‘I have given up the rest of my life for this’, Jessica Ernst is convinced there’s nothing good about hydraulic fracturing by Chuck Tobin, September 21, 2012, Whitehorse Daily Star
At one point, says the lawsuit, excess methane gas caused by hydraulic fracturing was whistling out of her taps, creating “a serious risk of explosion.” Her water became unusable for washing and bathing, she claims. The oil and gas industry, says Ernst, maintains fracking is safe, and challenges anyone to bring forward evidence to prove otherwise. Ernst says there’s not much negative proof on the record because the industry settles its disputes outside the courtroom, and attaches gag orders as part of the settlement conditions. … “I really do not believe scientifically it can be done safely, because you are shattering the underground formation and nobody can go down there and study it, and nobody can go down there and fix it,” she says. … The Yukon, she says, is in the position to stand back before it makes the same errors Alberta and others have made by allowing hydraulic fracturing to occur.
Northern Cross Ltd. has filed a project proposal with the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board to drill two more exploration holes near Eagle Plains this winter. The company has indicated it does not intend to use hydraulic fracturing, but can’t say for sure until it begins drilling and learns more about the underground formations. It has also indicated to the assessment board that it has been assured by the Yukon government that should Northern Cross decide sometime down the road to use fracking, a separate environmental assessment would not be required. Three First Nations have indicated in their submissions to the assessment board that if there’s even a remote chance Northern Cross will use hydraulic fracturing, the company should have to demonstrate it can be done with no negative impacts to the environment. Northern Cross received permits in 2007 and 2008 for its first four exploration wells, though work did not start until this summer. It began drilling its first hole in August. A Chinese company purchased the controlling interest in Northern Cross last year for $20 million.
The lawsuit filed in Alberta’s highest court reads: “Prior to the arrival of CBM (coal bed methane) development in the Rosebud area, Ms. Ernst’s water well … produced large quantities of very clear, high-quality water.” Well water tests on record prior to the arrival of drilling in the area, tests conducted as part of routine monitoring or for real estate purposes, showed the water was free of contaminants, the suit says. It points out EnCana began drilling in the area back in 2001. By the end of 2005, Ernst was forced to abandon her well, according to the lawsuit. “Tap water resting in a bowl or cup would catch fire if an open flame was brought close to the water,” reads the lawsuit. “If water was placed in a plastic pop bottle and capped for a minute or less, the gas coming off the water would explode in a flame a foot high if a lit match or lighter was placed near the mouth of the bottle.” “… Ms. Ernst experienced eye irritations from merely being in the house,” says the lawsuit.
Ernst says her lawyers have told her to be prepared for a long haul, as there will surely be attempts to drag out the matter for as long as possible. … “I am putting all my time into the case,” she says. “I am working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and I have been for the last six years. “I am using up all my savings on the case, and I actually recognize I have given up the rest of my life for this.” Ernst points out as she continues her fight, the practice of hydraulic fracturing and its impact is drawing more and more attention from governments in Canada, United States and around the world. Ottawa announced last year it would be appointing a task force to examine hydraulic fracturing to determine if it was harming the environment, though the work has not yet begun in earnest. The suggestion by industry that hydraulic fracturing has been in common use for 50 years, as Northern Cross points out in its application, is a red herring, she argues. Never, Ernst says, has hydraulic fracturing been used with such “brute force to blast open” formations as it has been in the last decade. [Emphasis added]