Industry Lawsuits Try To Paint Environmental Activism As Illegal Racket

Greenpeace activists hung banners on the headquarters of Procter & Gamble to draw attention to palm oil plantations and deforestation. Credit: Tim Aubry/Greenpeace

By Nicholas Kusnetz for Inside Climate News – On a bright afternoon in May 2016, two men in a silver SUV pulled into Kelly Martin’s driveway. One of them, tall and beefy with a crew cut, walked up to her front door. “The guy said, ‘Is Joshua Martin home?’ and I said, ‘No, who are you?” recalled Kelly. “He said, ‘I’m with a company that’s talking to current and former employees of ForestEthics, and I’m wondering if he still works there’.” Joshua had left ForestEthics, renamed Stand last year, to run the Environmental Paper Network. Kelly asked to see the stranger’s ID and to snap a picture on her phone. Instead, the man retreated to the SUV and “they literally peeled out of the driveway.” Around the same time, Aaron Sanger, another former employee of Stand, also received a visit from two men asking similar questions. So did others, some of them former employees of Greenpeace. Then, on the last day of that month, Greenpeace and Stand were hit with an unusual lawsuit brought by Resolute Forest Products, one of Canada’s largest logging and paper companies, that could cost the groups hundreds of millions of dollars if Resolute wins. The timber company said the organizations, which for years had campaigned against Resolute’s logging in Canada’s boreal forest, were conspiring illegally to extort the company’s customers and defraud their own donors.

Residents Claim Energy Transfer Partners Violated Constitutional Rights

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By Sue Sturgis for Facing South – Four Pennsylvania residents filed a federal lawsuit this week against Texas-based pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), claiming the Fortune 500 company and its subsidiaries violated their constitutional rights by engaging in illegal surveillance and harassment against landowners and pipeline protesters and caused emotional distress and other harm. The suit, which seeks compensatory damages, also names ETP’s private security provider, North Carolina-based TigerSwan, as well as local law enforcement officers who arrested pipeline opponents on charges that ultimately were not prosecuted. It claims that energy companies like ETP are increasingly relying on de facto public-private partnerships with government to “strong-arm” opponents into silence with false arrests and malicious prosecution. “Since May of 2015, every day of my life has been affected by the plans to build this pipeline, and the lengths that Energy Transfer Partners will go to in the pursuit of profit,” said plaintiff Elise Gerhart, who lives on property that will be crossed by the pipeline. “We’ve been needlessly harassed by agencies and violently threatened by individuals who’ve been intentionally incited and mobilized.” The lawsuit claims that energy companies like ETP are increasingly relying on de facto public-private partnerships to “strong-arm” opponents into silence.

California To Sue Trump Administration Over Plan For U.S.-Mexico Border Wall

Flickr/ Jonathan McIntosh

By Patrick McGreevy and Jazmine Ulloa for Los Angeles Times – California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra plans to announce a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of the state that will challenge President Trump’s proposal to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, a project Becerra has called “medieval.” Becerra is scheduled to travel to Border Field State Park near San Diego to announce that a lawsuit is being filed in federal court over construction of border wall projects in San Diego and Imperial counties. The lawsuit, which includes the California Coastal Commission as a plaintiff, states its purpose is “to protect the State of California’s residents, natural resources, economic interests, procedural rights, and sovereignty from violations of the United States Constitution” and federal law. It adds that the wall would have a chilling effect on tourism to the United States from Mexico. The state’s lawsuit alleges that the Trump administration has failed to comply with federal and state environmental laws and relied on federal statutes that don’t authorize the proposed projects. The brief alleges the federal government violated the U.S. Constitution’s separation-of-powers doctrine “by vesting in the Executive Branch the power to waive state and local laws, including state criminal law.”.

