Attorneys for a Florida-based environmental publication want a federal judge in North Dakota to sanction the Texas-based developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in a dispute over whether the publication can be sued.
Earth First Journal maintains Energy Transfer Partners attorneys aren't acting in good faith by associating the publication with the Earth First social movement, which the company contends was part of an effort to undermine the pipeline project and the company.
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Energy Transfer in August sued Greenpeace, BankTrack and Earth First for up to $1 billion, alleging the environmental groups disseminated false and misleading information about the $3.8 billion pipeline moving oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois, and instigated violent protests.
Company lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland to declare that Earth First has been served with the lawsuit via Earth First Journal, whose website bills the publication as a forum for discussion within the Earth First movement.
Journal attorney Pamela Spees maintains the journal and movement aren't the same thing, and that the insistence of company attorneys to the contrary is "intentional and reckless disregard of their duties to the court."
Spees asked Hovland to order the plaintiffs to pay the center's fees and to educate lawyers at the plaintiff firms about the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which she claims have been violated.
Company attorney Michael Bowe in a statement called Spees' motion "incomprehensible" and "frivolous."
Hovland hasn't ruled on the larger question of whether the journal can be sued. He also hasn't ruled on requests by Greenpeace and BankTrack to throw out the lawsuit, which those groups maintain is meritless and an attack on free speech.
In a response filed with the court Friday, company attorneys said "it is the damage flowing from criminal activity — not the peaceful expression of free speech — that Energy Transfer seeks to vindicate."
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