Investment funds managed by Norway’s biggest bank, DNB, have sold off stakes in companies behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline in the US. The bank is still involved in financing the pipeline but continues to “evaluate” whether to withdraw from that as well.
DNB’s information director Even Westerveld confirmed to newspaper Aftenposten on Friday that its DNB Global Indeks and Global Credit funds had sold off stakes in Phillips 66 and other companies building the pipeline that’s due to run through sacred burial grounds of local indigenous people and under the Missouri River. The Sioux Nation fears that will also contaminate drinking water supplies.
The DNB fund’s stake in Phillips 66 was worth around USD 1.7 million, with the stakes in the other companies bringing the holdings up to around USD 3 million (NOK 28 million). DNB continues to hold loans on the project worth around NOK 2.8 billion that are meant to help finance construction of the pipeline. They are up for re-evaluation, however, given all the questions and controversy that’s arisen around the pipeline in recent months. DNB customers have also protested their bank’s involvement in the pipeline and threatened to close accounts.
‘Good first step’
Arild Hermstad, leader of the environmentally oriented organization Framtiden i våre hender (The Future in Our Hands), told Aftenposten he was glad DNB had decided to sell off its funds’ stakes in pipeline companies. “This is a good first step out of the Dakota Access pipeline,” Hermstad said. “It’s a very small part of DNB’s total involvement, though. We expect DNB to completely pull out of the project.”
Hermstad wants to see the entire pipeline project scrapped “out of consideration for the indigenous people it affects, the environment and the climate.” Martin Norman, a spokesman for Greenpeace, agreed: “It’s good that DNB has sold its ownership stakes in the pipeline (companies). We expect that now DNB will call in its loans immediately.”
DNB’s loans to the pipeline developers amount to around 10 percent of the total project, which was suspended earlier this week when the US Army Corps of Engineers asked for “further discussion and analysis” of the project. That request came in response to ongoing protests and dramatic demonstrations at the construction site. Norway’s own indigenous Sami people also oppose the project, along with indigenous groups around the world, and called on the Norwegian government’s ethics council to re-evaluate the country’s huge Oil Fund’s investment in the pipeline, too. The finance ministry’s ethics council, which monitors Oil Fund investments, has confirmed that it is evaluating whether the Oil Fund should also pull out of the project.
Heading for court
Two of the companies behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, have asked a US Federal Court for permission to complete construction of the pipeline. It has, however, stirred the biggest protests among the indigenous Sioux and others in the past century. Both the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and environmentalists believe it will cause irreparable damage and that the Sioux were not consulted. At least 500 people have been arrested since demonstrations intensified late last summer.
Norwegian pension fund manager KLP, the country’s Storebrand insurance firm and Nordea, Norway’s second-biggest bank, are also involved in the pipeline. KLP has confirmed it’s also re-evaluating its participation through talks with the companies involved. Storebrand has claimed it wants to use its stake to influence the companies involved while Nordea told Aftenposten it doesn’t want to comment on its investment through funds it manages.