The heated, ongoing battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline continued Tuesday as the billionaire CEO of the pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners issued a memo to employees and outside media promising to "reiterate our commitment" to the pipeline's construction.
"We intend to meet with officials in Washington to understand their position and reiterate our commitment to bring the Dakota Access Pipeline into operation," Kelcy Warren wrote.
Hours after the memo was released, two water protectors locked themselves to construction equipment outside Mandan, North Dakota, bringing construction on the pipeline to a halt. Riot police arrived and began arresting people around noon local time, according to firsthand reports, and ultimately arrested about 20 people—including journalists and medics.
Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, rallies in 100 cities in the U.S. and around the world called on President Barack Obama to stop pipeline construction once and for all.
"We won't stop until they stop," wrote the Sacred Stone Camp, where the Standing Rock Sioux and allied Indigenous nations and supporters have gathered in protest of the pipeline's construction.
The Standing Rock Sioux have long opposed the pipeline, fearing that a pipeline spill where the project is to cross the Missouri River—upstream of the tribe's reservation—will destroy the community's sole source of clean drinking water.
In his memo, Warren claims that his pipeline company "worked to meet with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe leaders on multiple occasions."
"Energy Transfer Partners has proven time and time again that the bottom line for them is money."
—Dave Archambault II,
Standing Rock SiouxThe United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People calls for native groups to be consulted with and requires that "free, prior, and informed consent" be given by Indigenous people before any projects that affect their land and resources are undertaken.
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But Dave Archambault II, the tribe's chairman, says Energy Transfer Partners' "consultations" with his tribe were one-sided and the company "met with us after their plans were already made," as CBS News reported.
"It is unfortunate that the corporate world chooses to ignore the millions of people and hundreds of tribal nations who stand in opposition to the destruction of our lands, resources, waters and sacred sites," Archambault added in a press statement.
"Energy Transfer Partners has proven time and time again that the bottom line for them is money. The bottom line for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is and will always be protecting our lands, people, water and sacred sites from the devastation of this pipeline. Our fight isn't over until there is permanent protection of our people and resources from the pipeline," Archambault said.
The head of Energy Transfer Partners has made billions of dollars from the North American shale drilling boom, as Sue Sturgis writes in Facing South:
With business partner Ray Davis, co-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, Warren built Energy Transfer Equity into one of the nation's largest pipeline companies, which now owns about 71,000 miles of pipelines carrying natural gas, natural gas liquids, refined products and crude oil. The company's holdings include Sunoco, Southern Union and Regency Energy Partners.
Forbes estimates the 60-year-old Warren's personal wealth at $4 billion. Bloomberg described him as "among America's new shale tycoons" — but rather than building a fortune by drilling he "takes the stuff others pull from underground and moves it from one place to another, chilling, boiling, pressurizing, and processing it until it's worth more than when it burst from the wellhead."
Warren lives in a 27,200-square-foot castle in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of north Dallas, a community that had restrictive covenants in place until 2000 limiting it to white people only (except for domestic servants). The neighborhood is also home to former President George W. Bush.
Sturgis also reports that both Warren and Energy Transfer Partners, through a super PAC, have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to right-wing politicians.
"Whether Warren's political investments will pay off for the Dakota Access Pipeline remains uncertain," Sturgis observes.