It’s game on. With actual damages of $300 million, triple damages could bring a verdict of nearly $1 billion.
Responding to the charges, Greenpeace attorney Tom Wetterer called the lawsuit “meritless” and part of “a pattern of harassment by corporate bullies.” Claiming “free speech,” Wetterer did not address the boast of Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman that Energy Transfer had lost “many hundreds of millions of dollars” (Paragraph 309) or the fact that police made 761 arrests during seven months of protests.
Preliminary Statement of Plaintiffs
Here are some excepts from the lawsuit filed in UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, DISTRICT OF NORTH DAKOTA, WESTERN DIVISION by ENERGY TRANSFER EQUITY, L.P., and ENERGY TRANSFER PARTNERS, L.P., Plaintiffs, vs. GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL (aka “STICHTING GREENPEACE COUNCIL”); GREENPEACE, INC.; GREENPEACE FUND, INC.; BANKTRACK (aka “STICHTING BANKTRACK”); EARTH FIRST!; and JOHN AND JANE DOES 1-20, Defendants.*
- This case involves a network of putative not-for-profits and rogue eco-terrorist groups who employ patterns of criminal activity and campaigns of misinformation to target legitimate companies and industries with fabricated environmental claims and other purported misconduct, inflicting billions of dollars in damage. The network’s pattern of criminal and other misconduct includes (i) defrauding charitable donors and cheating federal and state tax authorities with claims that they are legitimate tax-free charitable organizations; (ii) cyberattacks; (ii) intentional and malicious interference with their targeted victim’s business relationships; and (iv) physical violence, threats of violence and the purposeful destruction of private and federal property. Energy Transfer is the latest legitimate business targeted by this network.
- Over several decades, certain once legitimate not-for-profit groups have been corrupted by money raised from individuals and a network of foundations and special interests willing to “contribute” to advance their own political or business agendas. More recently, many smaller, more violent eco-terrorist organizations and radicalized individuals have begun exploiting the same 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.
- In its simplest form, this model has two components: (1) manufacturing a media spectacle based upon phony but emotionally charged hot-button issues, sensational lies, and intentionally incited physical violence, property destruction, and other criminal conduct; and (2) relentlessly publicizing these sensational lies, manufactured conflict and conflagration, and misrepresented “causes” to generate funding from individual donors, foundations, and corporate sponsors. 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.
- The market leader among purported international not-for-profits is a network called “Greenpeace.” The Greenpeace network has fraudulently induced people throughout the United States and the world into donating millions of dollars based on materially false and misleading claims about its misrepresented environmental purpose and the sham “campaigns” it mounts against targeted companies, projects, or causes.
- Under the “Greenpeace Model,” raising money and the network’s profile is the primary objective, not saving the environment. “Issues” are selected according to which ones will generate maximum publicity and donations, irrespective of the environmental merits. As a matter of course, the campaigns are based upon fabricated evidence and witness accounts. Greenpeace has staged phony photo-ops, and fabricated false GPS coordinates representing locations and events that never occurred to support its campaigns, deceive the public, and elicit donations.
- Greenpeace’s most senior leaders have admitted that their goal is not to present accurate facts, but to “emotionalize” issues and thereby “pressure” (i.e. manipulate) their donor audiences into parting with their money. When caught red-handed spreading patently false misinformation, Greenpeace has conceded that to “emotionalize” targeted donors and other victims, it uses what it calls internally, “ALARMIST ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOIDS,” that it intentionally and expressly markets to its donors as “facts” based on “research,” and “science.” Indeed, in a recent effort to escape legal liability for its widespread dissemination of emotionally charged, but wholly untrue statements made in the course of a fundraising campaign, Greenpeace admitted that its claims against another targeted company were not based on “research,” “facts,” or “science” as donors were told, but were “hyperbole” and “overheated rhetoric” that did not reflect “scientific precision” and should not be taken “literally.”
- For decades, Greenpeace has executed its fraudulent, slanderous campaigns against hundreds of companies and industries with virtual impunity, and its tactics have become increasingly aggressive as a result. The great success of the model has led to an explosion of groups and individuals attempting to likewise profit from exploiting the sincere environmental interests of the public. These groups include Earth First!, Bold Alliance, BankTrack, and others. Together with Greenpeace, these groups form a predatory pack preying on legitimate businesses.
