CLDC coordinated twenty-nine individuals and organizations named in a civil lawsuit filed by the notorious Canadian pipeline company, TransCanada, agreed under duress today to settle, under threat of expansive injunction terms. The far-reaching Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) was filed on the heels of record numbers of non-violent protests in Texas opposing the controversial XL Pipeline construction.
A SLAPP is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. In this case, named defendants, Tar Sands Blockade, Rising Tide North America and Rising Tide North Texas agreed to settle the unconscionable SLAPP suit filed against them by a profiteering multinational Canadian corporation.
Under threat of far more draconian injunction terms, the parties signed a settlement that enjoins those parties from trespassing or causing damage to Keystone XL property including the easements within private property boundaries, often acquired by TransCanada by taking advantage of impoverished property owners within the States of Texas and Oklahoma.
“This is a David versus Goliath situation, where an unethical, transnational corporation is using its weight to crush First Amendment rights of people speaking out and resisting the irreparable destruction that will result from construction of this highly controversial XL Pipeline.” said Lauren Regan, veteran attorney with the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) who coordinates legal representation for the grassroots network of activists subject to the lawsuit. “But the resistance to the pipeline is growing, not shrinking; it’s coming from everywhere. This is a national and global issue that will effect us all.”
Today’s SLAPP lawsuit controversy comes amid a heated national debate about the construction of the full Keystone XL pipeline, which if completed could transport 1.1 million gallons of oil through America’s heartland every day. The portion of the pipeline stretching from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Texan Gulf Coast is known as the XL Pipeline (or Gulf Coast pipeline). If both the northern Keystone portion and the remaining XL Pipeline were constructed, Canadian tar sands oil would be transported to the Gulf Coast.
“TransCanada’s lawyers, guns and money aren’t going to extinguish the rising momentum of resistance from the Gulf Coast to Alberta’s tar sands against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Scott Parkin of Rising Tide North America. “Climate change is the most critical issue of our time. Compromised institutions advancing vulgar systems of fossil fuel exploitation will not deter our resolve.”
Tar sands oil may be the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet. According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, producing a barrel of tar sands oil creates three to four times more climate pollution than the equivalent amount of crude produced in Canada or the US. In February, leading environmental organizations including the Sierra Club will push for mass civil disobedience against the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and further extraction of the Alberta tar sands oil.
“Despite the impacts that the new oil pipeline will have on our climate and our health, activists resisting the pipeline must endure physical harm, lengthy incarcerations and felony charges – and now civil lawsuits, at the hands of TransCanada,” continued Regan. “The people have not been deterred by the company’s attempt to restrict their right to protest, however, it has only emboldened their convictions.
In addition to the civil lawsuit, TransCanada has allegedly and repeatedly violated the law by obtaining “common carrier” status in Texas to force acquisition of private property, often from low-income families. Eyewitness accounts also suggest that representatives of the pipeline company even encouraged police officers to use controversial pain compliance technologies like tasers and chemical weapons like mace against non-violent activists.
The CLDC provides pro bono legal representation to activists like those in Texas resisting the construction of the new section of pipeline. The organization helps coordinate attorneys and their allies to defend civil liberties of citizens and offers legal rights workshops for activists across the country.
“At each attempt TransCanada makes to chill the citizens’ rights to protest the XL Pipeline, the people’s lawyers will stand up to defend them in court,” said Lauren Regan. “The survival of our species in the wake of global climate change deserves nothing less.”