The 1,200-mile Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) underground oil project has generated massive protests at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and here in the Bay Area, but earlier this month received federal approval allowing for its completion. Opponents of the pipeline are now taking a different tack, urging their city governments to divest from banking with institutions involved with the project.
That led to a gaggle of about two dozen protesters speaking out at the Tuesday, Feb. 28 San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting, as the demonstrators endured more than six hours of board business waiting their turn to petition the board during public comment for a full divestment from banks involved with the DAPL.
Seattle, WA and Davis, CA have already taken similar measures, divesting from Wells Fargo because of that bank’s investment in the pipeline. San Francisco supervisors did pass a November resolution offering general support to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. But DAPL opponents are now taking aim at the city’s involvement with the pipeline-invested Bank of America, a bank who does business with San Francisco “in excess of $10 billion per year” according to a statement from the chief assistant treasurer.
“We ask that they change their bank from Bank of America to someone else, and to switch that $10 billion to somewhere else that’s not at all involved with the Dakota Access Pipeline,” SF Defund DAPL Coalition organizer Jackie Fielder tells SF Weekly. “We want [the Supervisors] to tell them now, because the situation is so urgent at Standing Rock and oil is set to flow within the next week.”
A stream of activists made their case to the board for about 45 minutes. “The Unites States government has broken every single treaty it’s made with Native Americans,” schoolteacher Shauna Keddy told the board. “I know that San Francisco wants to stand on the right side of history as far as Native American rights.”
Elizabeth Milos, a member of a University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) local chapter, explained that it’s not just bad ethics to be invested in DAPL — it’s bad long-term business to invest public funds in fossil fuels.
“Unfortunately, our University of California retirement plan has money invested in Energy Transfer Partners as well as several of the banks that are funding the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Milos tells SF Weekly. “Pension funds are at risk if we continue to have our money in fossil fuels. The investment managers of those pension funds are not complying with their fiduciary duty if they do not wake up and move those funds into renewables.”
The board currently has no ordinances or any action forthcoming to divest from banks that support the pipeline. But activists who oppose the DAPL intend to keep the pressure on, and recommend individual action.
“Calling this Board of Supervisors has been effective,” Fielder says. “Keep in tune to our Facebook page at SF Defund DAPL Coalition and show up when we ask. And reassess everyone’s personal stake in this pipeline and to consider switching to a credit union or an alternative that is more socially responsible.”