Since the Dakota Access Pipeline protests heated up in September, opponents of the pipeline have warned that Donald Trump has a vested interest in Energy Transfer Partners, and therefore, wants to see the pipeline completed. In a recent interview with RT, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., an environmental lawyer, claimed that Trump’s stake in the pipeline is $2 million. In recent days, however, conflicting reports have surfaced that Trump has divested himself of any DAPL investments.
So, which is true, and does it really matter?
On November 23, the Washington Post reported that Trump dumped his stock in the DAPL over the summer.
“Trump’s share, which in a May 2015 disclosure was listed at between $500,000 and $1 million, had fallen to less than $50,000 by the time he sold it in the summer of 2016.”
Two days later, however, Bloomberg reports that he still owns shares in the DAPL’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, but at a reduced value of between $15,000 and $50,000. Bloomberg also notes that Trump owns between $100,000 and $250,000 in Phillips 66, which it says “has a one-quarter share of Dakota Access.”
However, like the story on Bloomberg says, while the investment amount itself is rather low, adding all of his assets up equal a plethora of potential conflicts of interest. It’s like saying one nickel alone doesn’t amount to much, but collect enough of them, and you’ll have quite a windfall.
Even if Trump had zero investments in the DAPL, Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren donated $1.53 million in political contributions to his campaign. Moreover, Warren also donated more than $250,000 to other GOP campaigns in 2016. And Trump himself campaigned on the platform of approving the Keystone XL and the DAPL once he’s inaugurated.
The Dakota Access Pipeline was originally slated to flow through Bismarck, North Dakota, but the route was scrapped after residents of the city raised concerns about potential water contamination. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has said that the Army Corps of Engineers failed to consult the tribe before approving the new route through reservation lands which cuts through a sacred burial ground. Several other tribal reservations have also said that they were not consulted, either.
Energy Transfer Partners also ignored a request by the Corps of Engineers to stop drilling until it could assess the environmental impact and possible reroutes. On November 9, Common Dreams reported that oil company was ignoring the Obama Administration’s request to cease drilling and that it would begin to drill beneath the Missouri River soon.
In short, it doesn’t really matter how much Trump is invested in the DAPL. His close ties to Warren and also to Harold Hamm, who helped shape Trump’s energy policy during the campaign, indicate that his administration will be friendly to the fossil fuel industry while being hostile to green energy policies.
Hamm is a billionaire whose company, Continental Resources, controls a large portion of the Bakken Formation, which is where the DAPL originates. In other words, Hamm has a direct interest in getting the pipeline built despite the outcry from opponents.
In a June 2016 story, the Washington Post describes his relationship with Hamm, a fellow billionaire, whom Trump relied on for energy policy advice.
“It was a product of the way Trump gets and absorbs advice. In this case, as in others, he relied on the contentions of other tycoons and then weaved them into his own mixture of ideas, anecdotes, and figures.”
Trump has also included Hamm on his shortlist of candidates for Energy Secretary, which actually doesn’t have much to do with energy. Instead the Energy Department, according to the New York Times, is responsible for protecting and managing the “nation’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.” Trump’s other picks for Energy Secretary are both wealthy businessmen, with one being a former environmental advisor to President George W. Bush.
Ultimately, it matters little as to whether Trump has $50,000 or $2 million invested in the DAPL because he appears intent on getting the pipeline built regardless. What matters most is whom Trump chooses to install in his cabinet, and so far, instead of draining the swamp, he seems to be filling it to overflowing.
[Featured Image by Alex Brandon/AP Images]