These cities are taking a stand
In November 2016, Norway’s largest bank, DNB, decided to completely sell its assets in the Dakota Access Pipeline project after receiving pressure from Greenpeace Norway, which gathered 120,000 signatures denouncing the bank’s involvement.
Activism works. And it seems to have done so once again.
Seattle, Washington, and Davis, California, have both divested their individual assets from Wells Fargo over concerns with the bank’s role as lender to the Dakota Access Pipeline project, NPR reported.
Seattle will not be renewing its contract with the banking behemoth, which expires at the end of 2017. Davis has also moved to replace Wells Fargo by the end of 2017. For Wells Fargo, losing Seattle is a $3 billion dollar hit, while Davis’s divestment will cost the bank an additional $124 million.
This marks another tumultuous turn for the bank. In 2016, the institution became mired in scandal after it was found that employees were opening fake accounts in customer’s names to up performance numbers and bonuses.
On the same day as these divestments, the Army Corps of Engineers granted an easement to Energy Transfer Partners, the company that’s building the DAPL. The easement, made possible by President Donald Trump’s executive order, allows the Army to waive the environmental re-evaluation that the original protest victory garnered in late 2016, allowing the company to build under the Missouri river just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This area is the last 1.5 miles of the 1700 mile pipeline. Vicki Granado, a spokesperson for the company told the Associated Press by email they “plan to begin immediately.”
Senator John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican, addressed the easement saying in a statement, "Now, we all need to work together to make sure the project is completed safely and with as little disruption to the community as possible. This has been a very difficult issue for everyone who lives and works in the area."
Even with the president signing an executive order, protesters have no plans to give up. In Seattle, critics and activists have been holding demonstrations in solidarity with the Standing Rock group for months. Local radio station KUOW proclaimed, “Protesters, many of them Native people from Washington state, share the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which says the pipeline would threaten tribal water supplies, land and cultural sites.”
Groups of demonstrators have already rallied outside the White House, at an Army Corps of Engineer office in New York City, and at a federal office building in San Francisco. Further, the movement has several events scheduled to continue the protest.
For now, cities like Seattle and Davis—with Philadelphia and Minneapolis considering divestment, too—are on the front lines, showing what a resolve to demand integrity from their financial partners can possibly do.
Just days before the vote, Wells Fargo announced they would donate $500,000 to Seattle groups that work to revitalize neighborhoods.
Seattle Council member Deborah Juarez described the city’s decision to leave Wells Fargo this way:
“For a company whose deposits totaled more than $1 trillion last year, it's a drop in a very big bucket. But for Seattle, a city whose budget is approximately $4 billion, voting to withdraw our funds ... money that covers the biweekly payroll of $30 million for about 12,000 employees—is an opportunity to send a message.”