Activists demand Citizens Bank stop funding the Dakota Access Pipeline
Evan Christopher White
A little over a week after the headquarters of Citizens Bank in downtown Providence was protestested by roughly 100 members of the Environmental Activist Group known as the FANG Collective, a delegation where six of its members returned on Feb. 15th to deliver a letter to the financial institution calling for an end of its contribution in the financing of Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
According to FANG Collective, Citizens Banks is currently offering a “revolving line of credit” to a company named Sunoco Logistics Partners, which is one of the co-owners of the DAPL. Recently, sunoco has merged with Energy Transfer Partners, creating an even larger corporation which is currently in the process of owning and developing four Pipelines, including DAPL.
Citizens Bank is currently assisting in the funding of a $3.78 Billion dollar section of the Dakota Access Pipeline that would travel underneath the Missouri River, which happens to be a vital source of drinking water for the indigenous Sioux Tribe. The Bank has an open line of credit valued at $72.5 million dollars. So far, there are no signs that Citizens Bank will be ending its current funding of the Pipeline.
The protesting of financial institutions that fund the construction of pipelines like DAPL are nothing new. TD Bank, a prominent financier of the pipeline’s construction, saw protests this past year here in Providence and across the United States. Activists at FANG have put their concerns to paper, with one line reading, “These projects are neither conscionable or sustainable, and we write to advise that Citizens immediately close its line of credit for Sunoco Logistic Partners.” They are addressing their grievances to Peter Lucht, who is the head of media relations for the financial institution. So far, Mr. Lucht has not responded in any form.
FANG’s criticism of Citizens Bank did not end with the bank’s financing of the Pipeline, but included a call to publically condemn the violence that has erupted during the protests at Standing Rock. FANG addressed the violent clashes during the protests at Standing Rock in a further section of the letter stating, “We call on you to act now: condemn the violence at Standing Rock. Align your financial investments with your commitments and climate justice and indigenous rights as pillars in your mission. Protect your moral standing.”
Standing Rock has been the sight of violent clashes between law enforcement officials and indigenous protestors, and is considered a symbol of Native American resistance to the construction of the pipeline. The struggle at Standing Rock has deep symbolism for FANG, with various references to it in their public statements and in their Facebook posts. One such post reads, “On February 4, while supporting the No DAPL struggle, Krow (Katie Kloth) was assaulted and arrested by a Bureau of Indian Affairs officer (there is video of the incident below). She was walking on a public road, away from the Sacred Stone camp, when she was chased down by the officer. It is believed that she was specifically targeted because of her ongoing involvement and visibility within the No DAPL resistance, which had resulted in two arrests on misdemeanor charges previous to this incident. Krow was also known at Standing Rock for being an advocate for creating a unified front in fighting the pipeline.” So far Citizens Bank has not produced a public statement in regards to the violence at Standing Rock. The FANG Collective has vowed to keep the pressure on Citizens Bank to produce a statement of condemnation.
Activists like the FANG Collective have been mobilizing across the United States amid the news that President Donald Trump had expedited an approval for the completion of the DAPL project. Earlier in February, the United States Army Corps of Engineers had given the green light for the construction of a segment of the pipeline under Lake Oahe, a body of water connected to the Missouri River. Day-by-day, the construction of the pipeline inches forward toward the segment covered under the Citizens Bank direct funding. With the backing of the current administration, the Dakota Access Pipeline is estimated to be completed roughly around the middle of March 2017. FANG Collective joined a chorus of other environmental activist groups in stating their concern for the ecological impact the pipeline might have on the area, including the possible contamination of drinking water for the local population.
Despite the major disagreements over Citizens involvement in the financing of DAPL, FANG wasn’t completely critical of the financial institution. The group had praised Citizens for offering community programs that help improve financial literacy and assist in the reduction of homelessness within the region.
Picture Courtesy of (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News photos)