursuivre pour n’avoir pas correctement enquêté une contamination de l’eau à Rosebud, en Alberta, et ne pas avoir pris des mesures d’assainissement.

Rosebud, Alberta (10 novembre 2014) – Le juge en chef de la Cour du Banc de la Reine en Alberta a statué qu’Environment Alberta peut se faire poursuivre pour ne pas avoir correctement fait enquête d’une contamination de l’eau, et ne pas avoir pris des mesures d’assainissement suite à une contamination présumément causée par des activités de fracturation hydraulique faites par Encana près de Rosebud, en Alberta.

On peut consulter le jugement ici

“Ceci est une grande victoire pour l’eau et pour tous les Albertains. La décision veut dire que les propriétaires terriens peuvent forcer les gouvernements et les régulateurs à prendre leurs responsabilités s’ils manquent à leurs obligations d’enquêter adéquatement les contaminations environnementales” dit la résidente de Rosebud et plaignante Jessica Ernst.

Environment Alberta soutenait en cour qu’il ne devait pas de “devoir privé de protection” envers les propriétaires terriens individuels lors d’enquêtes sur les causes de contaminations d’eau souterraine qui rendaient l’eau de puits si pollués avec du méthane et d’autres contaminants que l’on pouvait (et l’on peut encore) faire brûler l’eau. En d’autres mots, le régulateur soutenait que les propriétaires terriens individuels ne pouvaient pas essayer de rendre le gouvernement légalement responsable pour des enquêtes négligentes sur des contaminations environnementales, peut importe la gravité. La Cour n’est pas d’accord. Le juge en chef Wittmann a statué que “bien que ce soit une nouvelle réclamation, je crois qu’il y a une perspective raisonnable que Ernst réussira à établir que l’Alberta lui devait à première vue un devoir de protection.”

En plus de statuer en faveur de Mme Ernst sur tous les points-clés, fait rare, le juge en chef Wittmann a ordonné au gouvernement de payer les coûts légaux de Mme Ernst en triple pour la façon incorrecte qu’on a attaqué sa réclamation.

“Ernst a réussi complètement à répondre à cette Application…. Ces arguments auraient pu être soulevés lors de la première application, mais cela n’a pas été fait. On a obligé Ernst de prendre le temps et rencontrer les coûts de deux applications, pas seulement une….Suite à ces considérations, Ernst verra ses coûts contre l’Alberta triplés (du tarif régulier).”

Mr. Glenn Solomon invoices Ernst $15,750 costs re Alberta Court of Appeal denying Ernst v ERCB appeal October 10, 2014

2014 10 12 Thanks Giving at Rosebud, photo taken from Ernst property

Happy Thanks Giving, View from Ernst property October 10, 2014

Last Stop for High Profile Fracking Suit: Supreme Court, In striking Ernst appeal, Alberta court wraps blanket of immunity around regulator by Andrew Nikiforuk, September 16, 2014, TheTyee.ca

The Alberta Court of Appeal has effectively ruled that one of the nation’s most powerful regulators can violate the nation’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms by banishing citizens and falsely branding them as a security threats.

Alberta Court of Appeal rules that Alberta’s key energy regulator cannot be sued by citizens – even if it breaches constitutional rights2015 04 29 snap Alberta Courts, Court of Appeal ruling Ernst vs AER gone, not linked to canlii

ROSEBUD, ALBERTA–(September 15, 2014) The Alberta Court of Appeal ruled today [Ruling later removed from Alberta Courts. Click here for the ruling] that Alberta’s key energy regulator cannot be sued by citizens – even if it breaches constitutional rights. In a judgment released today in a landmark lawsuit by Jessica Ernst against EnCana, Alberta Environment and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB, now AER) regarding water contamination caused by fracing, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that the Alberta government had granted complete and total legal immunity to Alberta’s key regulator, the ERCB, against all legal claims, including for violations of constitutional rights.

The Court also ruled that the ERCB does not owe any legally enforceable duties to protect individual landowners from the harmful effects of fracing, after the ERCB argued in court that it had total immunity for “not only negligence, but gross negligence, bad faith and even deliberate acts,” and therefore Albertans simply could not sue the ERCB, no matter how badly they were harmed by the ERCB’s acts or failures to act.

Ms. Ernst will seek leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“I think Albertans will be disturbed to learn that their energy regulator has total and blanket legal immunity, even in cases where the regulator has breached the fundamental and constitutional free speech rights of a landowner,” said Murray Klippenstein, lead legal counsel for Ms. Ernst.

“I’ll be seeking leave to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court. These are critical issues that affect all Canadians,” said Jessica Ernst. “I will continue to fight for what’s right.” 

