DAPL protesters sued for being ‘eco-terrorists’ by company behind pipeline
According to the Dakota Access Pipeline company, environmental groups launched an “eco-terrorism campaign” against the pipeline, and engaged in “acts of terrorism,” including soliciting donations and interfering with construction, damaging its “critical business and financial relationships,” Reuters reports.
In a 231-page lawsuit filed Tuesday, ETP claims the protests and negative publicity for the pipeline cost the company millions of dollars. It is seeking triple damages, which could come to $1 billion, along with further punitive damages, the Grand Forks Herald reports. The lawsuit also seeks a court order to prevent the groups from conducting more protests.
The filing accuses the environmental groups, including Banktrack and Earth First, of “violating federal and state racketeering statutes and constituted defamation and tortious interference with business.”
It also claims the groups were guilty of “manufacturing a media spectacle” over the North Dakota protests.
A number of Native American tribes in the Dakotas opposed the pipeline, arguing it would threaten their sacred burial grounds as well as their sources of fresh water.
Beginning in April 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe set up a protest encampment near Lake Oahe on the Missouri River. Over the course of the summer the camp grew to thousands of people.
Protests received mainstream media coverage after ETP bulldozed a section of the land that the Standing Rock documented as a historic, sacred burial site. When protesters entered the area, private security workers hired by ETP used attack dogs, which bit as many as five of the protesters, and fired tear gas. Video of the incident was shared by Democracy Now.
The lawsuit, however, argues accusations of excessive force being used and of sacred land being damaged during construction are simply “a series of false, alarmist, and sensational claims,” made by the “rogue eco-terrorist groups.”
In late October, the National Guard and police with riot gear and military equipment cleared the encampment over claims the area wasn’t safe because of winter temperatures.
Just before the November 2016 presidential election, the Obama administration ordered an environmental review of the pipeline's route and suggested it might be altered. In January 2017, however, President Donald Trump ordered the process to be expedited. The pipeline officially went into service in May.
Protesters have pointed to the history of ETP pipelines leaking oil and damaging the environment. The Rover pipeline leaked into the Ohio wetlands in April, and the Dakota Access Pipeline itself spilled over 100 gallons in two separate incidents in North Dakota in March, as well as another incident in South Dakota in April.
The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,172 mile (1,866 km) underground pipeline, built to carry oil from the Bakken shale oil fields in North Dakota to the oil tank farm in Illinois.
The law firm representing the Texas-based ETP is Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman, whose founding partner Marc Kasowitz is President Trump’s personal lawyer. Trump was an ETP shareholder before selling his stake in December 2016.