Today, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a seven-year lawsuit against Greenpeace USA and Greenpeace International brought by Resolute Forest Products. After Greenpeace exposed Resolute’s unsustainable forestry practices, the Canadian logging company sued Greenpeace offices for $100 million in an attempt to silence and bankrupt their critics.
Ebony Twilley Martin, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, said: “For seven years, Resolute Forest Products has sought to silence Greenpeace USA, simply because we exercised our First Amendment right to expose their destructive business practices. We are beyond grateful the Court defended the right to call out corporations that prioritize profit over people. Because the truth is, this fight was never just about Greenpeace: it was an attempt to silence all those who speak truth to power. And we need the right to raise our voices now more than ever–against toxic chemical spills, against oil wells in our communities, and against attacks on our democracy. We will not be silenced.”
Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), like Resolute v Greenpeace, are legal tactics taken by powerful corporations to shut down criticism from activists, academics, journalists, whistleblowers, and everyday people. They are increasingly used to stifle environmental advocacy. The decade long legal case Resolute has brought against Greenpeace Canada is ongoing and will hopefully be dismissed on similar grounds.
Over the past ten years, the fossil fuel industry has used SLAPPs to target more than 150 people and organizations, with 50 such cases being introduced in the last five years alone. Resolute — which originally alleged that Greenpeace offices violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) — illustrates the extreme lengths to which large corporations will resort in order to stifle free speech. There is an urgent need for federal and state protections against this type of corporate intimidation.
Paul Paz y Miño, associate director of Amazon Watch and Protect the Protest Leadership Team Member, said: “Corporate SLAPP attacks are a threat to the very idea of citizen activism and free speech. Their goal, as with any corporation engaged in SLAPP attacks and legal bullying, is to harass and chill speech and activism that might threaten its activities or expose wrongdoing – just like Resolute’s attack against Greenpeace. This tactic is egregious and a threat to anyone who has ever or will ever stand up for what’s right. Greenpeace is taking this fight on for all of us, and we stand together to denounce these corporate attacks.”
Deepa Padmanabha, Deputy General Counsel for Greenpeace USA, said: “The Court today sent a clear message—we will not be bullied into silence by corporations. Today’s decision is a huge win for free speech, but more must be done to ensure that corporations can’t abuse the legal system. Not everyone can afford to litigate a case for seven years. We must ensure that everyone has the right to fiercely criticize those willing to compromise our health and safety—without fear of a corporate sledgehammer in the form of a SLAPP suit.”
The right to speak out on environmental issues is more critical than ever. Since the beginning of this year, more than thirty incidents of chemical spills have been recorded by the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters, including most recently, a polyterpene resin factory that caught fire in Brunswick, Georgia. Big Oil is planning a massive expansion in the Southwest and the Gulf Coast, which will devastate communities and blow climate targets out of the water. And in California, they are forcing a referendum on common sense legislation to keep drilling out of communities. Without the basic right to free speech, it is impossible to speak out against the companies that threaten the health and safety of our families, our communities, and our planet.
To date, 32 states and the District of Columbia have anti-SLAPP statutes on the books. Americans of all political affiliations agree that corporate bullying is unacceptable—every anti-SLAPP law was passed with bipartisan support. But we need federal anti-SLAPP legislation, such as the law introduced by Representative Jamie Raskin in 2022, and anti-SLAPP laws in every state so Americans can exercise the most fundamental right of all: to speak truth to power.