The lawsuit against Alberta Environment and Encana continues.

Australian Petroleum Association: Coal seam damage to water inevitable by The Sydney Morning Herald, August 3, 2011.

The coal seam gas industry has conceded that extraction will inevitably contaminate aquifers. “Drilling will, to varying degrees, impact on adjoining aquifers,” said the spokesman, Ross Dunn. “The intent of saying that is to make it clear that we have never shied away from the fact that there will be impacts on aquifers,” Mr Dunn said.

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers: Coal bed methane operations contaminate water resources by The Calgary HeraldAugust 28, 2014

Yet CAPP’s Alex Ferguson says many worries about water quality are based on past operations involving coal-bed methane — shallow deposits in closer proximity to groundwater. These did occasionally contaminate water resources, he says. In some of the more infamous instances, affected landowners could light their well water on fire.

Alex Ferguson was appointed Commissioner and CEO of the BC Oil and Gas Commission from 2007-2011

“That’s actually fairly common.”

EnCana VP, Mr. Gerard Protti (appointed Chair of the AER by the government in 2013) in a 2006 interview about Ernst’s water.

A Partial Time Tracker:

Four  months and 2 week (18 weeks) since Court of Appeal of Alberta heard arguments on May 8, 2014 regarding the Court of Queen’s Bench granting the ERCB complete legal immunity, even for violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

2012 Justice Barbara Veldhuis states – too much information; 2014 Court of Appeal of Alberta Justices state – not enough information:

April 2012: Justice Veldhuis requests a shorter Statement of Claim;
Klippenstein states in court that in his experience, courts will inevitably ask for more information. Ernst cooperates and fulfills the request for a shortened Claim.

May 2014: the Court of Appeal of Alberta Justices complain there wasn’t more information in the shortened Statement of Claim, and inquire about the ERCB’s Statement of Defence (to date, the ERCB has not filed one).

Seven months and one week (29 weeks) since Court of Queen’s Bench heard arguments in Drumheller on April 16, 2014 on Alberta Environment’s Motion to Strike (after 3 years of process already and their failed application to strike the word contamination and mention of other contaminated water wells at Rosebud), and the regulator’s secret editing of Dr. Alec (Alexander) Blyth’s “independent” report dismissing the contamination of Ernst’s well water.

Document exchange dates ordered: On April 16, 2014, Justice Wittmann requested document exchange between Ernst and Encana, saying there is no need to wait until the matters of the other defendants are ruled on. For months, Encana wouldn’t even agree to schedule a case management phone call. On July 14, 2014, Justice Wittmann ordered Ernst to give Encana her documents by October 31, 2014 and Encana to give Ernst its documents by December 19, 2014. Encana argued that it should not have to give any documents until the matters of the Alberta government and ERCB are resolved. August 2014, Encana finally agrees to cooperate with the document exchange protocol, accepting searchable, manageable, usable PDFs.

It took nearly 9 months (35 weeks) for Court of Queen’s Bench to rule on the January 18, 2013 hearing: ERCB motion to strike and Alberta Environment motion to remove the word contamination and mention of other contaminated water wells in Rosebud.

It took a year to set the first hearing on April 26, 2012, where Justice Veldhuis requested a shorter statement of claim. It took 7 months to set the January 18, 2013 hearing. It took another 7 months from Justice Wittmann’s September 19, 2013 ruling to get to  the third hearing, on April 16, 2014.

It took 2 years and 4 months for Encana to file statement of defence.

The ERCB and Alberta Government did not file statements of defence.

It took 4 years to get the data from the Alberta Research Council (now Alberta Innovates) on the water contamination cases under Freedom of Information legislation, ordered released by OIP Commissioner’s Office after a year and half in inquiry. The public baseline water well testing data remains withheld even though it was ordered released to Ernst.

Compare! New York’s highest court ruled – in 27 days – that towns can vote to protect themselves and their water from fracing

May 8, 2014, 10 AM: Appeal hearing Ernst vs ERCB (now AER) in Alberta Court of Appeal in Calgary:2014 05 08 Ernst v. ERCB Justices Calgary Court of Appeal of Alberta

The ERCB’s (now AER) Response to Ernst’s Appeal Factum.

The ERCB (now AER) chose not to file a Notice of Cross Appeal but argues an additional and novel issue in direct opposition to the finding of Justice Wittmann, that Ernst’s Charter claim is not valid because, it is argued, the ERCB did not limit the Appellant’s right to free expression. This issue was not raised in the Notice of Appeal, the Appellant’s Factum or any Notice of Cross Appeal.

