From last summer through the first couple of months of 2017 there was an all-out assault on the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Protesters, summoned to rural south central North Dakota by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and a myriad of environmental groups, blocked roads and set fires and harassed pipeline workers all in an attempt derail the project.
It didn’t work. Oil flows through the Dakota Access Pipeline today, but the State of North Dakota did run up a $38 million bill for the law enforcement response.
Anyway, today Energy Transfer Partners (the company behind DAPL) filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing some of the environmental groups involved in the protests of racketeering.
You can read the 187 page complaint below. This is from a statement sent out by ETP announcing the suit:
Energy Transfer Equity, L.P. (NYSE: ETE) and Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. (NYSE: ETP) today 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 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.
You can read the rest of their statement here.
This suit will be popular in North Dakota, I suspect, particularly among those citizens who live in the area where the protests occurred.
I suspect the response from apologists for the protesters will start talking about the potential chilling effect this lawsuit could have on 1st amendment rights. And to be sure, every citizen in America has a right to demonstrate for or against pipelines or anything else their hearts desire. Yet, with the #NoDAPL protests, there was a systemic use of illegal tactics. Blocking roads. Vandalism. Trespass. All towards the goal of blocking a project that was permitted and proceeding legally.
In fact, as the protests were happening, there was a legal battle over the pipeline taking place in the federal courts. At any time federal judges could have halted work on the pipeline. They chose not to.
Here’s the full complaint: