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Norway's biggest bank may reconsider Dakota Access funding

Bank reported to have financed about 10 per cent of pipeline project

CBC News

November 08, 2016

Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline stand-off with police near the town of Cannon Ball, N.D., on October 27. (Morton County Sheriff's Office/Handout via Reuters )

Norway's biggest bank says it may reevaluate its involvement in the funding the Dakota Access pipeline after being hit by criticism at home.

DNB said in a release issued earlier this week that it is concerned about how the situation surrounding the oil pipeline has developed. The bank said it will use its position as lender to the project "to encourage a more constructive process to find solutions to the conflict that has arisen."

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DNB said its policy is to only finance projects that meet its requirements with respect to environmental and social conditions. "We have intensified the dialogue with our customers and emphasized that respect for the indigenous people's rights is an important value for us as a bank," the bank said.

"If our initiative does not provide us with the necessary comfort, DNB will evaluate its further participation in the financing of the project," Harald Serck-Hanssen, group executive vice president at DNB, said.

The Dakota Access pipeline would carry oil for 1,900 kilometres across four U.S. states, from North Dakota's Bakken oil formation to pipelines in Illinois. From there, the oil would go to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Protesters have made a stand near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, calling for the pipeline to be rerouted. They say the pipeline and construction process pose a risk to local water supplies and sacred sites. Over 100 people were arrested in late October when police moved in to evict them from land owned by Energy Transfer Partners, which is building the pipeline.

According to Reuters, Norwegian news outlet Aftenposten has reported that DNB has made loans worth more than $342 million US toward the construction of the pipeline, or almost 10 per cent of the cost of the project.

For its involvement in the North Dakota pipeline, DNB is reported to have been the target of online protests and been threatened with a boycott by some customers.

Other banks embroiled 

Meanwhile, in another example of pressure being put on financial institutions funding energy projects, several banks, including Canada's TD Bank, have come under scrutiny for their role in financing a $2.5-billion US loan for the construction of the the Dakota Access pipeline.

In an open letter issued Monday by BankTrack, a Netherlands-based advocacy group, on behalf of several environmental organizations, the banks were urged to halt loans to the project "until all outstanding issues are resolved to the full satisfaction of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe."

The letter was sent to the Equator Principles Association, a group of financial institutions that have all adopted a framework for managing environmental and social risk in projects. The New York Times has reported that 13 of the 17 banks involved in the Dakota Access loan are members of Equator Principles.

TD Bank is among the Canadian banks that are members of the Equator Principles, along with BMO, CIBC, Scotiabank, Royal Bank, Manulife, and Export Development Canada.

In emailed statement to CBC News, TD said it supports responsible energy development.

"We employ due diligence in our lending and investing activities relating to energy production, and we work with our customers, community and environment groups, and energy clients to better understand key issues of concern, and to promote informed dialogue," the bank said. "We also respect the rights of people to voice their opinions and protest in a peaceful way."
 

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