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042518-nws-dapl-appeals

Law enforcement formed skirmish lines to meet protesters marching in a pasture near Dakota Access pipeline construction on Oct. 22, 2016. Greenpeace is asking a state judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the pipeline developer accusing the group of working to disrupt construction.

Greenpeace is asking a state judge in North Dakota to dismiss claims by the developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline that the environmental group conspired against the project.

Greenpeace on Tuesday accused Energy Transfer Partners of repackaging racketeering claims that were thrown out of federal court earlier this year.

“Plaintiff’s warmed-over claims again seek to tie Greenpeace’s public advocacy to alleged criminal activities, simply because Greenpeace’s speech – among a chorus of parallel advocates – criticized plaintiff’s efforts to site the pipeline on lands that pose risks to water supply and critical indigenous cultural landmarks,” Greenpeace attorney Derrick Braaten said in a court filing.

Energy Transfer maintains the $3.8 billion pipeline that is now moving North Dakota oil to Illinois is safe and did not disrupt any historic or cultural resources.

The company alleges Greenpeace and related activists conspired to use illegal and violent means such as arson, threats, physical attacks and misleading information to disrupt pipeline construction in 2016 and 2017 and damage the company’s reputation and finances – all the while using the highly publicized and prolonged protest to enrich themselves through donations.

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The Texas-based company sued in U.S. District Court in August 2017, making claims under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and under North Dakota laws and seeking about $1 billion in damages. Judge Billy Roy Wilson dismissed the case in February, saying he found no evidence of a coordinated criminal enterprise that had worked to undermine the company and its pipeline.

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Wilson did not address the state claims, however, and Energy Transfer sued in state court a week later, making similar claims and seeking to recoup "millions of dollars” in damages.

Greenpeace maintains Energy Transfer Partners is attacking free speech.

“No matter the court, attempts to intimidate and silence those who engage in protected advocacy work, through baseless legal claims, should not be tolerated,” Greenpeace USA attorney Tom Wetterer said in a statement.

Energy Transfer Partners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Reach Blake Nicholson at 701-250-8266 or Blake.Nicholson@bismarcktribune.com

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