Wall Street Journal Full Story
The company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline launched an unusual legal attack Tuesday against Greenpeace International and other environmental groups, alleging that the organizations effectively ran a criminal enterprise through their protests of the project.
The suit by Energy Transfer Partners LP, filed in federal court in North Dakota under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act—a law created to prosecute the mafia—represents an aggressive new front in the continuing battle over the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline. It became operational in June but remains the subject of legal challenges.
The company alleged that Greenpeace ran a “relentless campaign of lies and outright mob thuggery.” Among other things, it alleged Greenpeace and other groups solicited donations under false claims about the pipeline, threatened the company’s investors and lenders, launched cyber attacks against the company, and sought to sabotage the pipeline with serious “terrorist threats.”
The Trump administration gave a green light to the pipeline in February following months of intense opposition from Native American tribes and environmental groups. President Donald Trump made his support of the pipeline and other energy infrastructure projects a prominent part of his campaign. The line can carry as many as 570,000 barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois.
Energy Transfer’s lawsuit seeks at least $300 million in damages, which can be tripled under the RICO statute. The company alleged it lost revenue and investors as the project was delayed and incurred unnecessary expenses on construction.
The Details of the Suit
Energy Transfer Equity, L.P. and Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. have filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota against Greenpeace International, Greenpeace Inc., Greenpeace Fund, Inc., BankTrack, Earth First!, and other organizations and individuals. The Complaint, which is Index number 1:17-cv-00173, alleges that this group of co-conspirators (the “Enterprise”) manufactured and disseminated materially false and misleading information about Energy Transfer and the Dakota Access Pipeline (“DAPL”) for the purpose of fraudulently inducing donations, interfering with pipeline construction activities and damaging Energy Transfer’s critical business and financial relationships. The Complaint also alleges that the Enterprise incited, funded, and facilitated crimes and acts of terrorism to further these objectives. It further alleges claims that these actions violated federal and state racketeering statutes, defamation, and constituted defamation and tortious interference under North Dakota law.
The alleged Enterprise 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 Complaint describes the Enterprise’s misinformation campaign that aggressively targeted Energy Transfer’s critical business relationships, including the financing sources for DAPL and Energy Transfer’s other infrastructure projects, by publicly demanding these financial institutions sever ties with Energy Transfer or face crippling boycotts and other illegal attacks.
The Complaint asserts that the attacks were calculated and thoroughly irresponsible, causing enormous harm to people and property along the pipeline’s route. Dakota Access was a legally permitted project that underwent nearly three years of rigorous environmental review and for this reason, Energy Transfer believes it has an obligation to its shareholders, partners, stakeholders and all those negatively impacted by the violence and destruction intentionally incited by the defendants to file this lawsuit.
The DAPL misinformation campaign was predicated on a series of false, alarmist, and sensational claims that plaintiffs:
- encroached on tribal treaty lands;
- desecrated sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s (“SRST”) in constructing DAPL;
- constructed DAPL without consulting with and over the rights and objections of SRST; and
- used excessive and illegal force against peaceful protestors.
The Enterprise also claimed that the pipeline will inevitably result in catastrophic oil spills, poisoned water, and massive climate change, while ironically, members of the Enterprise deliberately and maliciously attempted to cut holes in the pipeline with torches which, if successful, would have resulted in significant environmental damage and possible loss of life.
The Enterprise supported these false claims with manufactured evidence, including phony GPS coordinates purporting to show the existence of cultural and religious artifacts along DAPL’s corridor, and sham affidavits submitted in court.
In addition to its misinformation campaign, the Enterprise directly and indirectly funded eco-terrorists on the ground in North Dakota. These groups formed their own outlaw camp among peaceful protestors gathered near Lake Oahe, and exploited the peaceful activities of these groups to further the Enterprise’s corrupt agenda by inducing and directing violent and destructive attacks against law enforcement as well as Plaintiffs’ property and personnel. The Enterprise then flagrantly manipulated these “made-for-TV” events to raise more funds for the Enterprise. These terrorist groups also funded their activities and the Enterprise by using donations to fund a lucrative drug trafficking scheme inside the camps.
Other illegal activities directed at Energy Transfer and its executives that are alleged in the Complaint include persistent attempted cyber-attacks and telephonic and electronic threats to the physical safety of executives.
The Enterprise has conceded that their campaign has inflicted “hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to the Company,” including increased costs of financing resulting from the Enterprise’s interference with the Company’s financial relationships and mitigation costs in response to the Enterprise’s illegal and malicious campaign. These damages, as well as the harm to the Company’s reputation, resulting from the Enterprise’s misinformation campaign, continue to this day. Energy Transfer is seeking compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial as well as treble and punitive damages.
Greenpeace Response: We are being Bullied
Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said in a statement that the suit was “not designed to seek justice, but to silence free speech through expensive, time-consuming litigation. This has now become a pattern of harassment by corporate bullies.”