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Energy and Environment

Global Environmental Groups Band Together to Oppose Dakota Access Pipeline

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A coalition of environmental groups from around the world sent a letter on Monday to banks that have loaned, collectively, $2.5 billion to help finance the polarizing Dakota Access pipeline. Johan Frijns, Director of the Netherlands-based group BankTrack, wrote the letter, which was signed by 25 other organizations spanning all corners of the globe, from China to Australia, and the U.S. to Germany.

“The world is closely watching how all actors involved will deal with the situation, including the banks that provide financial support to the project,” Frijns wrote. The letter was addressed to Nigel Beck, Chair of the Equator Principles Association, a consortium of investors that includes some of the biggest financiers of the pipeline: Citigroup, Wells Fargo, TD Bank, and Mizuho.

Included in the letter are requests for the banks to chew on during their annual meeting in London on Monday and Tuesday. “All further loan disbursements to the project are put on hold,” the letter says, adding the groups expect an “immediate halt to the construction of the pipeline and all associated structures, until all outstanding issues are resolved to the full satisfaction of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”

The letter is the latest protest against the pipeline, which has been a lightning rod for activists and members of Native American communities (and social media) since August. If completed, the pipeline would run from the northwest tip of North Dakota to Illinois, sending nearly half a million barrels of crude oil every day through its 1,172-mile route. It snakes through sacred Sioux lands, and some argue it threatens local water sources and can pollute the air. Supporters of the pipeline say it will bring thousands of local jobs, and is a cleaner way of transporting petroleum than any alternatives.

Over 100 people have been arrested–including journalists–as police and state troopers from around the country have struggled to combat vast crowds, sometimes resorting to rubber bullets and pepper spray to kick people off the land, which is owned by Energy Transfer Partners, the beneficiary of the banks addressed in the environmental group’s letter.

Environmental groups have had some successes in past battles with banks. Over the last two years, several international banks–Barclays, Deutsche Bank, and ING–have pulled out of projects involving mountaintop removal mining, a practice that is potentially damaging to the environment, after facing pressure from environmental groups. Last week, amid the growing national and international outcry, President Obama said the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal body that approved the project, is considering an alternative route.

“We are going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans,” Obama said.

Alec Siegel
Alec Siegel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. When he’s not working at Law Street he’s either cooking a mediocre tofu dish or enjoying a run in the woods. His passions include: gooey chocolate chips, black coffee, mountains, the Animal Kingdom in general, and John Lennon. Baklava is his achilles heel. Contact Alec at ASiegel@LawStreetMedia.com.

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