“Fake” Net Neutrality Comments At Heart Of Lawsuit Filed Against FCC

Getty Images | designer491

By Jon Brodkin for ARS Technica – Prechtel argued that the data he requested can be used to determine whether “any groups of comments submitted by particular e-mail addresses correlate with what other previous comment analyses suspect are fake comments” and “if any suspicious e-mail address URLs (lobbyists, PR firms, .gov addresses, non-US domain names, etc.) were allowed to submit bulk comments.” Prechtel also argues that suspicious comment uploading patterns might shed light on the FCC comment system’s downtime on May 8, an event the FCC has blamed on multiple distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Democratic lawmakers have criticized the FCC for failing to provide information substantiating the DDoS claims and have called for an independent investigation. “I believe the API key log information I requested can help identify who was behind the alleged FCC cyberattack on May 7-8,” Prechtel told Ars. But so far, his efforts to get that information have been met with silence, he said. “It has now been over three months since anyone at the FCC has reached out to me, and nearly two months since they have been legally required to respond to my request or request another extension to process it,” he said. Prechtel is being represented by Loevy & Loevy, which also represented him in a previous FoIA lawsuit involving the Chicago Transit Authority.

Dozens Of Land Owners Sue Over Eminent Domain For FERC Pipelines

A sign held at an anti-Enbridge protest in Vancouver. (Photo: travis blanston/flickr/cc)

By Duncan Adams for The Roanoke Times – Dozens of landowners potentially affected by the Mountain Valley Pipeline or the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and other foes of the controversial projects have filed a federal lawsuit that challenges eminent domain provisions of the Natural Gas Act. The suit contends that these provisions, as implemented by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, violate Fifth Amendment constitutional protections by allowing private, for-profit pipeline companies to wield eminent domain to acquire easements across private properties without evidence that the projects are needed or will serve the public good. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, contends that FERC’s approval of the pipelines “is virtually certain and imminent” and it asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to intervene. The plaintiffs and their attorney, Carolyn Elefant, a former FERC lawyer, implore the court to stop FERC from issuing the certificates of public convenience and necessity — which the pipeline companies need to begin construction or to exercise eminent domain — until the lawsuit can be litigated. Defendants include the two pipeline companies, each a limited liability company incorporated in Delaware, as well as FERC and its three commissioners.

15 States And The District Of Columbia Challenge Trump Over DACA Decision

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By Emily Wells for Truth Dig – The argument could bear significant weight. Trump made a plethora of comments against Mexican immigrants during the presidential campaign, saying in 2015, “They are not our friend, believe me. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Trump also notoriously boasted that he would force Mexico to pay for a wall along the Mexican-American border. Nevertheless, the case may have a long road ahead, because the president has the authority to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” when it comes to the enforcement of immigration laws. “I wouldn’t say it’s a long shot, [but] I would say it is challenging, just because of the tradition against reviewing prosecutorial discretion,” Stephen Legomsk, a Washington University law professor and an Obama administration alum, told CNN. Cornell law professor and immigration attorney Steve Yale-Loehr said that “given the general deference that most courts provide to executive branch decisions on immigration, because immigration touches on national security and national sovereignty issues, they’re going to have an uphill battle in court. I wish them well, but as far as I can tell, I think they’ve got a less than 50% chance of winning in court.”

Beaten Charlottesville Protester Sues Over Deliberate Police Inaction

Top photo | White nationalist demonstrators clash with counter demonstrators at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017. Gov. (AP/Steve Helber)

By Brandi Buchman for Mint Press News – Aman who says he was pepper-sprayed, doused with urine and beaten with canes during the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has sued the city and state police chiefs, claiming their officers purposefully stood down during the violence. Robert Sanchez Turner, 33, brought the federal complaint on Aug. 31 against Charlottesville, its Police Chief Al Thomas Jr., and State Police Superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty. Turner claims Thomas’s denial of a stand-down order “rings hollow in front of hundreds of witnesses and victims.” “In fact, a confidential memo dated Thursday, August 24 to city manager Maurice Jones … demanded an explanation for the ‘apparent unwillingness of officers to directly intervene during overt assaults captured in many videos,” the complaint states. This failure to step in is “even more outrageous” Turner says, as just three days before the violence, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to the Charlottesville Police Department. In the warning, the DHS said that a gathering of white supremacists would most likely spark a violent clash between Nazi sympathizers and counter-protesters.

