Green Energy Companies Gave Big Money to Standing Rock as #NoDAPL Protests Began


Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, waits to give his speech against the Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access oil pipeline during the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

“Keep it in the soil,” the #NoDAPL protesters aiming to block an oil pipeline chant.

And who would profit from keeping oil in the soil? So-called “green energy” companies trying to break into a market current dominated by fossil fuels, obviously. Which is maybe why a couple of green energy companies donated big to the Standing Rock Sioux as the tribe began its protests against the pipeline:

On April 5, the Standing Rock Sioux’s tribal council unanimously voted to accept two $125,000 donations from ConEdison Development and Fagen Inc., a green energy design and construction company, according to council meeting minutes.

ConEdison Development, an unregulated subsidiary of utility company Consolidated Edison, acquired and began construction on a wind power facility near the Standing Rock reservation last yearFagenwas a contractor on the project.

ConEdison’s chief executive told a North Dakota news station in April that its donation to the tribe was meant as a show of appreciation for the Standing Rock’s cooperation in building the Campbell County Wind Farm.

However, the timing coincides with intense tribal opposition to the planned Dakota Access Pipeline. The donations from ConEdison and Fagen came a yearafter the construction of the Campbell County Wind project, but just four days after the tribe’s pipelineprotests began. 

Meanwhile, in another example of opposition to the pipeline based on blatant economic interests, get a load of the railroad workers union lobbyist saying the Dakota Access Pipeline is unnecessary because we can totally haul all that oil by rail.

“The pipeline itself is unnecessary because we have ample rail capacity to haul all of North Dakota’s crude oil safely by rail with newer and safer rail cars,” writes John Risch, National Legislative Director of the SMART Transportation Division. “We are currently only shipping 3-4 oil trains a day out of North Dakota and we have the capacity to ship 100 trains a day with our state’s 21 oil train loading facilities.”

There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with shipping oil by rail. Much of the blather about “bomb trains” we’ve heard in the past is born of the same sort of anti-fossil fuels sentiment we’ve seen at the heart of the #NoDAPL movement.

But we shouldn’t block a pipeline to create more business for the railroads. If there is demand for pipeline capacity (and there is), then companies like Energy Transfer Partners should be able to build pipelines to meet it whether the railroad industry wants the competition or not.

Regardless, there is clearly a lot more to the #NoDAPL protests than the oft-expressed desire to protect the water or preserve lands sacred to indigenous peoples.