Study: #NoDAPL Activism Cost Backers of the Dakota Access Pipeline Billions

A #NoDAPL protester stands in front of a burning structure as officials work to evacuate the Oceti Sakowin protest camp on February 22, 2017.

According to a study by the University of Colorado Boulder’s First Peoples Investment Engagement Program, the activism against the Dakota Access Pipeline cost that project’s backers billions of dollars.

The headline to an article about the study posted on the UC website states the #NoDAPL movement “cost companies at least $7.5 billion,” with that figure being comprised of inflated project costs for Energy Transfer Partners (the company which owns the pipeline) and lost revenues due to divestment for organizations like banks which helped finance the project:

From 2014 to 2017, DAPL faced a number of delays, primarily from opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes with ancestral lands along the path of the proposed pipeline. Indigenous peoples and allies from all over the world joined in protests and boycotts.

As a result of those social pressures, the study shows, DAPL’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), saw a 20 percent decline in its stock price over that period. The S&P 500, however, grew about 35 percent.

The total cost of the project ballooned to roughly $7.5 billion with the delays, nearly double its projected initial cost.

The pipeline’s financial backers saw other losses with divestment campaigns surrounding #NoDAPL. City governments cost banks more than $4.3 billion by divesting, while individual bank account holders accounted for another $86 million loss.

The linked article is laudatory of this outcome, and the study itself was conducted by a branch of the university which is clearly sympathetic to the anti-pipeline cause, but there are reasons for we in the general public to be disturbed by this.

If the cost of building a controversial project like a pipeline are inflated because of opposition through lawful channels, such as opposition at regulatory hearings and even local government divestment, then so be it. Democracy is a messy business.

Where I am less sanguine is the part of the #NoDAPL movement which saw violent mobs drive up the cost of the pipeline construction through acts of vandalism, trespass, and assault.

There is no question that a significant portion of the cost overruns for the pipeline project itself are attributable to construction delays created because protesters set construction equipment on fire, or tried to attack pipeline workers.

That is not democracy. Those are not lawful actions. Lumping those tactics in with lawful opposition to the pipeline discredits the entire anti-pipeline movement.

Inflating the cost of lawful industry through unlawful acts of violence and obstruction are hardly something anyone, let alone a public university funded by tax dollars, ought to be applauding.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

Related posts

Top