Dakota Access Pipeline Builder Files Lawsuit Against National Activist Organizations
The builder of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has filed a lawsuit after months of protests, project delays, and cleanup and law enforcement response that cost the company and taxpayers millions of dollars, alleging racketeering and defamation against prominent national activist groups.
Energy Transfer Partners “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,” ETP said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “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.”
Energy Transfer Partners also alleges the groups “incited, funded, and facilitated crimes and acts of terrorism to further these objectives,” and “claims that these actions violated federal and state racketeering statutes, defamation, and constituted defamation and tortious interference under North Dakota law.”
DAPL went online June 1. More than 760 arrests were made between August 2016 and February 2017.
Anti-pipeline protesters left behind a huge mess for North Dakota residents to clean up, including hundreds of abandoned vehicles, as first reported in Western Wire back in February. Morton County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Rob Keller told Western Wire the bulk of protesters arrested in the months-long “keep it in the ground” #NoDAPL protest came from out of state.
“When we take a look at the figures and pull out where people are from … you definitely notice that not a lot of North Dakotans are in that group,” said Keller.
Those out-of-state activists include members of Mississippi Stand, Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, cited by name in the ETP lawsuit. Reznicek and Montoya “issued a call to action for others to follow in their violent and terrorist actions, and have provided a blue print for arson and property destruction,” ETP alleges.
In July, the two Mississippi Stand protesters were charged with destroying parts of an Iowa Utilities Board sign after releasing a statement justifying their “non-violent direct action,” including “arsonry as a tactic” targeting Dakota Access Pipeline-related properties.
“On election night 2016, we began our peaceful direct action campaign to a Dakota Access construction site and burned at least 5 pieces of heavy machinery in Buena Vista County, IA,” said Reznicek and Montoya. “We recognize that our action wasn’t much, but we at least stopped construction for a day at that particular site.”
“We then began to research the tools necessary to pierce through 5/8 inch steel pipe, the material used for this pipeline. In March we began to apply this self-gathered information. We began in Mahaska County, IA, using oxy-acetylene cutting torches to pierce through exposed, empty steel valves, successfully delaying completion of the pipeline for weeks,” the protesters said. “After the success of this peaceful action, we began to use this tactic up and down the pipeline, throughout Iowa (and a part of South Dakota), moving from valve to valve until running out of supplies, and continuing to stop the completion of this project.”
“Water is Life, oil is death,” said Reznicek and Montoya, who also said in the full video and press release that the federal government allowing such projects “continues to look more and more like a Nazi, fascist Germany as each day passes.”
The DAPL attacks do not appear to be isolated or rare.
This week, six protesters were arrested in Wisconsin for alleged trespassing and disorderly conduct at a separate pipeline construction site.
Enbridge, the builder of the pipeline, said it can’t permit trespassing or vandalism near pipeline construction.
Rob Port, a conservative political columnist from North Dakota who covered the #NoDAPL protests extensively, wrote that the harmful actions undertaken by the protestors went beyond protected speech.
“We cannot allow it. Those engaging in such acts of extremism should be liable for the costs of their actions,” said Port. He believes the case is between a lawfully permitted action—pipeline construction—and illegal protests.
“Nobody, not an individual or an organization of individuals, should be able to harm others physically or economically while hiding behind the 1st amendment,” said Port. “It shouldn’t matter if it’s pro-life demonstrators blocking an abortion clinic or black-masked anarchists vandalizing a Walmart or environmentalists setting a bulldozer on file and harassing pipeline workers.”
Port doesn’t believe the lawsuit will pit unevenly matched parties against one another either.
“Some of these environmental groups involved in the anti-pipeline protests have very deep pockets. I hope the pipeline companies take the fight to them, and force them to either pony up or at the very least stop assisting in violent and unlawful protests against legal projects.”
The groups called the lawsuit’s allegations “outrageous” and “harassment” and an attack on free speech, according to the Seattle Times.