BISMARCK, N.D. — The lone remaining environmental group facing racketeering accusations by the developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline has asked a federal judge to be dismissed from the case.
Greenpeace attorneys on Tuesday filed documents arguing that revised allegations by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act are "generalized and implausible."
ETP initially sued Greenpeace, Earth First and BankTrack last year for up to $1 billion, alleging they worked to undermine the $3.8 billion pipeline that's now shipping North Dakota oil to a distribution point in Illinois. The lawsuit alleged the groups interfered with company business, facilitated crimes and acts of terrorism, incited violence, targeted financial institutions that backed the project, and violated defamation and racketeering laws. The groups maintained the lawsuit was an attack on free speech.
U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson this summer dismissed both BankTrack and Earth First as defendants. In July, he denied a motion by Greenpeace to be dismissed, as well, but he also ordered ETP to revise the lawsuit that he said contained vague claims. Company lawyers did so last month.
Greenpeace attorneys maintain that "ETP has utterly failed to follow the court's direction," and that the amended lawsuit "contains much the same inflammatory, insubstantial language" as before.
ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado declined comment, citing company policy against commenting on active litigation.
Company lawyers on Tuesday asked Wilson to reconsider his late August order that the company identify 20 unnamed individual defendants in its lawsuit within a month or have them dismissed as defendants. ETP wants the opportunity to gather more evidence to properly identify the people that it alleges played a role in inciting a massive protest against the pipeline while it was being built.
Protests by groups and American Indian tribes who feared environmental harm resulted in 761 arrests in southern North Dakota over a six-month span beginning in late 2016.
ETP also is suing five named individual defendants: two Iowa women who have publicly claimed to have vandalized the pipeline; two people associated with the Red Warrior Camp, a protest group alleged to have advocated aggressive tactics such as arson; and Virginia resident Charles Brown, who the company alleges is "a pipeline campaigner for Greenpeace" and specializes in interfering with ETP projects including the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana.
Brown filed an affidavit Tuesday stating he began working for Greenpeace after the Dakota Access protests and that "I have never lived in or traveled to North Dakota."
Greenpeace attorneys called the inclusion of Brown as a defendant "baffling" and "possibly sanctionable."