By Todd Paglia, Executive Director, Stand.earth
It’s been an interesting week. On Monday, Stand.earth had an amazing court victory against Resolute Forest Products, a giant forestry company trying to silence us from criticizing their unsustainable logging practices with a $300 million lawsuit. And then on Tuesday, bailiffs arrived at Stand.earth’s Vancouver office in an attempt by the pipeline giant Enbridge to seize our furniture and computers.
So how could this possibly be good news? These are dying industries that are lashing out in new and creative ways, trying to preserve a world where unfettered clearcutting and rapacious oil extraction and transport were seen as regrettable but necessary evils. Today, they are increasingly seen as not necessary and increasingly evil.
In a sweeping victory for free speech, the U.S. Federal Court in San Francisco on Monday dismissed Resolute’s baseless $300 million lawsuit against Stand.earth and Greenpeace.
Resolute and its lawyers have been doing more than launching a series of outrageous lawsuits (ours is their third in the last few years) — they have been running a campaign to find a corporate loophole to the First Amendment.
They have worked the right wing circuit hard, encouraging people like Steve Forbes, who can’t imagine a better world than one where corporations control all aspects of life, to write glowingly about their “courageous” strategy of suing us into submission. All of them now have egg on their face and are no doubt thinking a lot less of the company that pushed them out on the branch that was just unceremoniously chopped off.
Resolute seemed to be aiming much higher than “just” silencing its biggest critics — they hoped to usher in a new age of corporate crackdowns on citizen activists. The fact that they failed so badly is a win for activists everywhere.
And in a strange interlocking of corporate power and government kleptocracy, on Tuesday Stand.earth was targeted by yet another massive extractive corporation — this time, tar sands giant Enbridge.
Two sheriffs barged into our office during a staff meeting with an order to seize all of our assets or be paid $14,000. This was all regarding a 2014 court case when we demanded more public participation in Enbridge’s pipeline hearings.
At that time, citizens who wanted to comment on Enbridge’s proposed Line 9 pipeline had to fill out a 12-page form, then the government would decide who was allowed to comment. We believed this was anathema to democracy and sued the National Energy Board. We lost. But since then, the Canadian government has admitted this was undemocratic and reversed the policy.
As a matter of principle, we refused to pay Enbridge’s attorneys for working to limit public participation on critically important public policy. Nonetheless, Enbridge, having revenue last year of $34.5 billion, was working a case through the courts to get us to pay $14,000 in lawyer fees.
Clearly, this was not about the money. Enbridge brought in more than $14,000 EVERY MINUTE during 2016. It was about sending us a message — one we have refused, much to their consternation, to listen to. Once we had 6 media outlets in our office ready to film Enbridge’s bailiffs taking our mini-fridge, microwave, computers, and secondhand desks, they backed down. Enbridge crawled back into whatever dank cave they live in, once they knew they would not be acting in secret.
Last year alone, Enbridge made more than $34 billion in revenue. It clearly doesn’t need another $14,000 in court fees.
The great news is that clear-cutting logging companies and oil companies are feeling desperate. That is worth thinking about — after decades of having the upper hand, they are slipping. And their flailing attempts to stop citizen advocates are failing miserably. They are feeling desperate because it is clear that the old ways — destroying forests, running roughshod over First Nations, jamming pipelines through communities that don’t want them while it is clear the climate can’t handle them — is running out of steam.
These are the death throes of dinosaur industries and they will do damage as they die, but die they will.
Resolute’s lawsuit, briefly a darling of Trumpish wingnuts, has wasted millions of company dollars AND alienated dozens of its customers costing it many more millions. Its share price has been cut by 75% in recent years, and its brand is equated with attacks on the First Amendment. All of this while getting trounced in U.S. Federal Court to the extent the court is even making them pay for Stand.earth’s and Greenpeace’s legal fees. Oil giant Enbridge attempted to send us a signal by trying to shut down our Vancouver office and instead got pummeled in wall-to-wall media coverage across Canada. Instead of sending a message it received one: citizen activists will not back down from intimidation attempts.
Stand.earth fights climate change and advocates for a just, sustainable world. Over the next few months, we’ll be called on to stand together with our allies against another giant corporation — Kinder Morgan.
Kinder Morgan is trying to build a tar sands pipeline that will exacerbate climate change while imperiling orcas, salmon, and communities in the Salish Sea with 400 oil super tankers per year. This is a drastic increase in oil transport in the Salish Sea — and it is oil that cannot be cleaned up should a spill occur. This oil sinks. All risk and no reward for anyone other than Kinder Morgan. We must stop it.
No matter how many try to intimidate us, we’ll continue to fight, and win, against these corporate bullies.
Todd Paglia is the executive director of Stand.earth.