POLITICS
02/17/2017 07:03 pm ET Updated Feb 18, 2017

Investors Urge Banks To Support Rerouting Dakota Access Pipeline

17 banks doing business with pipeline developers get put on notice.

A group of more than 120 investors on Friday told 17 banks financing construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline that the project should be rerouted away from a Native American tribe’s reservation. 

“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,” said the statement to banks, including Citibank and Wells Fargo, which have lent money to the companies behind the 1,172-mile oil pipeline.

The group of investors includes California’s giant public employee pension fund, CalPERS; New York City teacher and firefighter pensions; dozens of religious organizations; and asset management firms. They have a combined $653 billion in managed assets, according to the statement. 

The investors expressed support for the Standing Rock Sioux, who say that the oil line threatens their drinking water and violates territorial rights in North Dakota established by an 1851 treaty with the federal government.

“We call on the 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,” the letter said. 

The group worries that its investments in the banks could be hurt by a public backlash against the project through legal action or boycotts.

“As investors we are very concerned by the reputational and potential financial risks due to these banks being associated with DAPL,” the statement said. 

Representatives of the banks were scheduled to meet with tribal leaders Friday, The Financial Times reported.

There’s been mounting pressure on financial institutions connected to Dakota Access. The city of Seattle recently voted to end its financial relationship with Wells Fargo because the bank has provided loans and financial services to Energy Transfer Partners, the lead developer. Norway’s largest bank sold its stake in the pipeline in November, citing concerns about its effect on the Standing Rock tribe. 

The investors’ group stopped short of calling on the banks to divest from the Dakota Access Pipeline, though there are calls to do so elsewhere. One online group claims supporters have pledged to withdraw more than $66 million from banks doing business with the pipeline’s owners. 

“We believe that engaging with the companies we own is the first course of action to effect change and a preferred option over divestment where we lose our voice as an investor,” said Anne Simpson, an investment director for CalPERS, in a statement. 

The pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois is almost complete. President Donald Trump’s administration allowed construction to resume this month on the disputed section beneath a Missouri River reservoir near the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation. 

Citibank and Wells Fargo officials did not respond to The Huffington Post’s requests for comment on the letter. Citibank, however, said in a Jan. 30 statement that it is “very concerned about the situation on the ground in North Dakota” but that it cannot break its contract with Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics, a pipeline project partner.

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