Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) – the company responsible for the Dakota Access Pipeline – filed a lawsuit this week against multiple environmental organizations. Among other things, ETP claims the groups carried out “a campaign of misinformation for purposes of increasing donations and advancing their political or business agendas”.
The lawsuit has led many NoDAPL folks – and an attorney for one of the groups being sued – to claim that the legal action is an effort “to silence free speech”. Considering the fact that the lawsuit seeks damages that could total close to $1 billion, I’d say that the legal representation for the defense needs to find a better argument than that.
North Dakotan’s remember well the problematic and even violent protests near Standing Rock that resulted in 761 arrests from August of last year to February of this one. Not to mention the law enforcement cost to the state of about $38 million in response to the shenanigans of the “eco-terrorists”– $10 million of which we’ve now learned will be reimbursed by the federal government.
The problem with the DAPL protesters wasn’t that they held an opinion in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Nor was it that they wanted to voice that opinion. The problem came when a faction of them decided that free speech somehow meant it was okay to trespass, vandalize, steal, destroy someone else’s property, etc.
As a means of perpetrating the months of protests, money flowed into the camps to ensure that necessary supplies were available to keep the movement going. Much of which resulted in having to be cleaned up by the state after camps were cleared out and tons of rubbish was left behind by those who pretended to be environmentalists.
ETP’s legal filing lays out the argument that organizations like Earthjustice joined the Tribe “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.” Not only does the filing lay out the parasitic argument, but more importantly it demonstrates how these organizations intentionally used the money they raised to fund the violent faction of protesters in an effort to further their own agendas. ETP’s arguments are very compelling.
Will ETP prevail in their legal battle? Only time will tell. But one thing is certain… the lawsuit is not intended to silence free speech. That argument is, quite frankly, laughable. But we’ve come to expect irrational thought from the NoDAPL crowd.
ETP is pursuing the lawsuit because they feel an “obligation” to find some justice for the unlawful activities perpetrated along the route of the pipeline, which resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses suffered by the company.
Free speech does not encompass the ability to trespass, vandalize, steal, and destroy someone else’s property. And the defendants had better figure that out fast. Because failure to find a better argument may leave them penniless– a consequence they would be quite deserving of.