Written by Tom Steward
on August 23, 2017
Environmental protests have become an accepted cost of doing business for companies involved in natural resource projects–until now. Energy Transfer Partners has just filed suit against Greenpeace and two other protest groups that held up the Dakota Access pipeline project for months last year.
The Texas pipeline company has invoked federal racketeering laws to seek damages that could reach $1 billion, according to the AP.
The company alleges that the groups’ actions interfered with its business, facilitated crimes and acts of terrorism, incited violence, targeted financial institutions that backed the project and violated racketeering and defamation laws. The company seeks a trial and monetary damages, noting that disruptions to construction alone cost it at least $300 million and requesting triple damages.
The group of defendants “is comprised of rogue environmental groups and militant individuals who employ a pattern of criminal activity and a campaign of misinformation for purposes of increasing donations and advancing their political or business agendas,” the company said in a statement.
The legal action also targets Florida-based Earth First and BankTrack, an environmental activist group out of the Netherlands. Greenpeace called it a classic “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” designed to intimidate opponents.
Greenpeace attorney Tom Wetterer said the lawsuit is “meritless” and part of “a pattern of harassment by corporate bullies.” The lawsuit is “not designed to seek justice, but to silence free speech through expensive, time-consuming litigation,” Wetterer said.
The pipeline company’s lawsuit alleges protesters undertook a series of illegal acts from pipeline vandalism to cyberattacks. The FBI recently raided the home of two Des Moines protesters “who have publicly claimed to have vandalized the pipeline.”
The company alleges that members of the network used torches to cut holes in the pipeline, manufactured phony satellite coordinates of Indian cultural sites along the pipeline’s path, exploited the Standing Rock Sioux, launched cyberattacks on company computer systems, damaged company equipment, threatened the lives of company executives, supported ecoterrorism and even funded a drug trafficking operation within protest camps.
“The scheme’s dissemination of negative information devastated the market reputation of Energy Transfer as well as the business relationships vital to its operation and growth,” the lawsuit states.
Dakota Access finally began operations in June, but a separate effort to shut down the $3.8 billion pipeline continues in federal court.