Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the firm that hired a militant mercenary firm to push back against those opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), is now using Donald Trump’s lawyer to levy racketeering charges against Greenpeace, the Red Warrior Camp and other groups for their resistance, calling it “eco-terrorism.”
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court on August 22 in U.S. District Court in North Dakota, also references the environmental law firm Earthjustice, which is representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in court against ETP, and some Earthjustice employees. It is seeking $300 million in damages.
“Representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their laudable effort to protect their water and sacred lands from the Dakota Access Pipeline is one of Earthjustice’s proudest moments,” said the law firm’s president, Trip Van Noppen, in a statement. “The Standing Rock Sioux are the true leaders of what became a massive movement. Earthjustice’s role has been to ensure that the legitimate claims and rights of the Tribe were heard in a court of law.”
ETP had a different take on the events of August 2016 through February 2017, during which it hired counter-terrorism firm TigerSwan to work with North Dakota authorities and police from several other states to mount a military-style offense against the unarmed water protectors complete with water cannons in freezing temperatures, rubber bullets and concussion grenades.
“This group of co-conspirators manufactured and disseminated materially false and misleading information about Energy Transfer and the Dakota Access Pipeline for the purpose of fraudulently inducing donations, interfering with pipeline construction activities and damaging Energy Transfer's critical business and financial relationships,” the conglomerate claimed in a statement announcing the suit, adding that these alleged co-conspirators “incited, funded and facilitated crimes and acts of terrorism to further these objectives.”
The suit goes on to accuse the defendants of racketeering, defamation and “tortious interference under North Dakota law.” But ETP didn’t stop there. NoDAPL “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 statement said, characterizing the water protectors’ activity as “a 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.”
Further, according to Desmogblog, ETP’s attorney is Michael J. Bowe from Kasowitz, Benson & Torres LLP, known for representing Trump in the investigation into potential collusion with Russia during his 2016 Presidential campaign.
Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer called the lawsuit “meritless” and noted that this is the second time ETP has accused the international environmental group of racketeering under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), usually reserved for mobsters.
“They are apparently trying to market themselves as corporate mercenaries willing to abuse the legal system to silence legitimate advocacy work,” Wetterer said. “This complaint repackages spurious allegations and legal claims made against Greenpeace by the Kasowitz firm on behalf of Resolute Forest Products in a lawsuit filed in May 2016. It is yet another classic ‘Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation’ (SLAPP), 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, with Trump’s attorneys leading the way.”
ETP countered that in response to the suit, Greenpeace had criticized the attorneys rather than admit to fabricating statements.
“No one reading Energy Transfer’s detailed 180-plus page complaint would think it is a SLAPP suit,” said Bowe in a follow-up statement. “Our laws hold accountable those who intentionally make demonstrably false statements, and there is no special exception for Greenpeace.”
Various media outlets have documented ETP’s fast and loose treatment of the facts during the conflict, which started with dogs last September and ended in the dead of winter earlier this year with police descending on what was left of the water protector camps. The constant surveillance extended past the camps’ dissolution, the investigative site The Intercept found, to other pipeline protests and civic activity across the U.S. TigerSwan, the firm hired by ETP, did not respond to ICMN’s requests for comment.