- In June 2014, Plaintiffs and their partners announced the development and construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (“DAPL” or the “Project”) to provide much needed safe and efficient crude oil transport in the wake of exploding North American production. For more than two years, Energy Transfer and its partners, together with federal and state regulatory agencies, meticulously designed, planned, and constructed the pipeline. The company went to extraordinary lengths to plan for the project to cross, almost exclusively, private land. In addition, wherever possible the route was designed to traverse already-disturbed property that was the site of other decades-old public works projects, including gas and power lines, to avoid environmentally or culturally sensitive areas. Plaintiffs’ representatives also engaged in exceptional efforts to confer with all interested stakeholders potentially affected by the pipeline’s construction, and to accommodate any genuine or legitimate concerns and objections raised by them. DAPL’s extensive and well-documented community outreach was in addition to tribal and other consultation undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps” or “USACE”) related to the Project’s crossing at Lake Oahe, which a federal court found, on its own, went above and beyond what was legally required.
- Among those approached repeatedly by Plaintiffs’ representatives and the Corps for input, were the Native American tribes with property near or potentially affected by the proposed pipeline route, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (“Standing Rock” or “SRST” or the “Tribe”) in North Dakota. During the planning and construction of the pipeline, DAPL attempted to directly engage relevant tribes even though the project does not pass over any sovereign Native American territory at any point along its route. Nevertheless, for two years, Plaintiffs’ representatives sought to inform and listen to these critical constituents and to respond to the concerns they raised. Some tribes elected to engage with DAPL and the Corps, and, as a result, the pipeline was rerouted repeatedly to avoid areas deemed culturally important, even though not on sovereign land, and various other steps also were implemented to further this goal. Other tribes, including specifically SRST, refused to work with DAPL and declined offers to participate in cultural surveys of aspects of the route that were not subject to review by the Corps.
- On July 25, 2016, years after DAPL began its outreach and the Corps engaged in its consultation, the Corps granted the permit to proceed with one of the final pieces of the pipeline under Lake Oahe. The very next day, enterprise member Earthjustice commenced a highly publicized lawsuit on behalf of the Tribe challenging the permit. The filing was accompanied by a press release right out of the “Greenpeace Model” — making the grossly untrue and factually unfounded claims, among others, that the pipeline “Threatens Livelihoods, Sacred Sites, and Water”; and that the permitting process was “fast-tracked,” “wrote off the Tribe’s concerns,” “ignored the pipeline’s impacts to sacred sites and culturally important landscapes,” and created an “existential threat” of an “inevitable” spill that would poison the Tribe’s water supply. The press release also misrepresented that: “There have been shopping malls that have received more environmental review and Tribal consultation than this massive crude oil pipeline. Pipelines spill and leak – it’s not a matter of if, but when. Construction will destroy sacred and historically significant sites.” Employing the “Greenpeace Model,” the press release concluded with a solicitation for money, imploring readers to “Join Our Fight” and providing a link to donate with a suggested minimum donation of $100. Tellingly, understanding the weakness of the legal claims it had filed on behalf of the Tribe, Earthjustice’s press release focused on a number of sensational statements that were not included in the lawsuit.
- The reason the Tribe had not previously alleged the objections trumpeted by the press release accompanying the new lawsuit was simple. The claims were false. They were asserted at the eleventh hour by Earthjustice to the press with the express purpose of attaching itself, like a parasite, to the Tribe’s cause, and using it to incite an international outcry designed to serve the agenda of the Enterprise.
- The Enterprise exploited the impoverished Tribe’s cause for its own end. Promising legal and financial support, the Enterprise urged SRST and other peaceful protesters to establish protest camps on private and Corps property north of the Cannonball River and SRST’s reservation. The Enterprise then cynically planted radical, violent eco-terrorists on the ground amongst the protestors, and directly funded their operations and publicly urged their supporters to do the same.
- Defendant Earth First! provided $500,000 of seed money to a core group of violent eco-terrorist infiltrators, who then formed what would be known as Red Warrior Camp. Red Warrior Camp operated as a rogue group at the protest site, refusing to work collaboratively with the Tribe or the protestors’ various ad hoc governing bodies. Greenpeace also organized donation drives to fund, feed, and house the militant group in ten cities across the country. Red Warrior Camp advertised their violent confrontations to secure additional funding, and used other illegal means, including selling drugs bought with donated money to other protestors at the camps to finance their operations and line their own pockets.
- Red Warrior Camp initiated direct action training for its own members and other protestors interested in engaging in violent conflict and incited and perpetrated acts of terrorism and destruction of private and federal lands. The violence at the camps escalated in tandem with the establishment of Red Warrior Camp and the Enterprise’s misinformation campaign. The Enterprise maliciously disseminated misinformation and prompted on-site violence for its own financial purposes and not because it was in the Tribe’s interest. Indeed, ultimately, the Tribe sought to evict Red Warrior Camp from the protest site in November 2016 because it had become apparent that the Red Warrior Camp was advancing their own and the Enterprise’s sensational and violent agenda irrespective and contrary to the interests of the Tribe that they falsely claimed to be supporting.
