SLAPPs Filed to Silence Individuals Fighting to Protect the Environment
Sued for Speaking Out about the Environment!
- In 2000, hog producer Furnas County Farms in Nebraska sued two local farmers for defamation arising from written comments the farmers had filed about Furnas’ environmental record with state regulators. The farmers countersued under the Nebraska anti-SLAPP law, and in 2005, a jury rejected Furnas’ defamation claims and ordered it to pay $900,000 in damages plus legal fees. The appeals court agreed that the defamation claim lacked merit, but overturned the fee award, saying a judge, not a jury, needed to determine whether the lawsuit had any basis. The case finally settled eight years after it was filed, in November 2008. See Sand Livestock Sys. v. Svoboda, 756 N.W.2d 299 (2008).
- In 2006, the Ecology Center and other environmental organizations launched a campaign to urge the Michigan Legislature to restrict the use of pharmaceutical lindane. In response, Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals sued the Ecology Center and two members of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics on claims of defamation, tortious interference with business, trade disparagement, and deceptive trade practices, and alleging more than $9.3 million in damages. After two years of litigation, the case settled, with no money changing hands. The Ecology Center did agree to issue certain clarifications to statements on its website for fourteen days. Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. The National Pediculosis Association, (N.D. Ill. No. 08-C-1384 2008).
- In 1999, the oil refinery Tosco sued Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), claiming that CBE had libeled and slandered Tosco in the course of Clean Air Act lawsuits CBE had brought against Tosco. Tosco brought its suit in federal court rather than state court, seemingly in an attempt to avoid the California anti-SLAPP law. The tactic did not work; the federal court dismissed the Tosco suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Tosco v. Communities for Better Environments, 236 F.3d 495 (2001)
- In 2001, a group of environmental advocates took out an ad in the New York Times entitled “Global Warming-How Will It End?” The ad highlighted the causes, potential impacts and possible solutions to global warming and mentioned coal as a cause of climate change. In response, the Western Fuels Association, an arm of the power industry that purchases hundreds of millions of dollars of coal annually, sued the Turning Point Project, the International Center for Technology Assessment, Friends of the Earth, Ozone Action, Earth Island Institute and the Rainforest Action Network, attempting to establish claims of commercial defamation under the Lanham Act, which only applies to commercial speech among competitors, in a case involving political speech. The Wyoming district court dismissed for improper venue. Western Fuel Association v. The Turning Point, et. al., 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26301 (D. Wyo. March 31, 2001).
Environmental Advocates who Support Federal Anti-SLAPP Legislation
The Natural Resources Defense Council
Humane Society of the United States
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Science in the Public Interest