With the tables turned on them, environmental groups sued by the developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota are calling the suit an attack on free speech.
“Harassment by corporate bullies,” is how Greenpeace attorney Tom Wetterer described the lawsuit filed last week by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners. The suit was filed against Greenpeace, BankTrack and Earth First, accusing them of lying about the project, interfering with its construction and damaging the company’s reputation through illegal acts.
BankTrack called the suit “outrageous” claiming it did nothing wrong in informing the public and commercial banks about the impact of the $3.8 billion pipeline that carries oil from North Dakota to Illinois. Some of the New York banks that backed the suit considered dropping their funding for the project.
“BankTrack considers the lawsuit an attempt … to silence civil society organizations, and to curb their crucial role in helping to foster business conduct globally that protects the environment, recognizes the rights and interests of all stakeholders, and respects human rights,” the group said in a statement.
But Energy Transfer maintains the environmental groups carried out a “pattern of criminal activity and a campaign of misinformation for purposes of increasing donations and advancing their political or business agendas.” The suit seeks damaged that could reach $1 billion.
Energy Transfer Attorney Michael Bowe responded to the Greenpeace reaction noting the group’s reaction “was not to defend the truth of its challenged statements, but to attack the lawyers who exposed those statements as false.”
The response from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen—“nothing more than an attack on all those who stood up for the tribe in this historic fight, packaged as a legal claim.”