New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio has joined legions of other investors and entities in urging Wells Fargo to reconsider financing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), calling the project “dangerous and misguided.” Stop financing DAPL, he implied in a recent letter to the institution, or New York may take its pension dollars elsewhere.
“I am writing to express my deep concern about your involvement, and the involvement of other banks, in financing the Dakota Access Pipeline,” the mayor wrote in a February 17 letter to Wells Fargo Chief Executive Officer Timothy J. Sloan. “This project could have negative consequences for the people of Standing Rock, for the well-being of your bank and for the health of this planet. Therefore, I urge you to withdraw your financing, or failing that, to use your position as a lender to press your client to negotiate a reasonable resolution that removes the threat to the Tribe’s concerns.”
He also wrote to 16 other banks, noting that boosting the already-overflowing coffers of the exceedingly wealthy should not trump treaty rights or the environment.
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“The people of Standing Rock should not be threatened by the greed of a few wealthy oil industry executives,” he said in a statement. “The Dakota Access Pipeline not only poses a threat to our environment, but also to the human, tribal and water rights of the entire Standing Rock Reservation. We deplore allowing our pension funds to run the risks of being associated with such a dangerous and misguided project.”
In addition to moral concerns, de Blasio said the investment itself puts investors and account holders in jeopardy.
“As someone with a leadership role in funds that are long-term investors in shares of your bank, I am profoundly troubled by the risks you are taking by involving your institution in this controversial project,” de Blasio wrote, citing as concerns the potential losses Wells Fargo could suffer if pipeline builder Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) is unable to repay its loans, the possible adverse effects of the months-long conflict in North Dakota on the bank’s reputation, and his responsibility as both a “trustee of pension funds that are long-term investors in your institution and Mayor of a coastal city threatened by climate change.”
While de Blasio did not say outright that his administration would pull its funds out of the bank, his letter was pointed.
“I am involved in overseeing pension funds with more than $165 billion in assets set aside to pay benefits to over 700,000 New York City active and retired workers and their beneficiaries, and I take my fiduciary duties seriously,” he wrote.
The mayor urged Sloan “to withdraw your financing, or failing that, to use your position as a lender to press your client to negotiate a reasonable resolution that removes the threat to the Tribe’s concerns.”
De Blasio’s letter comes in the midst of a huge purge of Wells Fargo accounts, from Seattle’s $3 billion pullout, unanimously voted for by the city council, to numerous tribes’ removals—including Standing Rock itself. Other banks that fund DAPL have also been identified, and the boycott is on. A move is also afoot to focus funds on Native-owned banks instead. The battle against the $4 billion, 1,172-mile-long pipeline across four states has moved from the camps near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, to the courts and the banks. The main camp, Oceti Sakowin, was evacuated and razed on February 22 and 23.
Recently a group of 120 institutions also wrote to Wells Fargo and 16 other banks threatening to pull their funds if the banks did not exit DAPL. De Blasio’s letter, addressed to the same institutions, implies that New York City could be poised to follow suit.
“The Dakota Access Pipeline would violate the human and tribal rights of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and their sovereignty over their ancestral lands,” de Blasio said in his letter. “The negative environmental consequences of the pipeline cannot be overstated. Not only does it pose a threat to the water supply of Standing Rock, but a pipeline transporting more than a half million barrels of crude oil a day threatens our global environment. A handful of millionaires and billionaires in the fossil fuels industry might benefit, but this pipeline is a disaster for the rest of us.”