Federal Court Dismisses $900 Million Pipeline Company Lawsuit Against Greenpeace

BISMARCK, February 14, 2019 — Today, the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota issued a landmark dismissal [1] of all claims against all defendants in the USD$900 million case against Greenpeace and others brought by Energy Transfer [2].

The decision to dismiss this lawsuit, which alleged Greenpeace engaged in racketeering and defamation, sends a strong message to all companies trying to silence civil society with baseless cases. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson wrote in his order dismissing the case that, Posting articles written by people with similar beliefs does not create a RICO enterprise,” and that, “Donating to people whose cause you support does not create a RICO enterprise.”

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Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said in response to the decision:

“Justice has been served. This is a huge victory not just for Greenpeace but for anyone and everyone who has ever stood up against powerful corporate interests. Today’s decision to dismiss Energy Transfer’s baseless lawsuit against Greenpeace and others sends a clear message to companies trying to muzzle civil society that corporate overreach will not be tolerated. It is also a check on corporate efforts to silence dissent.

“We must and will continue to hold Energy Transfer accountable for its corporate behavior on current risky pipeline projects like Bayou Bridge, where the company is continuing to use private security to intimidate protestors and has aggressively used eminent domain laws to secure land.

“We are confident that this decision will set a precedent that deters Energy Transfer and other corporations from abusing the legal system in their quest to bully those who speak truth to power. Greenpeace will continue to fight for the ability of all people to advocate for human rights and the planet.”

The decision to dismiss this case comes in a key moment of growing resistance to pipelines around the world. In just the past year we’ve seen more than 400,000 people around the globe join Greenpeace’s demand that leading global banks not fund Energy Transfer and tar sands pipelines in light of the threats they pose to human rights, Indigenous sovereignty, and the climate.

The racketeering case dismissed today is the second case filed by Trump’s go-to law firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres, against Greenpeace on behalf of corporate interests. In 2016, Resolute Forests Products filed a strikingly similar strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) for CAD$300 million through Kasowitz [3]. Last month, Judge Tigar dismissed the RICO, and most of the other, claims against all Greenpeace entities.

Greenpeace defendants in the case are represented in court by the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine.

NOTES:

[1] Click here to download a copy of the order, or copy this to your browser: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/ETP.pdf

[2] On August 22, 2017 Energy Transfer filed a USD$900 million lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota alleging violations of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and other claims against Greenpeace International, Greenpeace, Inc., Greenpeace Fund, Inc., BankTrack, and the movement Earth First!

On July 24, 2018 District Judge Billy Roy Wilson dismissed BankTrack from the case. The next day, Judge Wilson ordered Energy Transfer Partners to file an amended complaint because its original had significant deficiencies, including failure to plea “‘simple, concise and direct’ allegations”. The pipeline company complied on August 6, 2018 further naming five individual defendants in the case and broadening the scope beyond opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline to other projects like Bayou Bridge. On August 22, 2018 the judge dismissed the movement Earth First! as Energy Transfer Partners failed to serve.

The decision issued today applies for Greenpeace defendants (Greenpeace International, Greenpeace, Inc., Greenpeace Fund, Inc.and Greenpeace, Inc.’s employee Charles Brown) as well as individuals Cody Hall, Krystal Two Bull, Ruby Montoya, and Jessica Reznicek. Click here for more information about the case, or copy this link to your browser: https://www.greenpeace.org/defendingprotest

[3] On May 31, 2016 Resolute Forest Products filed a CAD$300 million lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and other claims in the United States District Court for Southern Georgia, against Greenpeace International, Greenpeace, Inc., Greenpeace Fund, Inc., Stand.earth (formerly ForestEthics), and five individual staff members of these independent organizations.

The case was transferred to Northern California on May 16, 2017 when Resolute failed to demonstrate that the case should be heard in Georgia. On October 16, 2017 the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed Resolute’s claims. Three weeks later, Resolute’s lawyers filed a repackaged version of the same claims against the same individual defendants in the same court.

The racketeering case is Resolute’s second strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) aiming to silence Greenpeace entities. In 2013, the company filed a CAD$7 million defamation case against Greenpeace Canada and two staff members in Ontario, which is still pending. Click here for more information about the existing legal cases between Resolute Forest Products and Greenpeace, or copy this to your browser: http://www.greenpeace.org/resolutelawsuits/