April 16, 2014: Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General intervenes against Ernst in appeal of ERCB Charter violation

2014 04 18: Alberta Moves to Strike Down Ernst’s Fracking Lawsuit, Landmark case could spark a flood of litigation against the province, lawyer argues

2014 04 16 Drumheller Court w Justice Wittmann

Court sketch, Ernst v. Alberta Government.

An Alberta government lawyer argued in court this week that Jessica Ernst’s lawsuit on hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination should be struck down on the grounds that it would open a floodgate of litigation against the province.

“There could be millions or billions of dollars worth of damages,” argued Crown counsel Neil Boyle.

Seven years ago, oil patch consultant Ernst sued Alberta Environment, the Energy Resources Conservation Board and Encana, one of Canada’s largest shale gas drillers, over the contamination of her well water and the failure of government authorities to properly investigate the contamination.

The $33-million lawsuit alleges that Encana was negligent in the fracking of shallow coal seams; that the ERCB breached Ernst’s freedoms under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that Alberta Environment performed a problem-plagued investigation in bad faith.

The case, which effectively puts the performance of the province’s oil and gas regulators on trial, has drawn international attention.

The Alberta government made the application to strike the entire claim after Chief Justice Neil Wittmann ruled last fall that that lawsuit against Encana and Alberta Environment could proceed, but that the ERCB (now Alberta Energy Regulator) was exempt from civil action due to an immunity clause.

In Jan. 2013, Alberta Environment tried unsuccessfully to delete the word “contamination” as well as several clauses from the lawsuit that specifically mentioned other polluted water wells in central Alberta.

Courtroom drama

Justice Wittmann had trouble following the coherence of the government argument to strike the claim in the crowded Drumheller courtroom.

He noted that Boyle’s line of reasoning, which argued that the Crown owed no private duty of care to landowners, suggested that Alberta Environment would have to be negligent all the time before it could ever be found liable.

Boyle also argued that immunity clauses in the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and the Water Act shielded the province from any civil action. But questions from Wittman made it clear that these immunity clauses were not strong and only included actions taken “in good faith.”

Justice Wittmann also questioned Ernst’s lawyer Murray Klippenstein about the government’s filing of a report by the Alberta Research Council that dismissed Ernst’s water well case as insignificant. The government claimed the report was an independent review that proved there was no merit in the Ernst case.

Klippenstein argued that such a filing of evidence was inappropriate at this time. He also submitted a collection of Alberta Environment emails obtained through freedom of information legislation that he argued show the Alberta Research Council report was edited by Alberta Environment and not an independent review.

Justice Wittmann allowed the submissions in the event of an appeal.

ALBERTA REGULATOR’S SECRET EDITING EMAILS, PROVING THE ALBERTA RESEARCH COUNCIL REPORTS FRAUDULENT:

April 16, 2014: Drumheller Court of Queen’s Bench Hearing on the Alberta Government’s Application to strike out the Ernst case against them.

Duty of Care Chart presented by Klippensteins in the hearing:

2014 04 16 Cory Wanless Chart Ernst v Alberta - Key negligence cases against public authorities reguators alleging private duty of care

2014 04 02: Reply Brief by Alberta government (Alberta Environment) to Jessica Ernst’s Brief of Argument in response to the government’s Application to Strike

17. … Similar to a criminal investigation, the province is obliged to provide information to the party being investigated (EnCana), so that this party may respond, but the complainant (similar to a victim in a crime), does not necessarily participate actively in the investigation or have any rights in this regard.

2014 01 18: Hearing Transcripts arguments on Applications to Strike by the Alberta Government (Alberta Environment) and ERCB (now AER) heard by Justice Barbara Veldhuis (promoted off the case by the Harper government on February 8, 2013; Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Neil Wittmann volunteered to take over).

March 18, 2014: Jessica Ernst responds to the Alberta Government’s Application to Strike:

The approach taken by Alberta Environment is an abuse of process; the present Application should be dismissed, and further, Alberta Environment should be sanctioned with an award of substantial indemnity costs. There is ample case law holding that, barring special circumstances, a party should be allowed only one chance to attack an opponent’s pleadings.

February 18, 2014: Alberta Government Brief filed for Application to Strike the Ernst case against the Crown, claiming no private duty of care, no proximity, and immunity. The Crown waited nearly three years to argue such and Justice Wittmann allowed it (case management phone call, January 13, 2014). The hearing is set for April 16, 2014 in Drumheller Court of Queen’s Bench.

February 3, 2014: Ernst’s Appeal Factum (Appeal Number 1301-0346AC) filed in the Alberta Court of Appeal in Calgary. Hearing set for May 8, 2014.

