See update below
One of the most persistent rumors around the #NoDAPL protests is that the tribe is motivated less by some pure desire to protect the environment and/or sacred Native American lands but by money. Specifically, that the tribe wanted money from the pipeline company and didn’t get it, so now they’re protesting.
I’ve checked on this rumor before, asking a spokesman for Energy Transfer Partners weeks ago if the pipeline company had ever made an offer to the tribe. The answer then was a pretty emphatic no. More recently I asked Kelcy Warren, the CEO of ETP, that same question.
“Not that I’m aware of no,” he told me (audio).
Maybe I was asking the wrong question, because according to a report in the Washington Examiner a source who was in on the dealings between ETP and the Standing Rock Sioux says that while the pipeline company didn’t make an offer to the tribe, the tribe did request some sort of a fee on oil pumped through the line even though it doesn’t cross tribal territory:
“Even though the pipeline never crosses the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, Energy Transfer Partners has attempted to be a good neighbor by offering water testing and monitoring, as well as significant community support to the tribe,” the source said. “But time and again the tribe rebuffed or ignored the company’s offers demanding, instead, a toll on the crude that passed through the pipeline, an ultimatum that showed the tribe’s true desire — easy money.”
The company wouldn’t agree to the condition, but offered to pay for infrastructure improvements on the reservation prioritized by the tribe. The company even purchased a 7,600-acre property called the Cannonball Ranch that is adjacent to the reservation, offering it to the tribe as part of a settlement proposal, say sources privy to the talks.
It would be interesting to know the timeline on these alleged discussions. The mention of ETP putting the Cannonball Ranch on the table for the tribe makes it seem as though this happened within the last several weeks. After all, ETP just bought the ranch in September.
So were these negotiations happening before #NoDAPL gained steam or more recently? It’s hard to imagine how the tribe, after partnering with violent extremists to block the pipeline on environmental/conservation grounds, could take a deal at this point without looking like a bunch of enormous hypocrites.
Not that they wouldn’t still hypocrites if they really did ask for a fee on oil pumped through the line.
I’ve reached out to the ETP people for some clarification on this, but we’re into the afternoon on Thanksgiving eve now so I’m not sure when I’ll get a response. I’ll update when/if I do.
UPDATE: Energy Transfer Partners spokeswoman Vicki Granado denies this report. “I have no indication that this is true,” she told me. “I also have no idea who this ‘source’ is.”