Alberta Government won’t appeal decision allowing Jessica Ernst to sue

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Jessica Ernst at the Canadian courts

Another victory for Jessica Ernst, a well known Canadian activist and friend of Irish anti-fracking campaign. The Goverment of the  province of Alberta won’t appeal the decision to allow Ernst to sue, representing a big landmark for the anti-fracking movement. This step came after a judge dismissed all the key arguments made by the Alberta goverment against her $33m lawsuit last November.

Ernst, who worked in the oil industry for 30 years, has been keeping up a legal fight since 2007 against the Alberta Government  after the fracking operations of the energy company Encana contaminanted her water well with methane and other chemichal fluids in 2001. She accused the provincial goverment bodies, in charge of protecting the environment and the regulating the oil and gas industry in Alberta, of failing to follow the investigation and enforcement processes that they had established and publicised to protect local communities from polutions of the fracking process. The provincial bodies tried to silence her, even calling her a “terrorist”.

The lawsuit, which breaks ground for more people and communities affected by the fracking industry in Alberta, which is the the biggest oil producing province in Canada, can now continue. Ernst visited Ireland in 2013 at the invitation of the anti-fracking campaign to explain her experiences of dealing with the consequences of fracking and how she was fighting them.

Big crowd at Jessica Ernst presentation

Last Saturday night, 2nd March, Canadian scientist Jessica Ernst gave a presentation in Leitrim village. A big crowd, around 150-200 people warmly welcomed her, the talk ending by a standing ovation. Staying in Ireland and United Kingdom until 12th March, she has come from Rosebud (Alberta) in Canada to tell her story, her struggle against oil company Encana.P1030514web
She herself worked in the oil and gas industry for 30 years until this petroleum company shallow-fracked close to her house.
As well as contamination of Rosebud’s drinking water, air pollution, illnesses, flaring noise, traffic… Jessica told of the dreadful impacts on her community. Most of the people stay silent, too afraid to talk and sometimes are paid for their silence. Encana considers her a terrorist, and the Canadian government denies the facts: “Your water is the cleanest in the world, nothing is wrong, it’s brown because you use too much water”, she was told. Jessica chose to go down the legal route and is currently suing the Canadian authorities for unlawful activities related to hydraulic fracturing. Her victory would be the first in the world. The struggle is exhausting: “Canada has fracked the head off Lady Justice. That’s how bad fracking is!”, she declared.
Before her lecture, a National Meeting of groups and individuals campaigning against unconventional gas extraction took place in Leitrim community centre. People came from Dublin, Cork, Clare, Wexford, Sligo, Donegal and elsewhere. Representatives of Making a Real Difference – Ireland (M.A.R.D.I) were there as well. Everyone worked on common concerns such as a strategy plan, internal and external communication, shared ideas and planned next actions.
Jessica joined the meeting towards its end and emphasised the importance of writing letters to Government and local representatives on every issue of concern. “A hand-written letter is worth dozens of type-written letters that you just sign. They pay attention to all letters personally written. Send thousands from the campaign, make your voices heard. ” she said.
It was agreed that there must be a demand that Government removes EPA immunity from prosecution immediately.
Many groups, including Good Energies Alliance Ireland, had information stands and a flyer at the meeting. Following the meeting there was a short presentation on GEAI aims, actions and plans for 2013.
Programme of Jessica’s next talks:
  • Ennis: March 4th. Old Ground Hotel, Co. Clare. 8pm
  • Belfast: March 6th. Queens University, Peter Froggatt Center. 7pm
  • St. Annes: March 7th. United Reformed Church, St. Georges Road, Lancs 7pm
  • Balcombe: March 8th. Church of England Primary School, London Road, RH17 6HS – 8pm until 10pm.
  • Dublin: March 10th. Gresham Hotel, O connell Street Dublin, 11-6pm. Hosted by Richard Boyd Barrett TD & Chair of Save our Seafront with speakers from Norway, An Taisce, SIPTU, The Woodlands League and more. Full programme
  • Dublin: March 11th.
    NUI Maynouth, 1pm, (Hall E, NUIM Campus, bring lunch).
    Hosted by Friends of the Earth: Smock Alley Theatre 7-9 pm, Exchange Street Lower, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.
Jessica Ernst’ website: Ernst vs Encana.