January 30, 2014: Alberta government files Application to strike out the Ernst case against the Crown.

January 13, 2014 Case management call: Justice Wittmann returned the case to where by law it belongs – in Drumheller Court.

December 19, 2013: Alberta Court of Appeal approved our proposed schedule with minor changes. The approved schedule is as follows:

January 17, 2014 – Appellant to file and serve Appeal Record
February 5, 2014 – Appellant to file and serve Appellant’s materials
March 24, 2014 – ERCB (name changed to AER) to file and serve the ERCB’s materials
May 8, 2014 – Hearing (Calgary)

December 10, 2013: Notice of Appeal to the Court of Appeal filed and served on the defendants.

October 9, 2013: PRESS ADVISORY Chief Justice rejects Alberta government’s attack on Rosebud water contamination case – but dismisses case against Alberta’s key energy regulator, the ERCB.

(French translation of advisory below)

The practice of hydraulic fracturing – injecting fluids (gases or liquids, sand and toxic chemicals) under high pressure to shatter deep and shallow rock to stimulate hydrocarbons to flow – has raised serious economic, political, legal, health and environmental issues around the world.

In a judgment  recently released by the Alberta Court of Queen’s bench, Chief Justice Neil Wittmann ruled on the first skirmishes in a landmark multi-million dollar claim by Jessica Ernst against EnCana, Alberta Environment and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) regarding water contamination caused by fraccing.

Key parts of the judgment include:

The court rejected the Government of Alberta’s attempt to attack portions of the lawsuit, thereby paving the way for the claim against the Government of Alberta to proceed.

Justice Wittmann agreed there were valid claims asserted against the ERCB for breaching Ms. Ernst’s fundamental and constitutional right to freedom of expression. The court also found “the ERCB cannot rely on its argument on the Weibo eco-terrorism claim, in the total absence of evidence. There is none.” However, the court found that the Alberta government had granted complete immunity to the ERCB for all legal claims, including for breaches of constitutional rights.

Chief Justice Wittmann ruled the ERCB does not owe any legally enforceable duties to protect individual landowners from the harmful effects of fraccing, after the ERCB argued in court it had total immunity for “not only negligence, but gross negligence, bad faith and even deliberate acts,” and therefore Albertans simply could not sue the ERCB, no matter how badly they were harmed by the ERCB’s acts. Ms. Ernst was ordered to pay the ERCB’s costs.

Ms. Ernst has instructed her legal counsel to appeal the decision to dismiss the lawsuit against the ERCB.

“I think Albertans will be disturbed to learn that their energy regulator has total and blanket immunity, even in cases where the regulator has breached the fundamental and constitutional free speech rights of a landowner,” said Murray Klippenstein, lead legal counsel for Ms. Ernst.

“It is very worrying that citizens are unable to hold the energy regulator accountable for failing to protect citizens from the harmful impacts of fraccing,” said Cory Wanless, co-counsel for Ms. Ernst. “If the energy regulator won’t protect citizens, who will?”

For more information, including Encana’s Statement of Defence, refer below:

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CONTACT:

Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors:

Murray Klippenstein
(416) 598-0288 or (416) 937-8634

Cory Wanless
(416) 598-0288 or (647) 886-1914

Jessica Ernst: 1-403-677-2074
email hidden; JavaScript is required

COMMUNIQUÉ DE PRESSE

Le juge en chef rejette l’attaque du gouvernement de l’Alberta dans le dossier de contamination de l’eau de Rosebud, mais écarte l’action contre le ERCB, le régulateur énergétique principal de l’Alberta.

La pratique de la fracturation hydraulique, qui consiste à injecter des fluides ( des gaz ou des liquides, du sable et des produits chimiques toxiques) sous haute pression afin de fissurer le roc profond et en surface afin de stimuler les hydrocarbures pour qu’ils se libèrent, a soulevé de sérieux questionnements économiques, politiques, légaux, environnementaux et sanitaires partout sur la planète.

Dans une décision judiciaire rendue dernièrement par la cour du banc de la Reine en Alberta, le juge en chef Neil Wittmann a statué sur les premiers accrochages dans une réclamation clé de plusieurs millions de dollars enclanchée par Jessica Ernst contre EnCana, Alberta Environment et l’agence Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), au sujet d’une contamination de l’eau causée par le fracking.

Les éléments principaux du procès sont:

La cour a rejeté la tentative du Gouvernement de l’Alberta d’attaquer des parties du procès, ainsi ouvrant la porte à la réclamation contre le Gouvernement de l’Alberta pour qu’elle se poursuive.

