Standing Rock Protest Groups Sued by Dakota Access Pipeline Company

If you want to experience 2017 in a nutshell, check out the billion-dollar lawsuit filed by an oil and gas company against Greenpeace and other environmental groups for their roles in the Standing Rock protests.

In a 231-page complaint filed by Donald Trump’s old law firm, Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, claims that Greenpeace and its partners are engaged in a criminal network of fraud and misinformation. The paranoiac complaint, which includes references to “wolfpacks of corrupt” environmental nongovernmental organizations and describes Greenpeace as a “putative Dutch not-for-profit foundation,” would be amusing if it weren’t so dangerous.

It leverages the
RICO Act, a statute that was meant for mob prosecutions, and defamation law to wage a scorched-earth campaign against nonprofits that spoke out against the pipeline’s construction near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Fortunately, as we argue in a friend-of-the-court brief filed yesterday with a coalition of public interest groups, the First Amendment prohibits companies from suing their critics out of existence.

ETP’s lawsuit rests on two theories, neither of which holds water.

First, it argues that Greenpeace and the other defendants are engaged in a broad-based conspiracy to defraud the public by defaming the company. But many of the statements ETP alleges as false or defamatory — such as website posts stating that the tribal consultation and environmental review were rushed and lacked proper consultation — are clearly protected opinions on matters of vital public concern. Other offending statements, such as a post by the Sierra Club’s Executive Director stating “it has never been a question of whether a pipeline will spill but only of when the next disaster will happen,” don’t seem very unreasonable, given
last month’s 5,000-barrel spill at the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota. ETP can’t demand punishment for this kind of core political speech just because it doesn’t like the message.

ETP’s second legal argument fares no better. It argues that, because Greenpeace and the other defendants are allegedly engaged in a vast “illegal Enterprise” to persecute ETP, they should be held liable for the allegedly unlawful actions of totally unrelated groups that also happen to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. For example, ETP alleges that the hacktivist group Anonymous is a “front” for Greenpeace and the other defendants, but this wild accusation is based on nothing more than the observation that Anonymous targeted the same entities being protested by the defendants.

If accepted, ETP’s theories would make any advocacy group liable for the actions of every fellow traveler, no matter how disconnected. For example, if the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging a government surveillance program, ETP’s theory of liability could make us civilly, and perhaps even criminally, liable for the actions of any hacker that attempted to take down the program.

If the courts have any sense, this case won’t get to trial. But ETP doesn’t need to win in court to do major damage. Defending major lawsuits like these against deep-pocketed corporations is extremely expensive, time consuming, and stressful, particularly for cash strapped nonprofits. Even if they survive, advocacy groups have to divert serious resources away from their missions to litigate these issues. That’s why it’s important for courts to dismiss these cases early, before things get really expensive.

Protesters and advocacy groups should never have to fear the weight of groups like ETP as a condition for expressing their First Amendment rights. The court should see this lawsuit for what it is and toss it.

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Dr. Joseph Goebbels

That's America for you: Mom, the Flag, Apple Pie and Lawsuits.

Dr. Joseph Gobbels

First I raped and killed my mutter, then I wrapped her in a Reichskriegsflagge, ate a strudel, and convened court.

Anonymous

Apparently the new proposed tax bill could harm the employment and incomes of up 60,000 American workers - jobs that exist today. These affected workers legally meet the standard for "legal standing" to challenge in court unfair and unequal tax policies - which the ACLU could represent.

The same workers, competing in a different sector, receive disproportionately large government subsidies than these 60,000 workers. If the government would simply give each sector equal tax rewards, this industry would thrive. It is a clear violation of "equal protection" which has even more legal weight since Citizens United.

Read all about it at www.AWEA.org and their recent blogs. A perfect match for ACLU attorneys.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

Consequences of man action is what drives men.

Elon Pokerthroat

Another comment from the false Dr. Goebbels.

Anonymous

There are some excellent judges and justices but the vast majority seem to have forgotten about their oath sworn constitutional duty - their top duty - to provide "Judicial Review" over the two political branches.

Using a sports metaphor: The job of America's Independent Judiciary is to essentially draw the "out-of-bounds" and "fouls" on the football field. Congress and the Executive Branch can do almost anything as long as they stay in bounds.

The article above essentially states that the judicial "referees" are not only not following the constitutional rule book, but allowing some players to make up new rules in the middle of a game. All this without amending the rules in the proper process.

The ACLU team is following the constitutional rule book and the referees are siding with the cheaters. If this were sports, fans would lose faith in the entire system and stop participating. Maybe, just maybe, that's why many Americans think everyone is dirty including some judges!

Anonymous

The Union of Concerned Scientists published a great article years ago titled "The Hidden Cost of Fossil Fuels". It basically makes the point that although consumers pay all of the costs, the real cost is not accurately priced at the retail level or gas pump.

The article also points out that if these costs were properly valued in a free market, which conservatives supposedly support, clean energy is far cheaper than fossil fuels.

Clean energy companies not only receive smaller government subsidies than fossil fuels, but is cheaper if proper valued in a free market.

The price at the gas pump doesn't include pollution cleanup, asthma, lung ailments, oil security or oil wars. American consumers still pay for it but these are hidden costs.

Supposedly both Republicans and Democrats support a Carbon Tax but for some reason Congress can't pass something most Americans support.

Anonymous

It's a shame the powers-that-be are too heavily vested in the fossil fuel. The same old game of follow the money.

bettergovtguy

Not only do corporations sue non-profits, but as near as we can tell they probably spy on them as well. https://www.corporatepolicy.org/spookybusiness.pdf
It is not something we know a lot about, as they are obviously not telling us a lot about it.

Anonymous

I hope the ACLU is part of the lawsuit and they put out of business as well . These are a bunch of communist motherfucker crooks.

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