Dakota Pipeline Is the New Keystone -- With Police Dogs and Donald Trump
November 1, 2016
Bill McKibben / The New York Times & Sam Levin / The Guardian & Oliver Milman / The Guardian
The Native Americans who have spent months in peaceful protest against an oil pipeline along the banks of the Missouri are standing up for tribal rights, clean water, environmental justice and a working climate. And it's time that everyone else joined in. Meanwhile, Donald Trump's close financial ties to Energy Transfer Partners, the operators of the controversial pipeline, have been laid bare: Trump has invested in ETP and has received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from its chief executive.
Why Dakota Is the New Keystone
Bill McKibben / The New York Times
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (October 28, 2016) -- The Native Americans who have spent the last months in peaceful protest against an oil pipeline along the banks of the Missouri are standing up for tribal rights. They're also standing up for clean water, environmental justice and a working climate. And it's time that everyone else joined in.
The shocking images of the National Guard destroying tepees and sweat lodges and arresting elders this week remind us that the battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline is part of the longest-running drama in American history -- the United States Army versus Native Americans. In the past, it's almost always ended horribly, and nothing we can do now will erase a history of massacres, stolen land and broken treaties. But this time, it can end differently.
Those heroes on the Standing Rock reservation, sometimes on horseback, have peacefully stood up to police dogs, pepper spray and the bizarre-looking militarized tanks and SWAT teams that are the stuff of modern policing. (Modern and old-fashioned both: The pictures of German shepherds attacking are all too reminiscent of photos from, say, Birmingham, Ala., in 1963.)
The courage of those protesters managed to move the White House enough that the government called a temporary halt to construction. But the forces that want it finished -- Big Oil, and its allies in parts of the labor movement -- are strong enough that the respite may be temporary.
In coming weeks, activists will respond to calls from the leaders at Standing Rock by gathering at the offices of banks funding the pipeline, and at the offices of the Army Corps of Engineers, for protest and civil disobedience. Two dozen big banks have lent money to the pipeline project, even though many of them have also adopted elaborate environmental codes. As for the Corps, that's the agency that helped "expedite" the approval of the pipeline -- and must still grant the final few permits.
The vast movement of people across the country who mobilized to block fossil-fuel projects like the Keystone pipeline and Shell's plans to drill in the Arctic need to gather once more. This time, their message must be broader still.
There are at least two grounds for demanding a full environmental review of this pipeline, instead of the fast-track approvals it has received so far. The first is the obvious environmental racism of the whole project.
Originally, the pipeline was supposed to cross the Missouri just north of Bismarck, until people pointed out that a leak there would threaten the drinking water supply for North Dakota's second biggest city.
The solution, in keeping with American history, was obvious: make the crossing instead just above the Standing Rock reservation, where the poverty rate is nearly three times the national average. This has been like watching the start of another Flint, Mich., except with a chance to stop it.
The second is that this is precisely the kind of project that climate science tells us can no longer be tolerated. In midsummer, the Obama administration promised that henceforth there would be a climate test for new projects before they could be approved. That promise was codified in the Democratic platform approved by Hillary Clinton's campaign, which says there will be no federal approval for any project that "significantly exacerbates" global warming.
The review of the Dakota pipeline must take both cases into account.
So far, the signs are not good. There has been no word from the White House about how long the current pause will last. Now, the company building the pipeline has pushed the local authorities to remove protesters from land where construction has already desecrated indigenous burial sites, with law enforcement agents using Tasers, batons, mace and "sound cannons."
From the Clinton campaign, there's been simply an ugly silence, perhaps rooted in an unwillingness to cross major contributors like the Laborers' International Union of North America, which has lashed out against the many other, larger unions that oppose the project.
But that silence won't make the issue go away: Sioux protesters erected a tepee in her Brooklyn campaign office on Thursday. If Mrs. Clinton is elected on Nov. 8, this will be the new president's first test on environmental and human rights.
