BISMARK, North Dakota, August 22, 2017 (ENS) – The owner of the Dakota Access oil pipeline today sued environmental groups, accusing them of inciting terrorism, fraud, racketeering and defamation in the course of their opposition to construction of the pipeline.

The Dallas-based pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, said in a statement that Greenpeace, BankTrack, Earth First and others “manufactured and disseminated materially false and misleading information about Energy Transfer and the Dakota Access Pipeline for the purpose of fraudulently inducing donations, interfering with pipeline construction activities and damaging Energy Transfer’s critical business and financial relationships.”

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Protest at Wells Fargo Bank, which has over $400 million invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline, part of a multi-national movement putting pressure on all the banks to divest from the project, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Feb. 3, 2017 (Photo by Joe Plette)

The federal lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota calls the environmentalists “co-conspirators” and “rogue environmental groups and militant individuals who employ a pattern of criminal activity and a campaign of misinformation for purposes of increasing donations and advancing their political or business agendas.

The complaint takes offense at the green groups’ tactic of publicly demanding that the financing sources for DAPL and Energy Transfer’s other infrastructure projects sever ties with Energy Transfer or face crippling boycotts and other illegal attacks.

Energy Transfer Partners is being represented in this legal action by Michael Bowe of Kasowitz, Benson Torres, LLP, a law firm founded by Marc Kasowitz, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, who was ousted in July.

Greenpeace’s USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer defended the environmental group’s activism, accusing Energy Transfer’s lawyers of being “corporate mercenaries willing to abuse the legal system to silence legitimate advocacy work.”

The Netherlands-based advocacy support group BankTrack said today that it “vehemently rejects all accusations” brought forward by Energy Transfer Partners. “We consider it perfectly within our right and our stated mission to inform the general public on potential or actual negative social, environmental and human rights impacts of projects-to be-financed by private sector banks.”

“We also consider it competely within our right to bring information on such projects, including indicators of widespread public concern, to the attention of banks, so that they can make their own assessment of the materiality of this information, and let this weigh into their own decision making processes,” BankTrack said.

BankTrack called the lawsuit an attempt “to silence civil society organizations, and to curb their crucial role in helping to foster business conduct globally that protects the environment, recognises the rights and interests of all stakeholders, and respects human rights. This attempt is bound to fail.”

The 1,168-mile, $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline began interstate delivery of crude oil delivery from North Dakota to Illinois in May. Yet, in June a federal appeals court judge ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider its environmental review of the pipeline. Depending on the outcome of this review, the line could be shut down in the future.

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Oceti Sakowin pipeline resistance camp just before it disbanded, Dec. 4, 2016 (Photo by Joe Brusky)

A portion of the pipeline passes through the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s ancestral lands, and near the border of the tribe’s present-day reservation.

The Standing Rock Sioux were supported in their opposition to the pipeline they fear will spill oil into their water supply by many environmental groups, other tribes and veterans.

A Spirit Camp, known as the Camp of the Sacred Stone, where Standing Rock Sioux tribal members gathered for months with other supporters in prayer and solidarity, was created at the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers.

This camp and others nearby were attacked many times by police with water cannon, pepper spray and dogs.

The original route for the Dakota Access pipeline crossed the Missouri River upstream of Bismarck, the state’s capital city. An oil spill at that location would have threatened Bismark’s drinking water supply, so the pipeline route was moved south, to just a half-mile upstream of the tribe’s reservation.

The Standing Rock Sioux claim that the land the pipeline crosses had been taken from the tribe in 1958, without consent, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a dam project.

In a declaration submitted to the U.S. District Court as part of the Standing Rock Sioux’s case against the pipeline, the tribe’s Chairman Dave Archambault II said, “Our water is at risk because a pipeline, through which more than half a million gallons of oil per day shall flow, is being built across the Missouri River, just north of our nation’s border.”

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Standoff between tribal demonstrators and law enforcement officers over the Dakota Access Pipeline, 2016 (Photo courtesy BankTrack)

“When the pipeline leaks, the Missouri river – the source of our drinking water, where we fish, swim, and conduct ceremonies – will be contaminated,” Archambault warned. “This is our home. The only thing we have left.”

In its lawsuit filed today, Energy Transfer Partners called those concerns “false, alarmist, and sensational…”

Calling the green groups’ objections to the pipeline “false and misleading,” Energy Transfer said, the defendant groups, “supported these false claims with manufactured evidence, including phony GPS coordinates purporting to show the existence of cultural and religious artifacts along DAPL’s corridor, and sham affidavits submitted in court.”

In addition to its misinformation campaign, Energy Transfer claims that the green groups “directly and indirectly funded eco-terrorists on the ground in North Dakota.”

“These groups formed their own outlaw camp among peaceful protestors gathered near Lake Oahe, and exploited the peaceful activities of these groups … by inducing and directing violent and destructive attacks against law enforcement as well as plaintiffs’ property and personnel.”

The environmentalists “manipulated these ‘made-for-TV’ events to raise more funds,” the company claims. “These terrorist groups also funded their activities … by using donations to fund a lucrative drug trafficking scheme inside the camps.”

Contrary to what is alleged, BankTrack says it made no financial gain from campaign work on the Dakota Access Pipeline, an assertion backed by the group’s audited financial report for 2016.

Other illegal activities directed at Energy Transfer and its executives that are alleged in the complaint include “persistent attempted cyber-attacks and telephonic and electronic threats to the physical safety of executives.”

The complaint alleges that Greenpeace and others inflicted billions of dollars in damage on Energy Transfer by advocating against the construction of the pipeline.

The public interest environmental lawfirm Earthjustice, which represented the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its litigation against the Army Corps of Engineers to block the pipeline, is not named as a defendant in this case. Yet, Earthjustice and Earthjustice employees are cited many times in the Energy Transfer complaint as being involved in the alleged wrongful activity.

Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen said, “This complaint from Energy Transfer Partners is nothing more than an attack on all those who stood up for the Tribe in this historic fight, packaged as a legal claim. It is an unprovoked and malicious attack on those who would use the power of the law and free speech for good.”

“Representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their laudable effort to protect their water and sacred lands from the Dakota Access Pipeline is one of Earthjustice’s proudest moments,” Van Noppen said. “The Standing Rock Sioux are the true leaders of what became a massive movement. Earthjustice’s role has been to ensure that the legitimate claims and rights of the Tribe were heard in a court of law.”

“For the first time ever, both the Obama Administration and the courts recognized that the rights of the Tribe and the overarching cause of environmental justice needed to be heard,” said Van Noppen. “Despite the eventual completion of the pipeline, these victories are significant for the Tribe, and to indigenous groups fighting for their rights and for environmental justice all over the world.”

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