Dakota Access pipeline: ING sells stake in major victory for divestment pushing

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The fiscal giant is the first of a group of 17 banks to divest from the loan that financed the pipeline as the embattled project is set to begin transporting oil

The fiscal giant ING has sold its stake in the $2.5 bn loan financing the Dakota Access pipeline, the most recent victory for the anti-pipeline divestment campaign that comes as the project is set to begin transporting oil.

The Dutch banking and financial services company is the first of a group of 17 banks to divest from the loan that financed the project. INGs share in the loan was $120 m.

The buyer of the loan was not disclosed. Under the terms of the sale, ING will retain some of health risks in the event of default.

INGs decision followed a 10 February meeting with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which argued that the pipelines route traversing under the Missouri river just north of the tribes reservation threatened its water source and violated its treaty rights.

We are heartened that ING has constructed the conscience decision to remove itself from a project that tramples on the rights of sovereign nations, the Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairwoman, Dave Archambault, said in a statement.

INGs divestment from the loan follows a series of efforts to influence the pipeline company, the bank said in a statement. ING has hitherto sold about $220 m of shares in the pipelines parent companies and decided not to do any future business with the companies.

We are not able to halt the project, and we never were, ING said in a statement. Being a lender to the project, we first tried to engage and use any influence we may have to encourage a satisfactory outcome for all parties involved. However, there was even less room for lenders to positively influence the project after construction had been resumed by the client once the permits had been granted.

Opposition to the pipeline, which is slated to carry crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to a refinery in Illinois, has become a global rallying cry for indigenous and environmental groups. Thousands of activists, who called themselves water defenders, travelled to the site of the disputed river crossing in 2016, establishing spiritual encampments and violently clashing at times with pipeline security and law enforcement during attempts to slow or halt construction.

But a major victory for the tribe during the final weeks of the Obama administration the denial of a key permit to drill under the river was reversed soon after Donald Trumps inauguration.

Construction recommenced on 7 February and the pipeline company said in heavily redacted court documents on Monday that it believes that petroleum may flow sometime this week.

Pipeline opponents also targeted the projects banks and investors, coordinating global actions under the banner #DefundDAPL. The divestment campaign has racked up a series of victories even as the tribes legal efforts to halt the pipeline have been stymied.

Last week, Norwegian pension fund KLP announced its sale of $58 m worth of shares in the pipeline companies, following the lobbying of the Sami, an indigenous people living in the far north of Norway.

Other Norwegian financial institutions, including private investor Storebrand, bank DNB, and mutual fund Odin Fund Management, have also sold their shares in the pipelines mother companies.

In February, the city of Seattle voted to divest from Wells Fargo, another of the banks to participate in financing the project.

With oil set to begin flowing under the Missouri river within days the US court of appeals for the District of Columbia denied a request for an emergency reprieve on Saturday the divestments are unlikely to have a concrete impact on the Dakota Access pipeline itself.

But campaigners hope that the continuation of pressure on the financial sector will pay dividends when future pipeline projects, such as the revived Keystone XL pipeline, seek funding from banks and investors.

We are working to induce these kinds of infrastructure projects as toxic as they truly are, said Jason Schwartz, a spokesman for Greenpeace. We have to attain these projects toxic to the finance sector.

Keystone XL is going to be looking for a project loan, he added. So thats going to be a primary target for us pre-empting that project loan.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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