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Dakota Access Pipeline Owner Sues Greenpeace For $300 Million In Damages

The Wall Street Journal

The company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline launched an unusual legal attack Tuesday against Greenpeace International and other environmental groups, alleging that the organizations effectively ran a criminal enterprise through their protests of the project.

Energy Transfer Partners is suing Greenpeace and other environmental groups under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Here, protesters march during a protest near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in St. Anthony, N.D. in November 2016. PHOTO: STEPHANIE KEITH/REUTERS

The suit by  Energy Transfer Partners LP, filed in federal court in North Dakota under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act—a law created to prosecute the mafia—represents an aggressive new front in the continuing battle over the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline. It became operational in June but remains the subject of legal challenges.

The company alleged that Greenpeace ran a “relentless campaign of lies and outright mob thuggery.” Among other things, it alleged Greenpeace and other groups solicited donations under false claims about the pipeline, threatened the company’s investors and lenders, launched cyberattacks against the company, and sought to sabotage the pipeline with serious “terrorist threats.”

Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said in a statement that the suit was “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.”

The Trump administration gave a green light to the pipeline in February following months of intense opposition from Native American tribes and environmental groups. President Donald Trump made his support of the pipeline and other energy infrastructure projects a prominent part of his campaign. The line can carry as many as 570,000 barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe filed a lawsuit to stop the project, arguing that a reservoir crossing could contaminate their water supply, which is 70 miles downstream from the project. The lawsuit failed, but the tribe has since asked a federal court to shut down the line while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducts another environmental assessment of the project.

Energy Transfer’s lawsuit seeks at least $300 million in damages, which can be tripled under the RICO statute. The company alleged it lost revenue and investors as the project was delayed and incurred unnecessary expenses on construction.

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