investors

120 Investors to 17 Big Banks: Consider Reroute of DAPL or Risk Possible ‘Legal Liability’

Investors representing billions urged 17 Big Banks to appease the Tribe

  • Treaty violations and excessive force against water protectors concerned the investors.

  • They point out a number of banks have already pulled assets from DAPL.

  • Lake Oahe is rightfully Sioux land, they emphasized, and DAPL should be rerouted.

A group of more than 120 investors, representing a $653 billion in assets, exhorted 17 banks — including Wells Fargo and Citibank — to reconsider their investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline, over continued abuse of peaceful opposition, degradation of Indigenous rights, and potential contamination with oil to the waters of the Missouri River.

“We are concerned that if DAPL’s projected route moves forward, the result will almost certainly be an escalation of conflict and unrest as well as possible contamination of the water supply,” the investors wrote in a “Statement to Banks Financing the Dakota Access Pipeline.” “North Dakota state and local governments have spent over $22 million on law enforcement costs since August 2016, and demonstrators have already been arrested and cleared from the area with considerable use of force.”

Of urgent concern to the investors, according to the statement, is the threat the pipeline poses to the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation, compounded by North Dakota’s violation of a treaty established in 1851, demarcating the land as tribal territory.

Due to ongoing controversy, it must be reiterated a Supreme Court decision in 1980 affirmed the territory in question — notably, including Lake Oahe, where DAPL will cross beneath — had been wrongfully taken from the tribe’s control by the U.S. government. Compensation offered for the extreme transgression has been flatly refused by the Standing Rock Sioux, who feel money could never supplant the cultural and historic value of the land, itself.

In short, although Lake Oahe and surrounding lands aren’t part of the reservation today, it’s only due to the government acting wrongly taking it in the first place — it is rightfully that of the Standing Rock Sioux.

A solution for the political nightmare of DAPL’s route through Sioux treaty territory has already, repeatedly been offered by tribal leadership — reroute, but don’t halt, the pipeline.

“Banks with financial ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline may be implicated in these controversies and face long-term brand and reputational damage resulting from consumer boycotts and possible legal liability,” the investors explain. “As major shareowners of these banks, we are very concerned about the financial risks this poses to the investments we oversee and to those whom we serve as fiduciaries. To date, we understand that consumers have closed bank accounts worth over $53 million — and are threatening to pull another $2.3 billion — from the banks financing DAPL. We note that ABN AMRO announced recently it would discontinue its lending relationship to Energy Transfer Equity ‘if an acceptable non-violent solution [is not] found among all parties impacted by the construction of the DAPL, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.’”

As telling as the statement might be of ongoing pressure exerted by opposition to the fossil fuel industry, the investors merely toed the line of requesting divestment — the tone implies a stern warning failing to reconsider could have devastating consequences for Dakota Access.

“We understand that the banks providing the project finance have contractual obligations to DAPL, but the extreme controversy tied to the project warrants their urgent action,” the investors conclude. “The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has repeatedly stated that they do not oppose energy independence, and would be amenable to a reroute of the Dakota Access Pipeline that avoids their treaty territory. We call on banks to address or support the Tribe’s request for a reroute and utilize their influence as a project lender to reach a peaceful solution that is acceptable to all parties, including the Tribe.”

Thus far, the campaign opposing the pipeline has continued unabated, despite efforts by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department-led police coalition, two successive North Dakota governors, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and even some members of tribal leadership, to shut down camps after project construction resumed.

One particularly effective method of opposition — as has been proven throughout time immemorial — hitting Dakota Access right in the wallet.

Various campaigns to divest from Big Banks financing DAPL have even garnered celebrity attention — Susan Sarandon led a petition demanding banks withdraw from the project, while Matthew Cooke and others filmed themselves closing personal accounts with banks servile to corporate dictates, for accounts at customer-oriented credit unions.

Whether or not the statement from over 100 investors worth several hundred million in Dakota Access Pipeline assets will affect the impact necessary for any of the banks to divest has yet to be seen — and time is quickly running out.


Image credit: Wikimedia/Pax Ahimsa Gethen.

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About Claire Bernish

Claire Bernish is an independent journalist and activist who relentlessly criticizes censorship of the press and champions free speech. Her works have appeared on many alternative outlets, including TheFreeThoughtProject.com. To keep updated, follow Claire on Facebook or Twitter, and check The Daily Haze for more.

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