Investing To Support Standing Rock

DAPL Pipeline Protest
Unsplash -- Vlad Tchompalov

As the Green American went to press, Donald Trump had just become President-elect of the United States. He has promised in his first 100 days in office to “lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward.” Presumably, this also includes supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Green America asked Indigenous economist Rebecca Adamson, Cherokee, for her advice on how to invest in ways that support the Sioux and protest the DAPL. Adamson is founder and president of First Peoples Worldwide, a nonprofit that helps fund locally based development projects in Indigenous communities worldwide. She works to facilitate the use of traditional Indigenous knowledge, values, and economic systems in solving today’s challenges, including climate change, food security, medicine, governance, and sustainable development. (For more information on the DAPL protests—including the latest news on the Army Corps of Engineers’ recent announcement that it would not grant approval for an easement for the pipeline under Lake Oahe in the heart of Standing Rock territory—see our background article.)

Standing Rock Sioux and tribal nations from across the US remain camped out at the proposed site of the Dakota Access Pipeline, hoping to halt construction on their traditional territory and sacred sites. (Reuters / Alamy)

There are many ways to tell the story of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a proposed 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter crude-oil pipeline connecting the Bakken and Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.

For tribal leaders, elected council members, Indian entrepreneurs, lawyers, academics, farmers, ranchers, midwives, and Standing Rock Sioux community members, it is a story of unity.

Over 320 Canadian First Nations and Native American tribes have come together, and at least 2,000 US cities have passed resolutions in support of the tribe. Today, thousands of activists, artists, everyday Indians, and allies stand against the relentless destruction and desecration of Mother Earth, protecting sacred land and water with only their bodies.

For the state government of North Dakota, DAPL is a story of greed and money— lots of money.

Driven by a dirty-energy-oriented economy and a corrupt political establishment, local law enforcement is using excessive force, strip searches, censorship, water cannons, tear gas, prosecution of journalists, and phony felony charges to protect corporate interests over the interests of the people of North Dakota. The number of arrests is growing each week, and protectors are being detained in dog kennels, while others are being pepper sprayed or targeted with beanbag bullets.

For elders, traditionalists, medicine men, healers, and dream readers, it is a story of prayer.

On September 8th, President Obama, during the last leg of his trip to Laos, was asked by a young Malaysian woman about the protests. Obama promised to find out more when he returned to the US. The next day, a federal court denied an injunction from the Standing Rock Sioux tribal lawyers that would have frozen construction.

But on that same day, Obama rapidly made good on his promise with an announcement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior stating “construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.”

As of October 25, the Department of Justice said, “While the Army continues to review issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribal nations and their members, it will not authorize constructing the DAPL on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe.”

Construction on privately held lands in the area, however, has continued, though the protesters have curtailed much of it. And as the Green American went to press, President Obama said that the Army Corps was considering rerouting the pipeline away from Standing Rock.

This US map indicates a sampling of 1,000 areas where oil and gas pipeline accidents have occurred between 2010 and 2015. The area where the Dakotas and Minnesota converge has had relatively few spills—and happens to be the territory of the Great Sioux Nation. This map was originally published in June 2015 at and is provided courtesy of High Country News.

With President-Elect Donald Trump signaling support for the DAPL, the Standing Rock water protectors are digging in for a cold winter at the pipeline site. They hope to disrupt construction long enough to make the DAPL a losing financial proposition if it moves forward.

For Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), it is a story of gross incompetence.

Every day that construction doesn’t move forward on schedule, Energy Transfer Partners loses money, making it a textbook example of why investing in fossil-fuel companies—particularly those that ignore the rights of Indigenous Peoples—poses a high financial risk.

ETP thought it stood to reap huge benefits from the DAPL due to other companies abandoning plans to build pipelines in the area. “We got so lucky,” CEO Kelcy Warren told Bloomberg last year. “All of our competition vaporized.”

In a flurry of poor due diligence— which should have seen this “vaporized competition” as a major sign of the risks that the absence of a social license (i.e. local community acceptance) poses for pipelines—ETP plowed ahead. All it had to do was look at delays or cancellations afflicting the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Northern Gateway Pipeline, the Trans Mountain Pipeline, and others.

Clearly the company was blindsided by the strength of the anti-DAPL protests, and its response has been the use of brute force and litigation against protectors.

In court papers, ETP claims “it could lose $1.4 billion in a year if delays continue,” even with President-elect Trump’s support once he takes office. Just a temporary or limited injunction would have devastating long- and short-term impacts to the project, including losses of over $430 million, according to ETP. Customer contracts could be permanently lost if Dakota Access’ January 1, 2017 delivery schedule isn’t kept. In addition, 8,000 workers would be affected.

“Just demobilizing the construction could cost $200 million,” ETP notes. The company could have avoided the situation at Standing Rock if it had proper management systems for respecting Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Peoples.

