Water protectors from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe can now declare their most tangible victory to date — one of the heftiest investors in the Dakota Access Pipeline, Norway’s largest bank, has pulled its assets from the project.
Just 10 days ago, DNB warned it might withdraw funding for construction of the contentious pipeline if concerns raised by the Standing Rock Sioux were not addressed promptly. That statement, cited by Reuters, read:
“DNB looks with worry at how the situation around the pipeline in North Dakota has developed. The bank will therefore take initiative and use its position to bring about a more constructive process to find a solution to the conflict.
“If these initiatives do not give appeasing answers and results, DNB will consider its further involvement in the financing of the project.”
Now, in a display of astonishing integrity, the bank has followed through on part of its promise — pulling assets invested in Energy Transfer Partners’ disputatious pipeline.
A statement from DNB explains an independent review has begun to assess whether Energy Transfer Partners — the conglomerate of companies responsible for construction of Dakota Access — has trampled or safeguarded the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux water protectors. Selling its assets indicates DNB intends to keep its pledge to withdraw all funding — amounting to 10 percent of the project’s total loans — should the investigation find rights of the First Nation are indeed being violated.
News of the asset selloff follows the delivery of a 120,000-signature petition by Greenpeace Norway and other advocates to DNB urging it and other financiers to yank all funding for Dakota Access. Greenpeace lauded DNB’s selling of assets in the project, but, in a tempered statement, noted the move did not fully meet demands of those concerned about human and civil rights violations.
Greenpeace Norway Sustainable Finance Campaigner Martin Norman explained:
“It is great that DNB has sold its assets in the disputed pipeline, and it is a clear signal that it is important that people speak out when injustice is committed. We now expect DNB to also terminate its loans for the project immediately.
“There should be a clause in the lending agreement that deals with human rights violations, and DNB should use it to get its money back and end all involvement in the Dakota Access pipeline. If they don’t have such a clause they must accept they have a bad contract and take the loss.”
Although that scenario would certainly be ideal for the Standing Rock Sioux water protectors — enduring the full force of an evidently callous oil interest backed by taxpayer-funded, over-militarized police from five states — DNB is the first big financier of the project to make an appreciable move to distance itself from pipeline construction.
Lilian Molina, spokesperson for Greenpeace USA, recognized the significance of the bank’s actions, stating:
“The news that DNB has sold its assets and is considering terminating its loans is a victory for the water protectors who are fighting to stop this disaster of a project. All financial institutions with a stake in the pipeline must quickly realize that financing this project is toxic. It would be smart for them to get out ahead of the growing movement of customers looking to divest from banks that finance the destruction of our planet and ignore Indigenous rights and sovereignty. Citigroup, TD Securities, Wells Fargo, SunTrust, and the other banks backing this project should see this as a sign to get on the right side of history.”
Indeed, a movement initiated in solidarity with Dakota Access Pipeline opposition and Indigenous water protectors suggests individuals withdraw money and close personal and business accounts with financiers of the project.
Several prominent figures have added their voice to this growing call to exit Big Banks, including iconic actress, Susan Sarandon, and Oscar-nominated documentary producer, Matthew Cooke.
Cooke filmed his account-closing odyssey and switch to a credit union to show how a simple move — amplified by thousands of individuals following suit — would send a direct message to parties responsible for the project.
With ongoing force employed by militarized police against largely peaceful Native American water protectors and their supporters — including Tasers, rubber bullets, pepper spray, sound cannons, and more — even the public-at-large has grown ambivalent to construction of the pipeline.
Amid pressure from Dakota Access opposition, the Army Corps of Engineers — responsible for granting an easement for ETP to route the pipeline under the Missouri River — announced this week the halt of pipeline construction and a delay in the permitting process in order to better consult with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe about its concerns.
That delay, while a definitive victory for the tribe, constitutes a double-edged sword with time quickly running low before decidedly pro-Big Oil President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January. In its announcement, the Army Corps stated it would work with the Standing Rock Sioux on a timeline for that consultation, but no further statement of an agreed deadline has yet been made.
Undoubtedly, the exploding grassroots campaign of solidarity with water protectors is squeezing the vise-grip on Dakota Access Pipeline investors, as police use of excessive force and gestapo-like tactics against Native Americans has conjured the specter of past atrocities against Indigenous peoples by the U.S. government. State-sponsored, corporate-approved law enforcement ferocity in this matter have soured even the apathetic to this pipeline.
It appears at least doubtful the Standing Rock Sioux will see their ultimate goal of permanently halting the pipeline come to fruition; but, if the Army Corps refuses to grant the necessary easement under Nationwide Permit 12, Energy Transfer Partners would be faced with a formidable obstacle to complete Dakota Access.
Victories of every magnitude are tallying rapidly for pipeline opposition and protectors of the water, as Greenpeace’s Molina noted optimistically,
“The writing’s on the wall for the Dakota Access pipeline. People power is winning.”
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