Le Juge Wittmann convient qu’il y a des réclamations valides contre le ERCB pour avoir enfreint aux droits fondamentaux et constitutionnels de liberté d’expression de Mme Ernst. La cour a aussi conclu que “le ERCB ne peut pas se fier sur son argumentaire dans sa réclamation d’écoterrorisme à la Weibo, à cause de l’absence totale de preuves. Il n’y en a pas.” Toutefois, la cour a constaté que le gouvernement de l’Alberta a accordé une immunité complète à l’agence ERCB de toute réclamation légale, incluant des violations aux droits constitutionnels.

Le juge en chef Wittmann a statué que le ERCB n’a pas de devoirs légalement imposables pour protéger les propriétaires terriens individuels des impacts nuisibles du fracking, après que le ERCB ait argumenté à la cour qu’il bénéficiait d’une immunité totale pour “non seulement de la négligence, mais de la négligence grave, de la mauvaise foi et même des actes délibérés,” et donc les Albertains ne peuvent simplement pas poursuivre le ERCB, peu importe l’importance des dommages encourus à cause des gestes du ERCB. Mme Ernst a reçu les ordres de payer les coûts du ERCB.

Mme Ernst a demandé à ses avocats d’aller en appel de la décision de rejeter le procès contre le ERCB.

“Je crois que les Albertains seront troublés d’apprendre que leur régulateur énergétique jouit d’une immunité totale et générale, même dans des cas où le régulateur a enfreint aux droits fondamentaux et constitutionnels d’un propriétaire terrien,” dit Murray Klippenstein, le conseiller juridique principal de Mme Ernst.

“C’est très préoccupant de constater que les citoyens sont incapables de forcer le régulateur énergétique de rendre des comptes pour avoir manqué à la protection des citoyens contre les impacts nocifs du fracking,” dit Cory Wanless, coconseil de Mme Ernst. “Si le régulateur énergétique ne veut pas protéger les citoyens, qui le fera?”

Pour plus d’information, dont la requête de défense d’Encana: http://www.ernstversusencana.ca/the-lawsuit

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CONTACTS:

Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors:

Murray Klippenstein
(416) 598-0288 ou (416) 937-8634

Cory Wanless
(416) 598-0288 ou (647) 886-1914

Jessica Ernst: 1-403-677-2074
email hidden; JavaScript is required

September 16, 2013 Ernst files reply to Encana’s Statement of Defence

August 19, 2013:  Encana files Statement of Defence

Encana did not file their Statement of Defence by June 15, 2013 as promised because “a few of their key people are on vacation.”

Mid-May, 2013, Encana promised to file their statement of defence no later than June 15, 2013.

On an April 15, 2013 case management call, Chief Justice Wittmann introduced himself to the parties, advised that he will rule on the January 18, 2013 hearing (heard by Judge Veldhuis) by reading the filed briefs and transcripts, may request a hearing if he has questions, and asked EnCana if there was any reason why the company couldn’t file their statement of defence. Encana failed to come up with a good reason, so they agreed to file it right away.

On a February 20, 2013 case management call, it was decided that Chief Justice Wittmann will choose whether to read the transcripts of the arguments heard by Justice Veldhuis on January 18 and rule, or require a re-hearing which will add significant delay and costs.

On February 8, 2013, the Harper Government promoted Justice Barbara L. Veldhuis to the Court of Appeal of Alberta; she will not rule on the defendants’ applications she heard in Court of Queen’s Bench on January 18, 2013. Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Neil Wittmann volunteered to take over case management.

Ernst Statement to the Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench, read by Murray Klippenstein, January 18, 2013, heard by Justice Barbara L. Veldhuis:

I wanted to attend today’s hearing, but I decided not to attend because I feel strongly that my lawsuit should be heard in the judicial district of Drumheller as it is the courthouse with the closest connection to my dispute. This is where I live; this is where my water is; this is where coalbed methane wells were drilled; and this is where my water is contaminated. It seems to me that it is important to rural Albertans that disputes and harms that occur in our communities are also judged in our communities. Today’s application is not a minor or merely procedural step – it will determine the core issue of whether a landowner can sue the Energy Regulator for failing to protect rural Albertans from the harmful effects of the oil and gas industry.

I have a lot of respect for the court, and because of this respect, I feel it is important to make my position known. I will continue to request that all major applications be heard in Drumheller with the closest connection to my dispute.

Jessica at Drumheller Court, 10 AM, January 18, 2013. Jessica spent the day there, with a witness. Video of the hearing in Calgary Court was not available, requested or the heart of the matter.

On January 18, 2013, in Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench, Judge B. L. Veldhuis heard the defendants’ applications.

Read the original full Statement of Claim filed in Drumheller Court April 21, 2011.

