Anti-fracking activist rejects violence, threats as solution

Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 12:35 pm | John Gleeson
Noel West/Mountain View Gazette
Noel West/Mountain View Gazette
Jessica Ernst gives her presentation on fracking at the Eagle Hill meeting.
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An internationally recognized anti-fracking activist who spoke at Eagle Hill last week rejected “violence or threats” as an appropriate response to public concerns.

“It’s a very emotional thing, injecting toxic chemicals into our drinking water, to have our lives invaded,” Rosebud resident Jessica Ernst told a crowd of about 130 people at Eagle Hill Community Hall at the start of her presentation Thursday night.

“But once we do violence, once we threaten, we lose everything,” Ernst said.

Instead, she said, the cause should be fought with “integrity and truth and people power.”

Ernst is suing her former employer, Encana, the Alberta government and the Energy Resource Conservation Board for more than $10 million each, claiming that her water supply was contaminated after Encana started fracking in the Rosebud area almost a decade ago.

Ernst’s lawsuit is still before the courts and no claims have been proven, but the 55-year-old oilpatch consultant has taken her message on the road. She was recently honoured with the Woman of Courage Award from UNANIMA, a United Nations-affiliated NGO, and before appearing last week in Eagle Hill she had just completed a speaking tour of Ireland.

Her presentation, called Truth and Consequences of Fracking, blended her general analysis of the industry’s impact with her own experience in Rosebud, rejecting many of the arguments given by the industry and government regulators.

“The casing protects us, they say, but they’re blasting lots of holes in the casing and cement,” she said.

While officials say there has never been a documented case of groundwater contamination due to fracking in Alberta, Ernst said there are “hundreds of other cases sealed by confidentiality agreements” that disprove that claim.

Ernst said the government created Synergy Alberta in 2006, “right in the heat of all the frac action and all the contamination cases going public,” and warned that synergy groups – one spectator pointed out that Sundre Petroleum Operators Group was the local entity – are funded by industry and designed to produce manufactured or implied consent.

“You need to have the ability to say no to being synergized – stand up on your farm and say no,” Ernst urged the audience.

Ernst’s appearance in Eagle Hill was supposed to coincide with the launch of a new website – frackingcanada.ca – but as of Friday press time the site was still under construction.

The appearance was hosted by the Alberta Surface Rights Group and sponsored by Darren Wiltse, who gave a presentation on his company’s new non-hydraulic frac technology.

The ASRG has called for a moratorium on fracking but president Don Bester said at the meeting that the group was not opposed to oil and gas development.

“But what we want them to do is do it right,” Bester said.


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