Free Speech Under Attack (Part III): The Legal Assault on Environmental Activists and the First Amendment
On Wednesday, September 14, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. ET, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, will hold a hybrid hearing to examine how the fossil fuel industry is weaponizing the law to stifle First Amendment protected speech and stymie efforts to combat climate change by abusing Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participations (SLAPPs) and anti-protest laws.
Since the 1980s, SLAPPs have been used by powerful entities and individuals to silence critics through costly, lengthy, and often meritless litigation. These lawsuits have recently been employed by the fossil fuel industry to target environmental activists and non-profits by claiming defamation, trespass, and even racketeering to deter them from speaking out against proposed fossil fuel pipelines and other projects that contribute to climate change.
In response to increased protest activity surrounding fossil fuel pipelines, 17 states have enacted anti-protest laws as of June 2022, labeling them “critical infrastructure protection laws.” These laws are selectively enacted and enforced to target environmental activists and protect corporate interests.
The fossil fuel industry’s use of SLAPPs and support for anti-protest laws not only stifles free speech, but also serves as another form of disinformation about climate change. After years of spreading denial and disinformation, fossil fuel companies now acknowledge the existence of climate change but are attempting to ensure their greenwashing narrative dominates by silencing opposing views.
Prof. Anita Ramasastry
Henry M. Jackson Professor of Law
University of Washington School of Law
Senior Legal Advisor
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law
Deputy General Counsel
Anne White Hat
L’eau Est La Vie Camp
Senior Research Fellow, Environmental Policy and Regulation
Center for Energy, Climate, and Environment
The Heritage Foundation
Additional witnesses to be announced
- UC - Raskin - Earth Day Article
- UC - Kelly - UPenn Study
- UC - Raskin - Business Insider India Article
- Support Document - ALEC Attacks
- Support Document - BBP v 38 acres 3rd Circuit order
- Support Document - Deputy Depositions Highlighted
- Support Document - Louisiana Legislative Transcript
- Support Document - Louisiana Pipeline Map
- Support Document - Image Series of Protests and Arrests