In the summer of 2011, Encana suggests that the case be moved to Calgary. Klippensteins respond by explaining to all defendants why it is best to proceed in the Drumheller judicial centre, which is where the harm took place.

On April 26, 2012, the first hearing took place in Drumheller Court. Rather than hear the defendants’ arguments to strike out the case, Judge Veldhuis requests a shortened statement of claim.

Read the Fresh Statement of Claim filed in Drumheller Court on June 25, 2012.

On October 1, 2012, during a case management call heard by Justice B.L. Veldhuis, Encana, the ERCB and Alberta Environment (HMQ) request the case be moved to Calgary for the convenience of the defendants’ lawyers despite the fact that Drumheller is clearly the court with the closest connections to the lawsuit.

Alberta Environment (HMQ): “It clearly tips in favour of the defendants’ position, that it ought to be in Calgary and not in Drumheller”

Encana’s Drumheller Office

Subsequently, the request to move this particular hearing to Calgary is granted by Judge Veldhuis and Alberta’s Chief Justice. The Plaintiff respectfully requests that all major applications be heard in Drumheller as it is the judicial district where the harm took place.

Read the ERCB’s Brief of Argument to strike the case against them, filed in Drumheller Court December 5, 2012.

Read Alberta Environment’s (HMQ’s) Brief of Argument on the Special Application to strike paragraphs referring to the other contaminated water wells in the Rosebud community and the word contamination, filed in Drumheller Court on December 5, 2012.

Encana did not file application to strike the case against them or any paragraphs, and argued nothing in court.

Read the Plaintiff’s Brief in Response to the ERCB, filed in Drumheller Court on December 21, 2012.

Read the Plaintiff’s Brief in Response to Alberta Environment (HMQ), filed in Drumheller Court on December 21, 2012.

Read the ERCB’s Reply Brief and Alberta Environment’s (HMQ’s) Reply Brief, filed in Drumheller Court on January 3, 2013.

December 15, 2012 – Encana frac’ing above the Base of Groundwater Protection at Rosebud, Alberta

Landmark Alberta Fracking Lawsuit Resumes in Calgary Court

Alberta’s Key Regulator Argues It Has No Duty of Care to Landowners and Groundwater

Friday Jan. 18 at Court of Queen’s Bench
Suite 705-N, 601 – 5th St SW, Calgary T2P 5P7

10 AM to 4 PM 

Jessica Ernst, a 55-year-old oil and gas industry consultant and scientist from Rosebud, Alberta, returns to court this Friday to continue her multi-million dollar lawsuit against EnCana, one of the continent’s largest unconventional gas producers, for negligence causing water contamination.

Her landmark lawsuit also alleges that the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), the province’s energy regulator, breached her Charter Rights and failed to “exercise a reasonable standard of care, skill and diligence in taking reasonable and adequate steps to protect her well water from foreseeable contamination caused by drilling for shallow methane gas.”

Recent Court of Appeal decisions show the ERCB has a history of not upholding its own laws and even the Royal Society of Canada chided the agency for a 2007 incident in which the regulator spied on landowners and damaged “its credibility as an independent quasi-judicial board.”

In a court document filed on December 5/2012, the ERCB argues that it is exempt from liability for its actions in the Ernst case and that it owes no “duty of care” to landowners impacted by oil and gas development.

“I suspect that most Albertans will be shocked to learn that the province’s oil and gas regulator is arguing that it is totally immune from legal accountability even if there is gross negligence and incompetence,” says Murray Klippenstein, lawyer for Jessica Ernst.

Last December, an ERCB investigation found a company guilty of “accidentally” perforating above the Base of Groundwater Protection and contaminating groundwater near Grand Prairie but issued no fine saying the incident “posed an insignificant risk to drinking water resources” in a sandstone aquifer. One third of Alberta’s population is dependent on groundwater for drinking purposes.

During the last decade, EnCana intentionally perforated and fractured hundreds of gas wells above the Base of Groundwater Protection at Rosebud. The regulators continue to allow EnCana to do this.

In December 2012, only after about 171,000 energy wells were already fractured in Alberta, did the ERCB release draft regulations. Public input closes the day of this hearing on January 18, 2013.

The $33-million lawsuit effectively puts on trial the practice and regulation of hydraulic fracturing: the controversial blasting of both shallow and deep coal, tight sands, oil and shale formations with toxic chemicals, sand and water.

The poorly studied technology, which can cause earthquakes and methane leaks, has sparked moratoriums, bans, debates and regulatory investigations from New Brunswick to South Africa due to growing concerns about groundwater contamination, property devaluation, air pollution, health impacts and climate change.

