Last August, Energy Transfer Partners, the company which built the Dakota Access Pipeline, filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace, Earth First!, and a Dutch protest group called BankTrack. As I wrote at the time, ETP’s argument was that Greenpeace was a racket intended to raise funds by “emotionalizing” issues. Here’s a sample of the language in the original lawsuit:
This case involves a network of putative not-for-profits and rogue eco-terrorist groups who employ patterns of criminal activity and campaigns of misinformation to target legitimate companies and industries with fabricated environmental claims and other purported misconduct, inflicting billions of dollars in damage…
In its simplest form, this model has two components: (1) manufacturing a media spectacle based upon phony but emotionally charged hot-button issues, sensational lies, and intentionally incited physical violence, property destruction, and other criminal conduct; and (2)relentlessly publicizing these sensational lies, manufactured conflict and conflagration, and misrepresented “causes” to generate funding from individual donors, foundations, and corporate sponsors.
Last month, a judge dismissed the Dutch protest group BankTrack from the lawsuit and threatened to do the same for Earth First! unless ETP could make a better argument against them. Earth First! has maintained that it is a philosophy similar to Black Lives Matter, not a legal entity. Conveniently, that means the group cannot be sued. Last Friday, the judge ruled the case against Earth First! could not proceed though he allowed that individual members of the group could be sued.
Today, ETP filed a revised version of its lawsuit which still names Greenpeace but adds several individual defendants. From the Associated Press:
ETP on Monday added five individual defendants: a man allegedly affiliated with Greenpeace, two Iowa women who have publicly claimed to have vandalized the pipeline, and two people associated with the Red Warrior Camp, a protest group alleged to have advocated aggressive tactics such as arson.
The company also amended its accusations, limiting defamation and business interference claims to Greenpeace and adding a criminal trespass count against all defendants.
“We are confident this move to include even more bogus claims in an already broad and baseless case will be the final nail in the coffin of a sham legal tactic,” said Greenpeace attorney Deepa Padmanabha.
The two Iowa women mentioned are Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya who admitted to a campaign of sabotage against the pipeline last year but have still not been charged with a crime. The reasons why are not clear. Iowa recently passed a new law which makes sabotage of critical infrastructure, including pipelines, telecommunications facilities or water treatment plants, a crime punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
I think Greenpeace has a right to protest and to advertise its protests to raise money but obviously, sabotage, rioting, arson and other crimes cross a line and its fair to ask to what degree Greenpeace is promoting those things. Also, if Greenpeace is defaming the company falsely that seems like a possible avenue of attack. The lawsuit against Reznicek and Montoya seems more reasonable since their activities were not even close to protected speech. We’ll have to wait and see if the judge feels this new draft of the lawsuit passes muster.