Canadian banks fund Dakota Access pipeline companies

Cory Collins

Three Canadian banks are among the more than two dozen financial
institutions identified as backers of the controversial Dakota Access
Pipeline and its associated companies. The pipeline has been the focus of
intense opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, who
fear that a spill would poison their water supply, as well as from other
Native Americans, Indigenous peoples in Canada, and environmentalists.
The planned pipeline would bring oil from North Dakota to Illinois, but has
faced growing scrutiny in recent weeks. On Saturday, Democracy Now filmed
construction site security guards attacking protesters with dogs and pepper
spray. On Thursday it was reported that the North Dakota National Guard
will be activated.
TD subsidiary TD Securities, an investigation has revealed, is one of the
seventeen banks that have provided project-level loans to Dakota Access
LLC. It has the seventh largest commitment ($360 million) out of these
seventeen banks. An overlapping group of banks are also, according to data
from Hugh MacMillan, a senior researcher with consumer advocacy group Food
and Water Watch, financing the conversion of a second oil pipeline that
would run from the southern end of Dakota Access to the Gulf.
*"Why are you letting her dog go after the protesters? It's covered in
blood!" - Amy Goodman*
TD Securities is also financing Sunoco Logistics, a member of the Energy
Transfer corporate family, and two of its companies (Sunoco Logistics and
Energy Transfer Partners) partly own the joint venture of Dakota Access LLC.
In response to a query about the financing, TD Securities provided a
statement to Ricochet which read, "TD supports responsible energy
development. We employ due diligence in our lending and investing
activities relating to energy production. We also work with our customers,
community and environment groups, and energy clients to better understand
key issues of concern, and to promote informed dialogue. Our oil and gas
sector lending represents less than 1% of our total lending portfolio."
Scotiabank is also identified as a lender to Sunoco Logistics only, while
the Royal Bank of Canada has commitments to all three Energy Transfer
family corporate credit lines. Neither provide project-level loans to
Dakota Access LLC, however. The Royal Bank has also been accused of a
conflict of interest after they recently upgraded their assessment of
Enbridge, a key member of the Energy Transfer Partners group, encouraging
investors to buy its stock even as the bank helps to fund one of its
signature projects.
‘An involuntary Facebook for the 1 per cent’
The initial data on the banks behind the pipeline was published by
LittleSis, a project of the Public Accountability Initiative that tracks
high-level connections between businesses and government and describes
itself as "an involuntary Facebook of the one per cent." Its author is Hugh
MacMillan, of Food and Water Watch.
Graphic via Food and Water Watch
The data MacMillan collected shows relationships between banks and some of
the companies, known as the Energy Transfer family, that make up the Dakota
Access LLC joint venture.
"This new information is showing the 17 banks that have collectively
provided $2.5 billion for direct project-level financing of the Dakota
Access or, more broadly, the Bakken crude pipeline,” MacMillan told
Ricochet, adding that the publication was made possible through
collaboration with Rainforest Action Network's Alison Kirsch, who provided
data via aBloomberg Terminal.
A protest is planned outside a TD Canada Trust in Vancouver on Sep. 12 and
organizers are "demanding that these banks and lenders cut off all lines of
credit to the pipeline companies and stop funding the DAPL."
Royal hypocrisy?
RBC's commitment stands out because of its focus on environmental
initiatives, particularly on its well-advertised Blue Water Project. RBC
calls the initative "a 10-year global charitable commitment of $50 million
to help provide access to drinkable, swimmable, fishable water, now and for
future generations." The poisoning of drinkable water is the central
concern of Native American activists who oppose the pipeline.
RBC provided this brief statement to Ricochet: "Thank you for your inquiry.
Please note that RBC is not involved in the financing of this project,”
referring to Dakota Access LLC.
A spokesperson confirmed over the phone that RBC was financing the Energy
Transfer family companies, but declined to comment further.
RBC agreed to accept questions in writing but a response was not received
by publication time. One of the questions sought a response to Standing
Rock Sioux Chair David Archambault's criticism that Energy Transfer
Partners has "no social responsibility" and that the firm hired companies
with untrained dog handlers.
Phone calls and emails to Scotiabank were not returned.
Conflict of interest?
Asked about the implications for corporate social responsibility and for
RBC specifically, MacMillan said that the investigation "shows that at
times these corporate sustainability efforts are lip service when it comes
to the bottom lines of these companies."
MacMillan also identified to Ricochet what "clearly appears to be a
conflict of interest" specific to RBC.
"Royal Bank of Canada [recently] upgraded its analysis of how Enbridge
would be performing, suggesting the company would be outperforming and that
it's a strong buy for its investors, to follow the Royal Bank of Canada's
advice. So it's interesting that RBC is providing that recommendation at
the same time that it's providing $350 million to the Energy Transfer
family of companies. I would imagine that it's likewise helping Enbridge
with its own capital needs."