Neither EnCana nor the Alberta regulators have yet filed statements of defense on incidents that took place nine years ago that resulted in scores of groundwater complaints.

EnCana, whose CEO abruptly resigned last week, has been the subject of many recent public controversies.  It remains the subject of a major US government groundwater study in Pavillion, Wyoming linking hydraulic fracturing to aquifer contamination as well as an ongoing antitrust investigation in Michigan for allegedly colluding with Chesapeake Energy to keep land prices low. A grassroots organization of mothers has also challenged the company’s aggressive fracing operations in Colorado.

EnCana received record fines from Colorado’s Oil and Gas Commission for contaminating water in 2004.

Murray Klippenstein: 1-416-937-8634
Jessica Ernst: 1-403-677-2074 (cell: 403-436-2062) email hidden; JavaScript is required

Background

A 2008 scientific review panel report for Alberta Environment warned that “preliminary data from the Rosebud, Alberta area suggest groundwater gas concentrations are being underestimated by a factor of three.”

A 2008 presentation to the International Wellbore Intergrity Network in Paris, France, co-authored by the ERCB, admitted “high pressure fracturing” increased the potential to create pathways to groundwater, and “the likelihood that gas, due to migration through shallow zones, can accumulate in buildings.”

A 2009 paper also co-authored by the ERCB on gas migration being a chronic problem reports that “high buildup pressures may potentially force gas into underground water aquifers” and that the factors affecting gas leakage and migration “can be generalized and applied to other basins and/or jurisdictions.”

November 14, 2012 – EnCana spraying drilling waste at Rosebud

Procès marquant reprend à la cour de Calgary, en Alberta 

Un régulateur clé de l’Alberta prétend qu’il n’a pas le devoir de protection envers les propriétaires terriens et l’eau souterraine 

Vendredi le 18 janvier à la Cour du Banc de la Reine
Suite 705
N, 601 – 5e Rue SO, Calgary T2P 5P7 

10:00 heures à 16:00 heures 

Jessica Ernst, une consultante  pour l’industrie pétrolière et gazière et scientifique de Rosebud en Alberta, âgée de 55 ans, revient devant le tribunal ce vendredi pour continuer son procès de plusieurs millions de dollars contre EnCana, l’un des plus important producteurs de gaz non conventionnel du continent, à cause de négligence qui aurait causé de la contamination de l’eau.

Son procès important prétend aussi que la commission Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) de l’Alberta, le régulateur de l’énergie de la province, aurait violé sa Charte de Droits et aurait manqué à son devoir “d’exercer une norme raisonnable de protection, compétences et diligence en prenant des mesures raisonnables et adéquates pour protéger son eau de puits de la contamination prévisible causée en forant à la recherche de gaz de méthane peu profond.”

Des décisions récentes de la cour d’appel démontrent que la ERCB a une historique de ne pas faire respecter ses propres lois et même la Société royale du Canada a réprimandé l’agence pour  un incident de 2007 durant lequel le régulateur a espionné sur des propriétaires terriens et nuit à “sa crédibilité en tant qu’une commission indépendante quasi judiciaire.”

Dans un document de la cour déposé le 5 décembre 2012, la ERCB soutient qu’elle est exemptée de toute responsabilité de ses actions dans la cause Ernst et n’a pas “le devoir de protection” envers les propriétaires terriens impactés par le développement pétrolier et gazier.

“Je pense que la plupart des Albertains seraient choqués d’apprendre que le régulateur de la province argumente qu’il est complètement exonéré de toute responsabilité légale même s’il y a eu extrême négligence et incompétence,” dit Murray Klippenstein, l’avocat de Jessica Ernst.

En décembre dernier, une enquête de la ERCB a déclaré une compagnie coupable d’avoir “accidentellement” perforé au-dessus de la base de protection de l’eau souterraine et avait contaminé l’eau souterraine près de  Grand Prairie mais n’a émis aucune amende, disant que l’incident “ne posait pas de risque important à la ressource d’eau potable” dans un aquifère de formation de grès. Un tiers de la population de l’Alberta dépend de l’eau souterraine pour son eau potable.

Pendant la dernière décennie, EnCana a intentionnellement perforé et fracturé des centaines de puits de gaz bien au-dessus de la bas de protection de l’eau souterraine à Rosebud. Les régulateurs continuent de permettre  Encana de le faire.

En décembre 2012, une fois qu’environ 171,000 puits énergétiques avaient déjà été fracturés en Alberta, et seulement à ce moment-là, la ERCB a émit son ébauche de règlements. La période pour recevoir les commentaires du public termine en cette journée de séance le 18 janvier 2013.