Japan’s Tepco Gets Slapped With New U.S. Lawsuit Over Fukushima

FILE PHOTO: Logo of the Tokyo Electric Power Co Holdings (TEPCO) is seen on helmets at TEPCO's South Yokohama Thermal Power Station in Yokohama, Japan July 18, 2017.
Issei Kato/File Photo

By Aaron Sheldrick for Reuters – TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo Electric Power Co Holdings said on Thursday it has been hit with another lawsuit filed in a U.S. court seeking $5 billion for compensation over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the second filed against the utility in a U.S. court. The suit filed by 157 individuals is seeking that amount to set up a compensation fund for the costs of medical tests and treatment they say they need after efforts to support the recovery from the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. The utility, known as Tepco, is being sued regarding improper design, construction and maintenance, claiming compensation for physical, mental and economic damages, the company said in a statement. A multi-plaintiff lawsuit was filed on Aug. 18, 2017, against Tokyo Electric Power Co and other parties in the Southern District Court in California, the legal information group Justia said on its website. Tepco has been hit with more lawsuits than in any previous Japanese contamination suit over the meltdowns of three reactors at its Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo after a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Trump Attorney Sues Greenpeace Over Dakota Access In $300 Million Racketeering Case

People protesting the Dakota Access pipeline march past San Francisco City Hall in November 2016. Credit:  Pax Ahimsa Gethen, CC BY-SA 4.0

By Steve Horn for Desmog Blog – Energy Transfer Partners, owner of the Dakota Access pipeline, has filed a $300 million Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit against Greenpeace and other environmental groups for their activism against the long-contested North Dakota-to-Illinois project. In its 187-page complaint, Energy Transfer alleges that “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” caused the company to lose “billions of dollars.” In the case, Energy Transfer is represented by lawyers from the firm Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, one of the namesakes of which is Marc Kasowitz. Kasowitz is a member of the legal team representing President Donald Trump in the ongoing congressional and special counsel investigation of his 2016 presidential campaign’s alleged ties and potential collusion with Russian state actors. The press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit details that Kasowitz attorney Michael J. Bowe is leading what the firm describes as an ongoing probe into the environmental groups’ “campaign and practices.”

Lawsuits Against DuPont And Chemours For Contaminating Drinking Water In North Carolina

Illustration: The Intercept

By Sharon Lerner for The Intercept – AFTER YEARS of litigation over PFOA, an industrial toxin used to make Teflon and other non-stick and stain-resistant products, in 2009 DuPont introduced GenX. Now the slippery substitute has followed the path of the molecule it replaced, contaminating water near plants in West Virginia and North Carolina, and attracting its own intense legal interest. The lawsuits over PFOA exposed the chemical’s links to several diseases, including kidney and testicular cancer. Like PFOA, also known as C8, GenX is a perfluorinated compound and similarly, was the subject of internal DuPont research showing it poses many of the same health concerns as the original chemical. Also like PFOA, GenX persists indefinitely in the environment. In the past two weeks, two citizens groups in North Carolina announced plans to sue Chemours, the DuPont spinoff company that now makes GenX, over its release of the chemical from its plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority issued a letter of intent to sue both Chemours and DuPont last week over violations of the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act over release of GenX into the Cape Fear River, which is a source of drinking water for more than 250,000 people in the Wilmington area.

Journalists Sue Chicago Police Over Hidden Records Of SWAT Responses To Mental Health Crises

From loevy.com

By Andy Thayer for Loevy and Loevy – CHICAGO – Independent journalist Sarah Lazare and community activist Debbie Southorn sued the Chicago Police Department today demanding release of records about Chicago SWAT deployments responding to mental health crises. A copy of the suit can be found here. These records are of particular public importance because all of Chicago’s mental health clinics have been closed or privatized in recent years, and SWAT teams are used to respond to mental health incidents. As Lazare and Southorn note in an article published yesterday at The Intercept, “Since 2013, Chicago police have deployed SWAT teams at least 38 times to respond to mental health incidents and suicide attempts,” as revealed by records produced in response to a previous FOIA request. * Laquan McDonald, killed by police officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014. McDonald had been “diagnosed with complex mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder” noted the Chicago Tribune, and had been hospitalized in psychiatric hospitals three times by the time he was 13.

