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Energy Transfer Partners’ Standing Rock Lawsuit: A Harbinger of What’s to Come in the Trump Era

We’ll never back down before an entitled corporate giant.

Native Americans march to a burial ground sacred site that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), near the encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the oil pipeline on September 4, 2016, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. (Photo: Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images)

Last year, Water Protectors inspired all of us as they stood up to Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and the oil and gas industry. Hundreds of Indigenous communities came together in an attempt to halt the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), fight for Indigenous sovereignty, and protect sacred land and water. Greenpeace stood in solidarity with these communities, and throughout the resistance, sought to add our voice in confronting this disastrous project.

But the Dakota Access pipeline fight was never about Greenpeace or any other national green group. It was a youth-led Indigenous movement that started on the ground at Standing Rock and reverberated around the world. Now, in a lawsuit against Greenpeace and others, ETP has come up with a few “alternative facts” to make Standing Rock something it never was.

Filed on behalf of ETP by Trump’s go-to law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres, the lawsuit — claiming billions of dollars in damages — distorts the truth about Standing Rock to fuel the corporate fossil fuel agenda. It follows an almost identical attack from the same law firm in 2016 on behalf of Resolute Forest Products, trying to distort US racketeering laws (RICO) to mislabel legitimate advocacy as criminal conduct and constitutionally-protected free speech as defamatory.

These baseless corporate lawsuits abuse our legal system and attack our democratic values. It’s time for all of us to rise up and push back against legal bullying from Energy Transfer Partners, Resolute Forest Products, or any other corporation that seeks to silence opposition to their destructive practices.

These lawsuits won’t end with Greenpeace, or even the environmental movement. The Kasowitz firm is looking to silence opposition in Trump’s America. We have seen Donald Trump and his criminal enterprise attack journalists, media outlets and anyone who opposes his agenda. These attacks on Greenpeace and others are right out of that same playbook. Desperate corporations and political hacks are looking to take down journalists, advocacy groups and anyone who dares speak the truth in our country. Just a week after the news of ETP’s suit broke, the company was dealt the first of many blows to its alternative fact-filled story. Nordic investors publicly refuted allegations that they divested from the pipeline because of wrongful pressure from Greenpeace and other organizations. On the contrary, the investors noted their decision to divest from DAPL and the companies involved was due to their own due diligence and the unacceptable risk of human rights violations. It turns out that some companies recognize that associating with environmental destruction and human rights abuses isn’t good for business.

What the Kasowitz firm really wants is for these lawsuits to drag on for months or years, and drain groups like Greenpeace of the resources and energy it takes to confront corporate power. If there’s one thing that we all took away from the Indigenous movement at Standing Rock, it’s to never back down in the face of an entitled corporate giant.

At Standing Rock, Energy Transfer Partners and the oil and gas industry saw the power of the resistance to their agenda, and it scared them. Indigenous communities, grassroots groups and millions across the world took action and halted the Dakota Access pipeline. The industry wants to preemptively chill the growth of the resistance by taking down a big, highly visible organization. But it won’t work. Already, the movement is organizing behind Indigenous and grassroots leadership to oppose new oil and gas infrastructure, like TransCanada’s Keystone XL and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain tar sands pipelines, and the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley natural gas pipelines. In fact, just this week, people power helped defeat TransCanada’s disastrous Energy East tar sands pipeline.

The Kasowitz law firm seems content with lying to ensure that any opposition is taken out. What they should count on is that we will all continue to fight back — inside and outside the courtroom — and we are confident we will win.

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