This is a summary of proceedings.  For detailed information and specifics, please refer to the original file. 

Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2018

Robert Lyman is an Ottawa energy policy consultant, former public servant of 27 years and a diplomat for 10 years prior to that.

The general public has a positive view of environmental organizations. They are perceived as being so friendly and peaceful in an almost Ghandi-like way that we just cannot help supporting them and donating. After all, they are saving the planet, right?  They are protecting nature for our grandchildren, right?


Then, along comes a news story that shows how utterly false these images are.


Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) is one of the largest companies in the United States owning and operating oil and natural gas pipelines. It is also the sponsor of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,172-mile-long (1,886 km) underground oil pipeline in the United States. It begins in the Bakken shale oil fields in northwest North Dakota and continues through South Dakota and Iowa to Patoka, Illinois. Together with the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline from Patoka to Nederland, Texas, it forms the Bakken system.


The $3.78 billion project was announced to the public in June 2014. The pipeline was completed by April 2017 and its first oil was delivered on May 14, 2017. It became commercially operational on June 1, 2017.


In August, 2017, ETP filed a federal lawsuit in the United States against Greenpeace International and its affiliate organizations, BankTrack, Earth First!, and other environmental organizations and individuals. In July, 2018 a federal judge dismissed the group BankTrack from the lawsuit and threatened to do the same for Earth First! unless ETP could make a better case against them. ETP filed a revised suit in August 2018, which brought this back into the news. I read the original ETP complaint upon which it based its lawsuit.


The ETP Complaint in General


The ETP complaint is based on the company’s perception of the actions of environmental groups over the period between the time when its initial proposal and route was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the ultimate completion of the pipeline. The preliminary statement reads as follows:


“ This case involves a network of putative not-for-profits and rogue eco-terrorist groups who employ patterns of criminal activity and campaigns of misinformation to target legitimate companies and industries with fabricated environmental claims and other purported misconduct, inflicting billions of dollars in damage. The network’s pattern of criminal and other misconduct includes (i) defrauding charitable donors and cheating federal and state authorities with claims that they are legitimate tax-free charitable organizations; (ii) cyber-attacks; (iii) intentional and malicious interference with their targeted victim’s business relationships; and (iv) physical violence, threats of violence and the purposeful destruction of private and federal property.”


The preliminary statement describes the tactics employed by environmental groups according to the “Greenpeace model”. These include:


“(1) manufacturing a media spectacle based upon phony but emotionally-charged hot-button issues, sensational lies, and intentionally incited physical violence, property destruction, and other criminal conduct; and (2) relentlessly publicizing these sensational lies, manufactured conflict and conflagration, and misrepresented ‘causes’ to generate funding from individual donors, foundations, and corporate sponsors.”


In a storyline that would be very familiar to those in Canada who have observed the tactics used by foreign-funded environmental organizations to oppose and sensationalize proposals for new oil pipelines, the 187-page Complaint describes at length the many measures that ETP took to assess, plan and prepare for the selection of an acceptable right of way for the Dakota Access pipeline and to consult exhaustively with private landowners, communities and aboriginal groups. Much of the controversy that subsequently surrounded the pipeline was based on claims that:


  • The pipeline was intentionally constructed over sacred and culturally important sites (when, in fact, ETP had gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid such sites);
  • The pipeline was constructed on tribal lands without permission (when, in fact, the pipeline was constructed almost exclusively on private land, with the remaining land comprised entirely of federal, not tribal lands);
  • The pipeline was approved and constructed without tribal consultation (when, in fact, both ETP and USACE, the U.S. federal agency responsible for reviewing the project before issuing permits, consulted extensively with the tribes);
  • The pipeline created a substantial risk of an oil spill that would poison the tribes’ drinking water (when, in fact, the route where the pipeline travels already contained an existing pipeline that has operated without incident or objection for decades and crude oil was being transported regularly through tribal land and water, without objection, by truck and rail, which are far more environmentally risky means of transport); and
  • That ETP had engaged in abusive treatment of protestors (when, in fact, all the attacks and violence were initiated by the protestors).