En réalité, le procès de $33 millions met en cause la pratique et les règlements encadrant la fracturation hydraulique: le dynamitage controversé  des formations de charbon, qu’elles soient à faible profondeur ou très creuses, des réservoirs étanches dans le sable ou le schiste, des formations  contenant du pétrole ou du gaz,  avec des produits chimiques toxiques, du sable et de l’eau.

La technologie, si peu étudiée, qui peut provoquer des séismes et des fuites de méthane, a déclenché des moratoires, des interdictions, des débats et des enquêtes régulatrices du Nouveau-Brunswick jusqu’en Afrique du Sud à cause des préoccupations grandissantes pour les contaminations de l’eau souterraine, les dévaluations des propriétés, la pollution de l’air, les impacts sur la santé et les changements climatiques.

Ni EnCana, ni les régulateurs de l’Alberta n’ont encore déposé des requêtes pour la défense à propos des incidents qui ont eu lieu il y a de cela 9 ans maintenant et qui sont la source de plusieurs plaintes de problèmes d’eau souterraine.

EnCana, dont le PDG a brusquement démissionné la semaine dernière, a été  au coeur de plusieurs controverses publiques récemment.  La compagnie est toujours impliquée dans une étude gouvernementale sur l’eau souterraine aux États-Unis à Pavillion, au Wyoming, qui fait des liens entre la fracturation hydraulique aux contaminations de l’aquifère ainsi qu’avec une enquête antitrust toujours en cour au Michigan pour une présumée collusion avec Chesapeake Energy afin de garder les valeurs des terres à la baisse. Un groupe populaire de mères a aussi mis au défi les opérations agressives de la compagnie au Colorado.

EnCana a reçu amendes qui ont battu des record de la Commission pétrolière et gazière du Colorado pour avoir contaminé l’eau en 2004.

Murray Klippenstein: 1-416-937-8634
Jessica Ernst: 1-403-677-2074 (cell: 403-436-2062) email hidden; JavaScript is required

Mise en contexte

Un rapport de 2008 d’un comité de révision scientifique pour Environnement Alberta prévenait que les “données préliminaires venant de Rosebud, en Alberta, laissait penser que les concentrations de gaz dans l’eau souterraine sont sous-estimées par un facteur de trois.”

Une présentation au groupe International Wellbore Intergrity Network en 2008 à Paris, France, dont la ERCB était un coauteur, admettait que la “fracturation à haute pression” augmentait le potentiel de créer des passages vers l’eau souterraine, et “la probabilité que le gaz, à cause de la migration à travers les zones peu profondes, peut s’accumuler dans les bâtiments.”

Un papier dont ERCB est aussi un co-auteur datant de 2009 sur la migration du gaz étant un problème chronique rapporte que “l’accumulation importante de la pression peut potentiellement forcer le gaz à pénétrer dans les aquifères d’eau souterraine” et que les facteurs affectant les fuites de gaz et la migration “peuvent être généralisés et s’appliquer à d’autres basins et/ou d’autres juridictions.”

November 2012 – EnCana’s drilling waste dumped on food land at Rosebud

January 17, 2013, Bob Curran, Public Affairs Section Leader, ERCB, on GlobalTV:

“We evolve the regulations on an ongoing basis to ensure that they’re protective of groundwater and public safety and that waste is disposed of properly as well.”

April 19, 2011, Darin Barter, ERCB spokesman, to the Peace River Record Gazette:

The ERCB does not test drilling waste before it is deposited on fields, said Barter, nor will it inspect deposits unless contacted by the landowner, as staff is limited, and the practice is common. “It is the company’s responsibility to follow the rules. We can’t be there in every location throughout the province every time something is done”

2007, Darin Barter, ERCB spokesman:

“If they are not following our regulations, we should be involved in it.”

The report also found that a variety of products — including hazardous materials and lubricants — had been discarded or abandoned “with no apparent concern for the environment.”

“A lack of responsibility and supervision are evident at other sites, wherein examples of poor industry practices and lackadaisical housekeeping abound”

2007: Oil firms ‘negligent’ at Suffield, Wildlife areas damaged by industry: report

2007: Suffield Files Reveal Disturbing Story of Environmental Degradation, Non-compliance by Energy Companies and Industry Giant EnCana

2006 CAPP’s Best Management [Voluntary] Practices for NGC/CBM:

“Drilling fluids are transported, stored and handled in tanks. Typically, drilling fluid waste will be transported off-site for re-use and treatment/disposal…. Some additives may be caustic, toxic, or acidic.”

2003: Alberta Landspraying While Drilling (LWD) Review by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, released three years later, only after FOIP and public pressure.