Energy Transfer companies, as well as Enbridge, along with Phillip 66 and
Marathon Oil form the Dakota Access LLC joint venture, MacMillan explained.
"The Royal Bank of Canada is in line with the largest banks in the U.S. In
line in that North American energy security—they're equating that with
widespread fracking, they're equating it with maximizing production of oil
and gas. And we know that that's exactly what we can't afford when it comes
to the stability of our climate. We need to maximize what we're keeping in
the ground."
MacMillan also acknowledged the consequences that banks could face from
more public awareness. Groups such as Move Your Money and Fossil Free
Canada encourage cutting ties with banks that finance fossil fuel projects.
"It's important that people are aware of the influence of banks on the
energy system and our continued dependence on fossil fuels. One way that
people can avoid playing a part in that is to utilize banks that are not
engaging in these investments."
Spreading opposition
Indigenous people in Canada and others have been traveling to North Dakota
in recent days to express solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux. Acts of
resistance have also spread to other U.S. states, while media coverage of
the attacks on Native American protesters on Saturday has also spurred
public outcry.
Representative David Greendeer is a legislator with the Ho-Chunk Nation in
Wisconsin, one of the many Native American groups that have sent letters of
support to the Standing Rock Sioux. Greendeer explained that the Ho-Chunk
Nation's motivation stemmed from it being affected by the sand mining
industry in Wisconsin and that much of the fracking sand used on the Bakken
oilfield comes from the state.
"We wanted to make sure that the support that we offered to them was to let
them know that we are praying for their water, we are praying for their
land, we are praying for their people. We don't see this as a protest. We
don't really see this as a fight. We don't see it from that perspective.
The Mother Earth and the Creator have a calling. We are the Creator's
people. We have a duty to take care of this."
Greendeer said he is not surprised by Saturday’s attack. He expressed
concern for the tribe's ability to cope with the influx of supporters and
for the risk that the tribe will be blamed for any disorder.
"The tribe didn't ask for people to come there and fight. The tribe asked
them to come there and to help protect and pray. Those are two very
different perspectives."
Revelations no surprise to coalition members
Angie Carter, a board member with the Women, Food and Agriculture Network,
itself a member of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition, is concerned
about the impact of the pipeline on Indigenous groups, women, and the water
and farmland that it will cross. Members of the coalition were among those
recently arrested in central Iowa when they tried to halt construction
activity by forming human chains.
She responded to the revelations of MacMillan's work in a phone interview
with Ricochet on Wednesday evening.
"I don't think many of us who have been involved in this work were very
surprised. We're grateful that it's being made public now and that it's
been found out and that these connections between the banks and industry
[are revealed]. We've long known that the banks have been taking advantage
of and exploiting vulnerable people throughout the mortgage crisis and our
financial recession. But to see, also, their investment in extractive
energy it helps us to understand the complicitness of big banks and their
ties to our government officials."
She also responded to the attacks which injured protesters.
"We were sickened and disgusted by those stories. It was horrifying to see
that footage. I think that was very shocking for many people. Even though
we knew that we were at great risk and that oil companies will resort to
all sorts of things to protect their investments, I think that that footage
shocks people,” Carter said.
In some of the footage, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman can be heard asking,
her voice raised, "Why are you letting her dog go after the protesters?
It's covered in blood!" Goodman later interviewed an expert in law
enforcement canine handling who opined that the security guards appeared to
lack training and to have used excessive force, and shared that she is
making a complaint against the state of Ohio over the dogs' licensing.
Archambault, the Standing Rock Sioux leader, has called for investigations
over the incident.
"When it comes right down to it, what's going to stop the pipeline? It's
only going to be public outrage.”
Brenda Brink, an activist with Bakken Pipeline Resistance from Huxley,
Iowa, witnessed a smudging ceremony on Sunday at the site of the attack
that was meant to bring healing. She expressed worry about the escalating
"I'm concerned that the fierceness and the determination up in North Dakota
is going to lead to someone actually getting killed. It's to that point
now. The Governor's ordered the National Guard to the protect the workers.
To protect the workers, not the tribes that have legitimate concerns,” she
Brink also reacted to MacMillan's investigation.
"It's pretty much infuriating,” she said, adding that it compounds existing
discontent over the lack of justice following the 2008 financial crisis.
"Here we are again, and the banks have just operated with impunity. We are
up against the most powerful force on the globe. And I do believe that. The
money that is behind all this is overwhelming."
But Brink also expressed skepticism over the effectiveness of boycotts and
divestment, at least in the short-term efforts to stop the pipeline.
"When it comes right down to it, what's going to stop the pipeline? It's
only going to be public outrage. We're not law breakers. We're people that
are showing you that the law is unjust."