In early August, just as protesters from across the country descended on North Dakota to rally against an oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, some of the world’s biggest banks signed off on a $2.5 billion loan to help complete the sprawling project.
NEW YORK TIMES — Now, those banks — which include Bank of America, Citigroup, Chase, and Wells Fargo — have come under fire for bankrolling the pipeline. In an open letter, 26 environmental groups urged those banks to halt further loan payments to the project, which the Sioux say threatens their sacred lands and water supply.
In campaigning to reduce the world’s carbon emissions, people have increasingly focused on the financiers behind the fossil fuel industry — highlighting their role in financing coal, oil and gas projects. It is an expansion of traditional protest efforts, and it has met with some early success.
Groups around the world have criticized the Dakota Access (also known as Bakken) Pipeline as outdated infrastructure with no place in a world racing to stave off the worst effects of climate change. The 1,172-mile pipeline is expected to carry nearly half a million barrels of crude oil daily out of the Bakken fields of North Dakota, according to the company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners.
Late last month, hundreds of police in riot gear used pepper spray and rubber bullets to evict protesters from land owned by Energy Transfer. Over 100 people were arrested in the sweep. President Obama said last week that the Army Corps of Engineers was considering an alternate route for the pipeline.
“Banks have a choice to either finance the transition to renewable energy, or to finance pipelines and power plants that will lock us into fossil fuels for the next 40 years,” said Johan Frijns, director of BankTrack, a Netherlands-based advocacy organization that led the campaign. “If we’re serious about fighting climate change, we can’t continue to finance fossil fuel infrastructure of any kind.”
Experts also question the profitability of the Dakota pipeline, at a time of slumping oil prices
“A lot of infrastructure investment, particularly pipelines, is built around strong oil-demand projections that go out decades,” said Mark Campanale, founder of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a financial think tank that focuses on energy and climate change. “If the scenarios around demand for oil is wrong, it’s likely that people are building costly infrastructure on a false promise — that the oil is going to be needed in 30 to 40 years.”
Wells Fargo, the very same bank that earlier in the year opened 2 million phony accounts in order to charge banking fees to unknowing customers, invested $476M into the Dakota Access Pipeline, as if to solidify itself as the most blatantly unethical bank in the U.S. Not surprisingly, they declined to comment.
Actor and activist Matthew Cooke offers a simple way you can take action: pull your money out, close your accounts, and put your money elsewhere. Cooke recommends a credit union, which is a member-owned, nonprofit money cooperative. This means that you’re a part owner, whereas banks are backed by corporations and shareholders.
Is your bank funding the Dakota Access Pipeline? See below:
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