The Campaign Waged against the Dakota Pipeline

Much of the Complaint consists of a detailed documentation of illegal actions taken by Greenpeace and other environmental organizations. The following are some of the examples cited:

  • In August, 2016, environmental organizations set up “resistance camps” near pipeline construction sites as bases for coordinating violent protests and fomenting public disorder to disrupt construction of the Dakota Pipeline.
  • Red Warrior Camp recruited new members and trained them in criminal trespass, violence and property destruction. They supplied materials for and directed the attacks, and provided free legal representation and bail for those arrested for such illegal activities.
  • “Bold Iowa” organized and trained “action teams” of five people each to mobilize repeatedly to prevent construction. These action teams trespassed on live construction zones and physically prevented construction by lying in front of bulldozers or other construction equipment.
  • “Mississippi Stand”, another group, had members regularly use “steel or drop dragons” to lock themselves to construction equipment and construction sites and climbed into sections of the pipe to occupy the pipe so construction could not proceed. On November 10, 2016 Mississippi Stands activists, armed with screwdrivers, climbed onto a section of pipe to occupy it and prevent construction. After the activists were removed and arrested, construction workers were forced to rip out the plastic section of the pipe to ensure that the activists had not drilled any holes in the pipeline with their screwdrivers.
  • Red Warrior coordinated large scale attacks on construction sites that concluded with arson, property damage and arrests. For example, on October 26, 2016, a large group of people led by Red Warrior entered Dakota Access property, set up roadblocks, and established an encampment. After requests from police that they vacate the property, the activists returned, set up makeshift barriers and lit them on fire to prevent officers from accessing the site. They threw Molotov cocktails, logs, rocks, debris, and even urine at the officers. They also set fire to numerous vehicles, three pieces of Dakota Access construction equipment, and two bridges. One activist fired three shots from a pistol at the police, narrowly missing an officer.
  • Another group, Akicita, attacked a Dakota Access security guard who went to investigate equipment that was on fire. Akicita members rammed the guard’s vehicle off the road and threatened him with knives.
  • On November 20, 2016, about 650 protesters, led by Red Warrior, attempted to flank a group of police officers. They started fires on a bridge to Dakota Access property and threw objects and homemade weapons, including grenades and flares, at police.
  • In August, 2016 activists set fires to destroy construction equipment in Jasper County, Reasnor and Mahaska County, Iowa.
  • On November 8, 2016, Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya of Mississippi Stand went to a construction site in Iowa and added motor oil and rags to six coffee canisters, placed them on the seats of six pieces of machinery and set them on fire. They damaged two excavators, a bulldozer, and a side boom, causing more than $1 million in damages.
  • On at least three occasions, Reznicek and Montoya used blowtorches to cut holes in the pipeline.
  • Greenpeace and its affiliates launched cyber-attacks on ETP under the guise of a front organization called Anonymous.
  • In September, 2016, in Morton County, Red Warrior marched on to private property, blocked traffic, trampled a wire construction fence and stampeded with hundreds of protestors, horses, dogs, and vehicles onto lands where construction was ongoing. They threatened security personnel with knives, hit them with fence posts and flag poles, and otherwise attacked them. Several security officers were hospitalized as a result. This happened again later that month.
  • The protestors took their battle to local law enforcement. USACE reported that “families of police officers are reportedly being threatened, followed home, and having their residence photographed and videotaped”.
  • The protestors set up a semi-permanent camp site to harass construction for months. When the pipeline was finial finished, they left 250 truckloads of trash and waste at the protest site, precisely on the lands that they claim the native tribes hold sacred.


Damages Sought

ETP is seeking financial compensation for the damages inflicted on its property and business, including the damage to its reputation, brand and goodwill. The direct damages are estimated to be at least $300 million, and the total if granted could be as high as $1 billion.



This promises to be a long drawn out legal battle. It is rare for an energy company to fight back so directly and vigorously against a group of environmental organizations that often enjoy widespread public support, whether deserved or not.


The tactics employed by Greenpeace and related groups go far beyond the “peaceful” image they like to present to the public. They clearly see themselves as having the moral right to take actions that in most instances would be regarded as criminal and would irretrievably damage the reputation of those committing them.


Too often, the tactics employed by radical environmental organizations in the United States are imported into Canada. One wonders how well equipped Canadian pipeline companies and law enforcement are to deal with this.