It is not surprising that the company is also running into local opposition in Iowa, where landowners are taking legal action to block the use of eminent domain to claim property for the pipeline. In Iowa, farmland cannot be seized through eminent domain in the state, unless it’s for a project with a public benefit. Yet, despite the law and ignoring the strong opposition, the Iowa Utilities Board in March determined that “the proposed pipeline will promote the public convenience and necessity.” This opinion is not shared by many of the citizens of Iowa. “We do not think there’s any public benefit from this at all,” said Kari Carney, executive director of 1000 Friends of Iowa.

The company’s poor ESG [environmental, social, governance] track record is further indication of its incompetence. According to the National Lawyers Guild, the company and its affiliates “have a long history of violations of environmental laws including pending lawsuits by the states of New Jersey, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the City of Breaux Bridge in Louisiana over MTBE contamination of groundwater, as well as citations for releases of hazardous materials from its pipelines and facilities in Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Hawaii.” [Editor’s note: The EPA lists MTBE as a potential human carcinogen.]

A review of ETP’s website revealed:

  • zero policies on corporate social responsibility, community engagement, human rights, or Indigenous rights;
  • zero social investment;
  • zero sustainability reporting;
  • zero senior management expertise on social performance;
  • zero board oversight of social performance.


For investors, it is a story of undisclosed and unforeseen risk—but also an opportunity to send a strong message on responsible investing.

As an investor—or even just someone with a checking and savings account— you can use your money to support the DAPL protest in the following ways:

Break up with your mega-bank: 17 financial institutions loaned Dakota Access LLC $2.5 billion to construct the pipeline: Citibank, TD Securities, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, and Mizuho Bank are the lead lenders. Banks have also committed substantial resources to the Energy Transfer Family of companies to build out more oil and gas infrastructure. All told, that’s $10.25 billion in loans and credit facilities from 38 banks directly supporting the companies building the pipeline. [Editor’s note: Green America urges people to Break Up With Your Mega-Bank]

Support anti-DAPL shareholder resolutions: First Peoples Worldwide has been asked by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to coordinate a shareholder advocacy campaign, and institutional investors are responding. Boston Common Asset Management (m) and Calvert Investments (m) are involved in drafting resolutions in support of the tribe. Before the end of 2016, investors will have filed shareholder proposals with Enbridge, Marathon Petroleum, and Phillips 66 over their roles in the project. (Shareholder proposals are not possible with Energy Transfer Partners due to its master limited partnership structure.)

Boston Common Asset Management, which divested from ETP five years ago over concerns about the company’s ESG profile, is coordinating behind-thescenes shareholder engagement with the banks behind the project. It’s also helping draft the proposals to Enbridge, Marathon, and Phillips 66, asking them to report on their environmental and social due diligence around the DAPL.

Boston Common is also helping to draft a shareholder proposal asking Wells Fargo to create an Indigenous rights policy, and one asking the Bank of Nova Scotia to create a human rights policy.

Calvert Funds has committed to identifying best FPIC practices and metrics for future ESG investors, and the United Church Funds hosted an investor meeting in NYC between the Tribal Chairman and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility(m)(ICCR) to explore best ways for ICCR members to get involved.

Look for the above mentioned shareholder resolutions to be introduced in early 2017. If you hold stock in any of the companies, look for your shareholder proxy ballot, which the companies mail to all shareholders in the spring, and vote in support of anti-pipeline resolutions.

Divest from fossil fuels: Better yet, divest from any companies connected to DAPL construction, and then call each company’s Investor Relations department to let them know exactly why you are divesting. [Editor’s note: To send a message to companies that failing to take action on the climate will affect their bottom lines, Green America and our allies are calling on all investors to divest from the top 200 fossil-fuel companies overall, and reinvest that money in the clean-energy future. See for resources.]

For all of us, it is a story of the pressing urgency to save Mother Earth.

Originally, there were two possible routes for DAPL: a northern route that passed near Bismarck, and a southern route that passed within half a mile of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The company selected the southern route because the northern route “would be near and could jeopardize the drinking water of the residents in the city of Bismarck.”

While this is a classic case of environmental racism, it is important to remember that not just Indians are affected. A DAPL oil spill could affect drinking water for 18 million people throughout the Midwest. The phrase “water is life” is true for all of us.

The map above shows a sampling of 1,000 pipeline ruptures or spills in the US between 2010 and 2015. Notice how the area where the Dakotas and Minnesota converge has relatively few spills. This area is the territory of the Great Sioux Nation, who have successfully resisted most pipelines from crossing their territory. We must recognize the role of Indigenous Peoples in protecting resources on which everyone—Indigenous or not—depends.

—Rebecca Adamson


Shortly after the Winter 2016 Green American went to press—which included an article by Indigenous economist Rebecca Adamson on “Investing for Standing Rock,” the Army Corps of Engineers denied the final easement permit needed to run the DAPL across traditional Standing Rock Sioux territory on December 4th.

Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), whose office denied the permit, announced on December 4th that the Army plans to “explore alternative routes for the pipeline crossing … through an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis.”

The Green American talked with Rebecca Adamson about her thoughts on the latest development, which she stresses changes nothing in her “Investing for Standing Rock” article. All of the advice she gave on using your investor and banking power to support Standing Rock is still solid—and needed now more than ever as we await the climate-denier President-elect and his administration.

Read the full interview here.