Energy Transfer Sues Environmental Groups for DAPL Protests

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The company that developed the Dakota Access Pipeline is suing a number of environmental groups in relation to the massive protests against the project.

Energy Transfer Equity LP and Energy Transfer Partners LP have filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. 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 manufactured and disseminated 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 protest group 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.

RELATED: Dakota Access Pipeline Begins Service Operations

The alleged co-conspirators are “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,” according to an Aug. 22 statement by Energy Transfer. The complaint describes the group’s misinformation campaign that aggressively targeted Energy Transfer’s critical business relationships, including the financing sources for DAPL and the company’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.” Energy Transfer asserts that DAPL was “a legally permitted project that underwent nearly three years of rigorous environmental review,” It is for this reason that the company said it 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.”

Energy Transfer alleges that the DAPL misinformation campaign was predicated on a series of false, alarmist and sensational claims that plaintiffs:

  • Encroached on tribal treaty lands;
  • Desecrated sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s (SRST) in constructing DAPL;
  • Constructed DAPL without consulting with and over the rights and objections of SRST; and
  • Used excessive and illegal force against peaceful protestors.

The Energy Transfer complaint alleges that the groups named in the court document, referred to as “The Enterprise,” also “claimed that the pipeline will inevitably result in catastrophic oil spills, poisoned water and massive climate change, while ironically, members of the Enterprise deliberately and maliciously attempted to cut holes in the pipeline with torches which, if successful, would have resulted in significant environmental damage and possible loss of life.”

The complaint alleges that the Enterprise supported these false claims with manufactured evidence, including phony GPS coordinates purporting to show the existence of cultural and religious artifacts along DAPL’s corridor and “sham affidavits” submitted in court.

“In addition to its misinformation campaign, the Enterprise directly and indirectly funded eco-terrorists on the ground in North Dakota,” according to the Energy Transfer statement. “These groups formed their own outlaw camp among peaceful protestors gathered near Lake Oahe, and exploited the peaceful activities of these groups to further the Enterprise’s corrupt agenda by inducing and directing violent and destructive attacks against law enforcement as well as Plaintiffs’ property and personnel. The Enterprise then flagrantly manipulated these ‘made-for-TV’ events to raise more funds for the Enterprise. These terrorist groups also funded their activities and the Enterprise by using donations to fund a lucrative drug trafficking scheme inside the camps.”

Other illegal activities directed at Energy Transfer and its executives that are alleged in the filed complaint include persistent attempted cyber-attacks and telephone and electronic threats to the physical safety of executives.

According to the Energy Transfer statement, the Enterprise allegedly conceded that their campaign inflicted “hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to the company,” including increased costs of financing resulting from the Enterprise’s interference with the company’s financial relationships and mitigation costs in response to the group’s “illegal and malicious campaign.”

“These damages, as well as the harm to the company’s reputation, resulting from the Enterprise’s misinformation campaign, continue to this day,” the company stated. “Energy Transfer is seeking compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial, as well as treble and punitive damages.”

Michael J. Bowe from Kasowitz, Benson & Torres LLP, the company’s counsel, is continuing the investigation into the Enterprise’s campaign and practices. Anyone with information can provide it on a confidential basis by telephone at (212) 506-1777. A website will be established to catalog information and publish progress reports on the case and, when necessary, to set the record straight as the facts warrant.

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