North Fork activist beats libel lawsuit, again
North Fork environmental activist Peter Kolbenschlag won, again, against the Texas oil company that brought a defamation lawsuit against him two years ago.
The Colorado Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a ruling in Kolbenschlag’s favor that threw out SG Interests’ defamation lawsuit and ordered the company to pay Kolbenschlag’s court costs.
“This case demonstrates, quite clearly, the type of under-handed tactics employed by a reckless plaintiff (and its counsel) that abuse our court system and sought to punish speech,” Kolbenschlag said in a statement. “Such tactics have no place in our democracy.”
SGI filed the initial lawsuit after Kolbenschlag commented on the Nov. 28, 2016 Glenwood Springs Post Independent story “Divide lease decision likely to land in court.”
Kolbenschlag pointed out in his comment that, while SGI at the time was accusing the Obama administration of colluding with environmental activists, SGI itself “was actually fined for colluding … to rig bid prices and rip off American taxpayers. Yes, these two companies owned by billionaires thought it appropriate to pad their portfolios at the expense of you and I and every other hard-working American.”
SGI filed the defamation lawsuit in early 2017, and the Delta County District Court dismissed it in 2018, finding that “Kolbenschlag’s comments were substantially true.”
SGI and competitor Gunnison Energy Corporation paid a fine to settle a Department of Justice complaint that they had an illegal arrangement to keep the price of lease auctions low.
The higher court reiterated that ruling in a filing June 27, 2019, noting that “substantial truth is a complete defense to defamation.”
Kolbenschlag considered it a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) — legal action designed to intimidate citizens from speaking out, he said.
“I am pleased that the publicity this case generated helped prompt the Colorado General Assembly and Governor Polis to enact an anti-SLAPP law,” Kolbenschlag said in his statement.
“It is my intent that no other Coloradan who wishes to participate actively in government or on matters of public interest will be forced to endure what I have,” Kolbenschlag said.
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A halt to oil and gas leasing on federal lands announced Wednesday by President Joe Biden was met with a predictable mix of reactions across western Colorado’s gas patch.