We are troubled by the manner in which Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. has approached the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP). The pipeline threatens to destroy sacred places and burial grounds and contaminate drinking water for the Tribe. Dakota Access Pipeline, LLC a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), proposed a pipeline in late 2014 to transport crude oil from the oil fields of North Dakota to Illinois, which environmental activists are calling a sequel to the Keystone XL pipeline. DAP received permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the project but the Tribe argues that the federal agency has ignored their concerns about the pipeline plans and route for two years. Further, we are concerned that the consultation by DAP and government agencies with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe does not appear to have been in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that the U.S. endorsed in December 2010.

Last week, the Obama Administration ordered DAP to stop construction. In the past, Boston Common has been successful in encouraging energy companies to adopt policies and make public commitments to respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples. For their projects that impacted local Indigenous communities in Canada and the Amazon, we argued that establishing partnerships with those groups creates a competitive advantage and is good business practice. Both companies and Indigenous communities engaged in active dialogues to discuss key issues and worked towards a solution that satisfied all parties, which leads to long-term success. We think this is best practice.

Although ETP claims that they consulted the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on the DAP, their approach was entirely inadequate in our view. They only consulted with the Tribe after the pipeline had received approval from the Army Corps, not during the planning stage. Moreover, according to Tribal leaders, their consultation was merely to inform the Tribe of their plans; they had no intention to gain agreement or community support. In order to gain approval from the Army Corps, DAP relied on a land survey from 1985, which did not properly account for the more recent archeological discoveries of burial sites. In addition to ignoring Free, Prior, and Informed Consent protocols supported by the UN Declaration, DAP’s security forces have attacked protestors with dogs and pepper spray.

Boston Common stands with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Our ESG team has a long history of leading initiatives to advocate for the human rights of Indigenous Peoples, especially in connection with the environment of extractive industry activities. Five years ago, Boston Common sold ETP from our core portfolios in part because we were concerned about their ESG profile. Recently, Boston Common spoke with David Archambault II, the Tribal Chairman for the Tribe and helped organize three investor calls focusing on the companies building and financing the pipeline. Additionally, for First Peoples Worldwide, we identified the Wall Street analysts that cover ETP and DAP’s joint venture partners. We plan to help organize another investor call within the next few weeks with Tribal officials and experts to support shareholder engagement regarding the DAP. We invite all to attend. Please contact Steven Heim for more details.

Published On: September 16, 2016Categories: From the Commons