- For the next six months, the Defendants and Enterprise members used this manufactured crisis to relentlessly campaign against DAPL based on a series of demonstrably false lies and illegal activity designed to publicize those lies. First, the Enterprise falsely claimed that the pipeline was intentionally constructed over sacred and culturally important sites, when, in fact, Plaintiffs’ representatives have gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid such sites.
- Second, the Enterprise falsely claimed that the pipeline was constructed on tribal lands without permission, when, in fact, the pipeline was constructed almost exclusively on private land, with the remaining land comprised entirely of federal, not tribal lands.
- Third, the Enterprise falsely claimed the pipeline was approved and constructed without tribal consultation when, in fact, both Plaintiffs’ representatives and USACE, the U.S. federal agency responsible for reviewing the project before issuing permits, consulted extensively with the tribes.
- Fourth, the Enterprise misrepresented that the pipeline created a materially increased and substantial risk of an oil spill that would poison (or was already poisoning) the Tribe’s drinking water, when, in fact, the route where the pipeline travels already contained an existing pipeline which has operated without incident or objection for decades, and DAPL’s materials, design, and construction were far safer than, and superior to, that existing pipeline, and, most important, crude oil was being transported regularly through tribal land and water — without objection — by truck and rail, both of which are exponentially more dangerous and environmentally harmful means of transport.
- Fifth, the Enterprise misrepresented that Plaintiffs and DAPL have engaged in abusive treatment of so-called protestors in North Dakota, including allegedly beating, firing at, and directing dogs to attack what the Enterprise misrepresented were peaceful protestors. In fact, it was the Enterprise members and mobs they intentionally incited who engaged in criminal and civil trespass, rioting, assaults and menacing, attacking police and innocent workers, chasing police and construction staff with vehicles, horses, and dogs, and causing widespread destruction of public (including federal) and private property. Yet, the Enterprise claimed its protestors were peaceful and fabricated evidence that Plaintiffs attacked those peaceful protestors by publishing a photograph purporting to show a dog bite received by a child at the DAPL site in North Dakota, when, in fact, the picture was of a young girl bitten years before in an entirely different location under entirely different circumstances having nothing to do with DAPL.
- The Enterprise, through Earth First! and Red Warrior Camp, knowingly funded, controlled, directed, and incited acts of terrorism in violation of the U.S. Patriot Act, including attempted and actual destruction of an energy facility and arson on government property and aimed at interstate commerce. These acts of physical sabotage of the pipeline were serious terrorist threats that — had oil been flowing in the pipeline when the attacks were perpetrated — would have caused the pipeline to explode, endangering human lives and resulting in environmental disaster. The attacks further undermine the authenticity of the Enterprise’s “environmental” cause.
- In addition to utilizing these lies and the spectacle in North Dakota to dupe donors into contributing money and incite riots and property destruction, the Enterprise directly manufactured and disseminated these lies as part of a campaign to cut off Plaintiffs’ access to the capital markets and other critical business relationships. Specifically, through a highly coordinated and sophisticated effort, the Enterprise spread its false claims throughout the marketplace, targeting Plaintiffs’ banks, investors, research analysts, and other critical business constituents with threats that if they continued to do business with Plaintiffs they would be subjected to the same disruptive attacks, lies, boycotts, and harassment, based on the same utterly false claims the Enterprise had disseminated widely into the public square.
- The Enterprise also launched cyber-attacks against Plaintiffs, and intentionally incited the most violent and unstable actors at their disposal to target company executives, inundating them with death threats, physically menacing the Company’s directors and officers, and publishing personal information about them that put them at imminent risk of harm. It also threatened and carried out acts of cyberterrorism against Plaintiffs, putting their business operations and the livelihood of their employees at risk.
- Remarkably, there was virtually no indication of this coming onslaught even the day before DAPL received its permit despite the over two-year public permitting process that had just been completed and in which none of the Defendants or Enterprise members sought to participate. Yet, the very next day Plaintiffs were besieged with an attack from numerous, highly aggressive and organized groups, all singing from the same hymnal. It was as if the entire campaign came in a box. And of course it did, and its objective was not to protect the environment or Native Americans but to produce as sensational and public a dispute as possible, and to use that publicity and emotion to drive fundraising while at the same time inflicting harm on Plaintiffs.
- Ultimately, the pipeline was completed and is operational. But the toll from the attack was high. The damage to Plaintiffs’ relationships with the capital markets has been substantial, impairing access to financing and increasing their cost of capital and ability to fund future projects at economical rates. Moreover, Plaintiffs incurred substantial expenditures to mitigate the direct impact of the opposition’s slander campaign and the violent protests. These damages — which the Enterprise has widely and proudly reported has cost Plaintiffs “many hundreds of millions of dollars” — were intentionally and maliciously inflicted based upon a relentless campaign of lies and outright mob thuggery. Defendants must be held accountable for these damages, and for substantial punitive damages to deter this illegal means of doing business.