(Pictures AG)

Demand that government removes EPA immunity from prosecution immediately

A national meeting in Leitrim of groups and individuals campaigning against shale gas extraction last Saturday was delighted to welcome Jessica Ernst, a Canadian scientist taking a court case against the oil compangy, Encana.
Jessica joined in a discussion regarding the new study being commissioned by the EPA at present and the invitation to make submissions on the study’s Terms of Reference. The meeting was told that the EPA’s immunity from prosecution removes any responsibility by them for decisions made, based on the report, that would impact on the environment or on public health.
Jessica emphasised the importance of writing letters to Government and local representatives. “A hand-written letter is worth dozens of type-written letters that you just sign. They pay attention to all letters personally written. Send thousands from the campaign, make your voices heard,” she said.
1. That any response to the call for submissions on the proposed Terms of Reference for the research study “ Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction” should include a demand for this immunity to be removed immediately by an Act of the Oireachtas.
2. That until this immunity is removed, the Research Study should not be considered.
Relevant paragraphs in EPA Act 1992:
Para 15 – Immunity of Agency
“No action or other proceedings shall lie or be maintainable against the Agency or any body referred to in section 44 or 45 for the recovery of damages in respect of any injury to persons, damage to property or other loss alleged to have been caused or contributed to by a failure to perform or to comply with any of the functions conferred on the said Agency or body.”
Para 16 – Indemnification of Director General, directors and other persons.
“Where the Agency is satisfied that the Director General or other director or authorised person appointed by the Agency, or any other employee of the Agency has discharged his duties in relation to the enforcement of the relevant statutory provisions in a bona fide manner, it shall indemnify the Director General or other director or authorised person of the Agency or any other employee of the Agency, against all actions or claims howsoever arising in respect of the discharge by him of his duties.”
Relevant statements:
EPA Review report (2010) stated: “…doubts have been expressed about the constitutionality of this immunity and whether it is compatible with obligations arising under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Review Group concluded that the absolute nature of the EPA’s immunity … should be revised, as appropriate, when the opportunity arises.”
Phil Hogan, Minister for Environment: “The review recommended that immunity from prosecution, as applicable to the EPA in carrying out its functions, be reconsidered. As set out in the implementation plan, I propose to consider this issue, which is likely would require primary legislation if it is decided to progress it in the latter half of 2013.” (June 6th 2012)
See our page about EPA public consultation and our press releases: “EPA proposed fracking research ignores public health” and “EPA report on fracking just a whitewash?”

General meeting and talk by Jessica Ernst March 2nd

“FRACKING COMMUNITY. Actions and omissions speak louder than words”. Jessica Ernst will speak at this event, to be held in Leitrim Village Community Centre on Saturday 2nd March at 7-10pm. All welcome.
Jessica Ernst is a Canadian scientist who has worked in the oil and gas industry for 30 years. She discovered first-hand the consequences of hydraulic fracturing in her town of Rosebud, Alberta, Canada and has valuable, first-hand information to share with our community. This is a rare opportunity to hear her experiences of the dangers of shale gas development – she is coming to Leitrim and other places around the world to warn communities of what our reality may become. Jessica is currently suing the Canadian authorities for unlawful activities related to hydraulic fracturing and undertaking a tour of locations at risk from the shale gas industry.
Before her lecture, a national anti-fracking meeting will take place at the same venue, from 11 am to 4 pm.
Tea/Coffee and light refreshments will be available on the night as well as music
from local musicians.
There is no entrance charge to this event.
Jessica will also be speaking at the following venues:
  • Ennis: March 4thOld Ground Hotel, Co. Clare. 8pm
  • Belfast: March 6thQueens University, Peter Froggatt Center. 7pm
  • St. Annes: March 7th. United Reformed Church, St. Georges Road, Lancs 7pm
  • BalcombeMarch 8th. Church of England Primary School, London Road, RH17 6HS – 8pm until 10pm. 
  • Dublin: March 10th. Gresham Hotel, O connell Street Dublin, 11-6pm. Hosted by Richard Boyd Barrett TD & Chair of Save our Seafront with speakers from Norway, An Taisce, SIPTU, The Woodlands League and more. Full programme
  • Dublin: March 11th.
    NUI Maynouth, 1pm, (Hall E, NUIM Campus, bring lunch).
    Hosted by Friends of the Earth:
    Smock Alley Theatre 7-9 pm, Exchange Street Lower, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

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