Ernst learned of alleged threat prior to Eagle Hill appearance

Tuesday, Mar 27, 2012 06:00 am | John Gleeson
Noel West/Mountain View Gazette
Noel West/Mountain View Gazette
Jessica Ernst speaks with two people after her presentation at the Alberta Surface Rights Group meeting on March 15 in Eagle Hill.
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Activist Jessica Ernst had learned about the alleged threat against a frac site in Eagle Valley hours before she counselled non-violence to about 130 people in the same community, Ernst told the Gazette last week.

“Yes, I knew about it,” Ernst said. “What happens – and this is one of the parts about being fracked that is so upsetting – all day long my phone is ringing.”

On the day of her appearance at Eagle Hill Community Hall, Sundre RCMP arrested two area residents – a man and a woman – and later released them with no-contact and no-firearms undertakings. The arrests were made after the Energy Resource Conservation Board called the RCMP to report a correspondence received by fax that morning, which ERCB staff “perceived to be threatening.” The document allegedly expressed serious concerns about groundwater contamination and contained threats to blow up an NAL wellsite in Eagle Valley and shoot at the crew if fracking took place without baseline water testing. The site was evacuated and by 11:30 a.m., oil and gas companies active in the region had been advised to stay out of the area.

After learning about some of the events of the day, Ernst said she didn’t feel the subject was too sensitive to raise the same night at a public forum in Eagle Hill, where she started her presentation on fracking by rejecting violence and threats as a solution.

“Because I’m a scientist I believe in speaking truth,” she said.

“And it wasn’t just at Eagle Hill that I raised the issue of violence.”

Ernst, 55, said she had spoken out against violence while addressing students in New Brunswick and on a recent tour of Ireland, where she warned the audience not to “let fracking put you right back to where your governments want you.”

With violence, she said, “we lose our power,” not only to increased government controls, “but inside.”

While she disavows violence and threats, Ernst said she understands that “mothers and fathers are starting to panic” out of fear of groundwater contamination.

“People are really afraid for their children because they don’t know what the risks are,” she said.

“The ERCB is only out there for profit. We are expendable. We are surface elements.”

Although she maintains that her own groundwater in Rosebud is contaminated by fracking that is still going on under her land, Ernst said she has no plans to leave the community.

“Sometimes you have to stay – pick up your pitchfork and fight,” she said. “Although I don’t believe in violence.”

Ernst, an oil-patch consultant, 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.


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