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December 18, 2014

Court Rules Alberta Environment Can be Sued

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The Chief Justice of the Court of Queen‘s Bench of Alberta has ruled 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.

Alberta Environment argued in court the province 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 (Plaintiff Jessica Ernst) will succeed in establishing that Alberta owed her a prima facie duty of care."

Chief Justice Wittmann ordered the government to pay triple Ernst’s legal costs for the improper manner in which her claim was attacked.
Access the court document:

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