USA: EarthRights International identifies 152 cases of SLAPPs & judicial harassment by the fossil fuel industry in the past decade; incl. co. responses
In September 2022, EarthRights International published a policy brief about the fossil fuel industry's use of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) and other judicial harassment tactics in the United States. EarthRights identified 152 cases brought by members of the fossil fuel industry between 2012-2022. They believe that as the impacts of climate change have become more apparent, the fossil fuel industry has responded to growing pressure in part by retaliating against people who challenges its practices, with SLAPPs being one tactic repeatedly used. The briefing also notes that as there is not a universally accepted definition of “SLAPP” or “judicial harassment” by which to evaluate these cases, EarthRights invites readers to review the citations and draw their own conclusions.
EarthRights has identified several patterns among cases, including that fossil fuel companies are allegedly:
- Using both lawsuits and subpoenas to intimidate their critics
- Trying to use judicial harassment to prevent activists from joining together to form larger social movements
- Combining judicial harassment with counterinsurgency tactics to target protestors
- Receiving support for these attacks from industry associations
In December 2022, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited companies named in the briefing as being involved with SLAPPs and/or judicial harassment to respond. California Independent Petroleum Association, Chevron, Enbridge, ExxonMobil, Mountain Valley Pipeline, and Range Resources responded to the allegations; their responses are available below. American Consolidated Natural Resources (formerly Murray Energy), Cardno ChemRisk, Drummond, Energy Transfer, Lake Point Restoration, Martin Marietta, Millennium Pipeline Company, Phillips 66, and TC Energy (formerly TransCanada) did not respond.
In addition, the Resource Centre previously sought responses from Kasowitz, Benson & Torres LLP and SG Interests to the allegations included this briefing; they did not respond. We also previously invited Green Group Holdings LLC to respond; their response is available here. We also received rejoinders from Esther Calhoun, Benjamin Eaton, and Mary Schaeffer and Ellis Long.
The report also contains an allegation against Cabot Oil & Gas. As Cabot Oil & Gas and Cimarex Energy merged in 2021 to form Coterra Energy, we invited Coterra to respond. It did not. The report also contains an allegation against Extraction Oil and Gas. In 2021, Extraction Oil and Gas and Bonanza Creek Energy, Inc. merged and the combined company was rebranded as Civitas Resources Inc. We invited Civitas Resources to respond; it did not.
We were unable to contact Dewey Homes & Investment Properties, Kentucky Fuel Corporation, and Breitling Energy (as it went out of business in 2016). We did not seek responses from individuals named in the briefing.