Rail safety is very much on the minds of North Dakotans after a fiery derailment in Heimdal, North Dakota, earlier this month and an explosive derailment just outside of Fargo last year.
The oil and rail industries tout a safe delivery rate of oil by rail shipments that is north of 99.9 percent, but with oil by rail shipments having quintupled over the last several years even that solid rate is cold comfort to people who live near tracks knowing that there are more derailments because there are more trains on the tracks.
So obviously it would be helpful if we could get some of that oil off the tracks. The answer, then, is pipelines. But environmental activists – many of whom bray the loudest when an oil train derails – have been working overtime to stop pipeline derailment.
My feeling is that those people aren’t so much anti-pipeline as they’re anti-fossil fuels in general. Opposing pipelines and so-called “bomb trains” is just a means to an end. And now we have some evidence to prove that conclusion. It turns out that pipeline opponents – up to and including some of the activists who are fighting the Sandpiper line which would take oil from Tioga, North Dakota, to the east through Minnesota – have ties to Russian fossil fuel interests.
Obviously, the Russians have a financial interest in hamstringing American oil production, and blocking pipelines is a good way to accomplish that:
Putin-allied Russian billionaires laundered $23 million through the Bermuda-based Wakefield Quin law firm to the Sea Change Foundation and thence to anti-fracking and anti-Keystone groups, the Environmental Policy Alliance found. Sandpiper opponents are likewise funded and coordinated by wealthy financiers and shadowy foundations, researcher Ron Arnold discovered.
Several small groups are involved in Sandpiper. But the campaign is coordinated by Honor the Earth, a Native American group that is actually a Tides Foundation “project,” with the Tides Center as its “fiscal sponsor,” contributing $700,000 and extensive in-kind aid. Out-of-state donors provide 99% of Honor’s funding.
The Indigenous Environmental Network also funds Honor the Earth. Minnesota corporate records show no incorporation entry for IEN, and that 95% of its money comes from outside Minnesota. Tides gave IEN $670,000 to oppose pipelines. Indeed, $25 billion in foundation investment portfolios support the anti-Sandpiper effort.
This isn’t the first time those taking a shot at American energy development have been financed by international rivals. Matt Damon’s anti-fracking movie got some financing from middle eastern oil interests.
Regardless, we are told that these groups like Honor the Earth represent true grassroots movements. They are portrayed in the media as citizen uprisings against big, bad industry. Yet, what we rarely hear is where they get their financing.
It paints a very different picture when we do.