Controversy around the Dakota Access Pipeline continues with the latest news that the company behind the oil pipeline is now suing Greenpeace and other environmental groups who were involved in extensive protests against the project.
On Tuesday, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) filed a federal lawsuit, alleging the dissemination of “materially false and misleading information” about the pipeline.
The company is claiming that Greenpeace, Earth First and other organisations allegedly engaged in “criminal activity” to increase their donation funds and advance their own agendas.
“The complaint asserts that the attacks were calculated and thoroughly irresponsible, causing enormous harm to people and property along the pipeline’s route,” ETP stated in their announcement about the lawsuit.
Along with accusations of a misinformation campaign, the company also alleges that environmental groups “directly and indirectly funded eco-terrorists on the ground in North Dakota.”
“These groups formed their own outlaw camp among peaceful protesters gathered near Lake Oahe, and exploited the peaceful activities of these groups.”
According to Reuters, ETP alleges that environmentalists used the Standing Rock Sioux tribe – the most public of the indigenous groups in opposition to the project – to wage a battle against the pipeline.
“Energy Transfer is being represented by the Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman law firm, whose founding partner Marc Kasowitz is President Donald Trump’s lawyer,” Reuters reports.
One of the defendants, Greenpeace, has publicly spoken out about this turn of events in an official statement distributed to the media.
“This is the second consecutive year Donald Trump’s go-to attorneys at the Kasowitz law firm have filed a meritless lawsuit against Greenpeace,” said Greenpeace USA general counsel Tom Wetterer.
“It is yet another classic ‘Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation’ (SLAPP), not designed to seek justice, but to silence free speech through expensive, time-consuming litigation.”
Despite months of protests from local Native American tribes and environmental activists, the $3.8bn pipeline project became operational in June this year, promising to transport about 520,000 barrels of oil daily along its 1,000 mile (1,610 km) length.
Amongst grave concerns over Native American rights and the destruction of sacred ground, opponents of the project also expressed fears that the oil transport line – which is routed under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation – would affect local drinking water.
Even before officially starting operations, earlier this year it turned out that the pipeline had already sprung at least three relatively minor leaks, spilling more than 100 gallons (378 litres) of oil.
Several indigenous groups in North and South Dakota, including the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, are still battling the pipeline in court.