What's happening along the Missouri is of historic consequence. That message should reverberate not just on the lonely high plains, but in our biggest cities, too. Native Americans have carried the fight, but they deserve backup from everyone with a conscience; other activists should join the protest at bank headquarters, Army Corps offices and other sites of entrenched power.
The Native Americans are the only people who have inhabited this continent in harmony with nature for centuries. Their traditional wisdom now chimes perfectly with the latest climate science. The only thing missing are the bodies of the rest of us joining in their protest. If we use them wisely, a fresh start is possible.
Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) is a founder of 350.org and teaches environmental studies at Middlebury College.
Guards for North Dakota Pipeline
Could Be Charged for Using Dogs on Cctivists
Sam Levin / The Guardian
SAN FRANCISCO (October 26, 2016) -- Private security guards who deployed dogs on protesters at a North Dakota oil pipeline demonstration were not properly licensed and could face criminal charges, according to a local investigation.
The Native American-led protests of the Dakota access pipeline received national attention in September when officers allegedly pepper-sprayed activists while guard dogs attacked protesters in a confrontation that was caught on video by the news program Democracy Now!
On Wednesday, the Morton County sheriff's office, which has been leading the police response to the demonstration and conducted mass arrests over the weekend, announced that it had investigated private guards working for the pipeline and determined that "dog handlers were not properly licensed to do security work in the state of North Dakota".
The disclosure is significant at the continuing pipeline protest, where members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their supporters say law enforcement officers have become increasingly aggressive and militarized, using excessive force against peaceful, unarmed activists and targeting journalists for arrest.
Leota Eastman Iron Cloud, a Native American activist from South Dakota who has been at the protests for months, told the Guardian by phone on Wednesday that she was present when private guards brought dogs and mace and went after demonstrators on 3 September.
"We are here in prayer, and they came for war," she said, explaining that she continued protesting even after she was hit with pepper spray. "I can't believe that people out there can actually do this to other human beings."
The tribe and other environmental and indigenous rights' activists have argued that the planned $3.7bn oil pipeline, which would transport fracked crude from North Dakota to a refinery near Chicago, poses a major threat to the local water supply and to the cultural heritage of the Native Americans.
Opponents have challenged the project in court with little success. But the federal government, which provided initial approval of construction, announced last month that it would reassess its decision and delay issuing permits.
Police have accused the activists of a range of charges, including criminal trespass, engaging in riots, resisting arrest and assaulting officers. But protesters have argued that they have been consistently nonviolent and that law enforcement has indiscriminately arrested people present at the site, including film-makers and reporters.
Security officials told the Morton County sheriff's office that "there were no intentions of using the dogs or handlers for security work", the office said in its investigation report. "However, because of the protest events, the dogs were deployed as a method of trying to keep the protesters under control."
The sheriff's department said there were seven handlers and dogs but that police could only identify two people. Frost Kennels, from Ohio, provided employees and dogs, but police said the company had not been cooperative in the investigation and that it was not a registered security company.
"Although lists of security employees have been provided, there is no way of confirming whether the list is accurate or if names have been purposely withheld," Morton County Capt Jay Gruebele said in a statement.
Bob Frost, owner of the kennel that supplied dogs and staff, told the Guardian that he had been "beyond cooperative" and said his handlers were licensed through a security firm acting as a contractor for the pipeline.
"All the proper protocols … were already done," he said, adding that it was a different group that had pepper spray. "I pulled my guys out the next day because we weren't there to go to war with these protesters."
The sheriff's office said prosecutors were reviewing the case and the private guards could face misdemeanor charges. Spokespeople for the state's attorney's office did not respond to an inquiry and a spokeswoman for the pipeline, operated by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, declined to comment.
It was recently revealed that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has close ties to the pipeline company.
Iron Cloud said the conflict with the dogs was harrowing. "I was face to face with the security guards and the dogs," she said, adding that at the time of the protest, construction workers were "bulldozing sacred ground".
Private security workers were continuing to monitor them on Wednesday afternoon, she added. "We're watching them watching us."
