Operators of the Dakota Access Pipeline filed a lawsuit against the environmental activist group Greenpeace on Tuesday that accuses the group of violating US federal racketeering laws. The suit outlines sweeping claims of collusion between Greenpeace and numerous other organisations and individuals. It paints a picture that wouldn't be out of place in an Alex Jones fever dream.
In a 187 page filing, Energy Transfer Partners LP claims that Greenpeace has, over the course of decades, defrauded its contributors; incited violence by eco-terrorists; and engaged in physical violence, threats of violence, destruction of property, cyberattacks, and many other nefarious activities. This all, allegedly, occurred in coordination with more radical groups such as Earth First! and Banktrack, as well as several Jane and John Does. The most prominent charge throughout the suit is that Greenpeace has mean things to say about a corporation that harms the environment and bad publicity caused that corporation to lose money.
Why did Greenpeace do all of this? According to the suit, the entire racket is a "lucrative business model using the proliferation of web-based fundraising tools to make money, much of which is diverted for personal gain and not used to further any environmental cause". What's more, "these putative 'environmental' groups accept grants and other consideration from foundations and special business interests who use the groups' environmental mantle to advance their own ulterior agendas". You heard it here first people, getting paid by George Soros to protest is no longer the hottest job market, the real money comes from chaining yourself to a tree. And special interest groups (such as the chain industry) are reaping a mother lode in profits.
Specifically, Energy Transfer alleges that Greenpeace opportunistically joined up with the local Native Americans who were protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). These homegrown protesters were concerned that the pipeline threatened their drinking water and that a large spill could be disastrous to their own survival. In Energy Transfer's eyes, Greenpeace then "cynically planted radical, violent eco-terrorists on the ground amongst the protesters, and directly funded their operations and publicly urged their supporters to do the same".
While other, saner, observers might have seen an environmental rights group working with protesters in solidarity on an issue that it has spent years raising awareness about, Energy Transfer saw a cash grab. And the bad publicity that followed cost the corporation "many hundreds of millions of dollars" and harmed its ability to raise more money. For a time, it even looked like the pipeline wouldn't be allowed to finish construction, but then the Trump regime came to power and gave the final go ahead. In April, before DAPL was even fully operational, it leaked 318L of oil.
It just so happens that the lawsuit filed today is being handled by Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP. The firm's managing partner, Marc Kasowitz, was Trump's favoured lawyer before he randomly berated a stranger in a series of unhinged emails that were made public in July. The Kasowitz clan has previously filed an ongoing lawsuit against Greenpeace on behalf of Canada's Resolute Forest Products. In that case, RICO charges are also being used.
In both suits, the argument for charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act (RICO) hinges on the pressure placed on the companies by Greenpeace and other activist organisations. The RICO act was designed to prosecute organisations such as the mafia that coordinate to commit crimes and pressure communities into silence. In Greenpeace's case, these corporations see boycott pressure from its constituents as a form of shakedown. It would also be very lucrative for these companies if they win. Resolute Forest Products wants $US100 million ($126 million) in damages, and Energy Transfer hopes to recover "many hundreds of millions of dollars". Under the RICO act, those damages would be tripled if the plaintiffs win.
Contacted by Gizmodo, a Greenpeace spokesperson sent the following statement:
This is the second consecutive year Donald Trump's go-to attorneys at the Kasowitz law firm have filed a meritless lawsuit against Greenpeace. They are apparently trying to market themselves as corporate mercenaries willing to abuse the legal system to silence legitimate advocacy work. 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.
This all follows a rising pattern in the American system that considers corporations to be people, equates money to free speech, and understands justice to be reserved for those who can afford it. If a company cuts down forests, and you call them a "Forest Destroyer", that makes them look bad. Then they can claim that they lost investment opportunities because they looked bad, and it's all your fault because you expressed the opinion that they are forest destroyers. Without the funds to legally defend yourself, you're screwed. And make no mistake, using an overreaching legal strategy that would triple damages is not designed to extract more money, it's designed to kill Greenpeace.
It's impossible to say if the extraordinary claims in Energy Transfer's lawsuit against Greenpeace will hold up in court. Why use a mostly untried legal strategy? Because they can.
You can read the lawsuit in full below: