A $900 Million Lawsuit

Energy Transfer Partners has filed a lawsuit to silence Greenpeace and others fighting for land, water, climate and Indigenous Rights.

In the summer of 2017, the company filed a baseless USD$900 million racketeering lawsuit in North Dakota against independent environmental organizations Greenpeace, BankTrack, and the movement Earth First! A Federal Judge has dismissed both BankTrack and the Earth First! movement from the case, and requested Energy Transfer Partners to amend its complaint against Greenpeace since the original failed to plea ‘simple, concise and direct’ allegations. When filing this amended version, the company decided to include five individual defendants and actually expand the scope of its claims to other pipelines like Bayou Bridge.

The suit attempts to rewrite the history of a movement led by Indigenous People, falsely claiming that environmental groups planned, funded, and organized the demonstrations opposing the pipeline at Standing Rock. The allegations include an implausible accusation about environmental groups and others forming a “criminal enterprise” to instigate violence and damage the company.

The firm Kasowitz Benson Torres is following a playbook that misuses laws conceived to prosecute organized crime with massive damage claims against those that Energy Transfer Partners needs to silence. These mercenary lawyers are emboldened by Trump’s record and willingness to trample free speech. Not surprisingly, Kasowitz is also his go-to law firm.

Previously, Kasowitz had filed an oddly similar suit on behalf Resolute Forest Products, Canada’s largest logging company, against Greenpeace, Stand.earth and individual activists trying to stop their efforts to save the boreal forest.

Both cases qualify as strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPP — a short name for baseless civil suits intended to punish those who speak out. These cases show the fundamental right to expose wrongdoings and voice dissent is under immediate threat.

All those who value free speech should be following these lawsuits closely. As bullies seek to erode civil liberties across the board, it is essential to defend our legitimate methods of resistance everywhere — from the streets to the courthouse.

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