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Still Fighting for Water

After years of legal argument, Jessica Ernst, UNANIMA International’s 2011 Woman of Courage, recently began a battle before the Supreme Court of Canada with a powerful Canadian energy regulator. Her case asks if a government agency can prevent a citizen from raising concerns about groundwater contamination, and suing it for damages. Eight years ago, Ernst sued the Energy Resources Conservation Board and Encana, one of Canada’s largest unconventional gas drillers. She claimed her well water had been contaminated by fracking and that government agencies had failed to investigate the problems. But the regulator argued that it couldn’t be sued, called her a “criminal threat” and barred all communication with her. Her case is being closely watched by Canada’s oil and gas industry; in fact, Jessica’s case is in the “top 10” list of important judicial decisions affecting the energy industry. Jessica is making legal history because the Supreme Court has never heard a case about human rights within an environmental context.