Tennessee Cops Sued For Three Hour Torture Of Suspect

The taser shocks by deputies were recorded by an overhead surveillance video camera and by a camera on the taser itself. (Photo: Surveillance footage photo)

By Amy K Nixon for The Tennessean – Three Cheatham County Sheriff’s deputies have been placed on administrative leave after a Pegram teen filed suit in federal court accusing them of using excessive force while he was being held at Cheatham County Jail. Jordan Elias Norris, 19, has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court accusing the deputies of deprivation of civil rights, citing the use of excessive force and failure to protect after he was repeatedly stunned with Tasers in the jail in November 2016. He suffered more than 40 pairs of Taser burns, many of which are unaccounted for by authorities, the lawsuit states. Norris was arrested Nov. 3, 2016 and charged with felony manufacturing/possession of marijuana for resale, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft under $500 and five counts of possession of a prohibited weapon. He was later charged with felony vandalism of over $1,000 and simple assault Nov. 7 while still incarcerated. Norris was originally suspected of stealing a semi-automatic rifle, and Sheriff’s deputies received information he was going to use the weapon on any law enforcement who tried to arrest him, according to Cheatham County Sheriff Mike Breedlove.

Landowners Along Pipeline Route Sue FERC And Mountain Valley Pipeline

The Roanoke Times

By Duncan Adams for The Roanoke Times – Participants in the lawsuit hope it will protect their private property from what they describe as “a government-sanctioned land grab” for the financial gain of a private pipeline company. A Roanoke-based lawyer representing 17 plaintiffs who own 10 properties along the current route of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline contend that the federal agency tasked with reviewing interstate pipelines should not be able to grant the power of eminent domain to a private company for its pursuit of “private pecuniary gain.” A lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Roanoke challenges the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to “sub-delegate” the power of eminent domain to a company like Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC. And it seeks a preliminary injunction that would prevent FERC from granting that power to Mountain Valley to acquire easements if the commission issues the certificate the company needs to begin constructing a pipeline. Justin Lugar, a lawyer with the firm of Gentry Locke, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court. Defendants include: FERC, Cheryl LaFleur, the commission’s acting chairwoman, and Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC.

Oregon Ecosystem Files Lawsuit To Defend Its Rights

The Siletz River in Lincoln, Oregon. (Photo: USFWS - Pacific Region)

By Dahr Jamail for Truthout – On July 24, the Siletz River Ecosystem (SRE) in Northwestern Oregon took legal action to protect itself. Becoming the third US ecosystem to do so, the SRE took this self-defense step by filing a motion to intervene in the lawsuit Rex Capri and Wakefield Farms, LLC v. Dana W. Jenkins and Lincoln County, and Lincoln County Community Rights. Carol Van Strum, a farmer, author, parent, naturalist, copy editor and co-custodian of 20 acres of temperate rainforest, bottomland and river in the Oregon Coast Range, is an advocate for the intervention of the SRE. She told Truthout why. “This is a significant and groundbreaking effort, literally from the ground, offering a far more effective, comprehensive way to protect the planet we’re part of than piecemeal campaigns to ban a single chemical or fight a single fracking or mining operation at a time,” she said. “It is also significant because it starts with communities taking back control of their lives and environment that industry-controlled governments have taken from them.” “If Nature Has No Rights, Neither Do We”

11 States Sue EPA Over Chemical Accident Safety Rule

One of five banners entitled The Worker in the New World Order, painted for the founding convention of ICEM (International Confederation of Chemical, Energy, Mine & General Workers’ Unions–now merged into INDUSTRIALL). Dedicated to then-imprisoned Nigerian oil workers. Copyright © 1995.  Mike Alewitz

By Staff of Attorney General of NY – NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, leading a coalition of 11 state Attorneys General, today filed a lawsuit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for illegally delaying a vital rule meant to protect communities, workers, and first responders from dangerous chemical accidents. The rule – the Accidental Release Prevention Requirements or the “Chemical Accident Safety Rule” – makes critical improvements to Congressionally-mandated protections against explosions, fires, poisonous gas releases, and other accidents at more than 12,000 facilities across the country—including over 200 in New York—that store and use toxic chemicals. The lawsuit is led by Attorney General Schneiderman and signed by the Attorneys General of New York, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Click here to read the lawsuit. “Protecting our workers, first-responders, and communities from chemical accidents should be something on which we all agree. Yet the Trump EPA continues to put special interests before the health and safety of the people they serve,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.