Dakota Access Pipeline Company and
Donald Trump Have Close Financial Ties
Oliver Milman / The Guardian
NEW YORK (October 26, 2016) -- Donald Trump's close financial ties to Energy Transfer Partners, operators of the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline, have been laid bare, with the presidential candidate invested in the company and receiving more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from its chief executive.
Trump's financial disclosure forms show the Republican nominee has between $500,000 and $1m invested in Energy Transfer Partners, with a further $500,000 to $1m holding in Phillips 66, which will have a 25% stake in the Dakota Access project once completed.
The information was disclosed in Trump's monthly filings to the Federal Election Commission, which requires candidates to disclose their campaign finance information on a regular basis.
The financial relationship runs both ways. Kelcy Warren, chief executive of Energy Transfer Partners, has given $103,000 to elect Trump and handed over a further $66,800 to the Republican National Committee since the property developer secured the GOP's presidential nomination.
On 29 June, Warren made $3,000 in donations to Trump's presidential campaign. The limit for individual contributions to a candidate is $2,700 per election and it's unclear whether Trump returned $300 to Warren. Trump's campaign was contacted for comment.
Warren made a further $100,000 donation to the Trump Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee among Trump's campaign, the RNC and 11 state parties, on 29 June. A day earlier, the Energy Transfer Partners chief executive doled out $66,800 in two separate donations to the RNC.
Trump is therefore indirectly linked to Dakota Access, a $3.8bn pipeline development that will funnel oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The 1,170-mile pipeline has caused uproar among Native American tribes as it runs close to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota.
A protest camp, set up over fears the pipeline will poison water and destroy cultural heritage, has been the scene of repeated clashes between protesters and Energy Transfer Partners security staff.
A court challenge has allowed the project to go ahead but the federal government, which initially approved the project, is now reassessing its decision following an outcry by tribes and has placed a temporary halt to construction on federal land.
Trump has signaled his opposition to any restrictions on the development of oil, coal or gas, telling a crowd in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, last week that he would "lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks to allow these vital energy infrastructure projects to go ahead".
"We have roadblocks like you've never, ever seen -- environmental blocks, structural blocks," he said. "We are going to allow the Keystone pipeline and so many other things to move forwards. Tremendous numbers of jobs and good for our country."
Jesse Coleman, a researcher at Greenpeace, said Trump seems to know "very little" about energy policies other than to side with wealthy fossil fuel interests.
"Trump likes to say he's an outsider candidate but he's very close to fossil fuel tycoons and accepts campaign donations from them," he said. "Warren wants powerful people to be sympathetic to his business plans and donating to them is his MO."
Warren has worked in the energy industry for the past 25 years and has a net worth of $3.8 billion, according to Forbes. The Texas-based businessman has said concerns over the Dakota Access pipeline are "unfounded" and insisted there are no Native American artifacts at risk from its construction. He vowed that Energy Transfer Partners will press ahead with the project.
Warren has been an enthusiastic backer of Republican politicians, contributing the maximum allowable amount to the campaigns of the House speaker, Paul Ryan, and Fred Upson, chairman of the energy and commerce committee. He also contributed $6 million to a committee backing an unsuccessful presidential bid by the former Texas governor Rick Perry.
Greg Abbott, the current Texas governor, received $555,000 from Warren during the 2014 election cycle and subsequently appointed the businessman, and his wife Amy, to state boards. Energy Transfer Partners has teamed up with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim to build an 148-mile natural gas pipeline through west Texas to the Mexican border -- a plan that has been opposed by affected ranchers and environmentalists.
Dakota Access has sparked the most vociferous protests, however, with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe escalating its grievances to the UN and, most recently, the US justice department.
On Tuesday, the tribe requested that the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch, investigate alleged strip searches, dog attacks and pepper-spraying by police and security personnel against Native American protesters.
"Peaceful protests are being met with military vehicles and heavily armed law enforcement personnel in riot gear," the tribe's letter states. "To many people, the military tactics being used in North Dakota are reminiscent of the tactics used against protestors during the civil rights movement some 50 years ago."
Energy Transfer Partners refused to comment on the donations.
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