Citizens Bank Asked to Stop Funding Pipeline Work

Environmental activists recently delivered a letter to Citizens Bank asking it to end pipeline funding. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

Environmental activists recently delivered a letter to Citizens Bank asking it to end pipeline funding. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Environmental activists are pleading on moral and ethical grounds for Citizens Bank to withdraw its funding for the Dakota Access Pipeline project (DAPL).

On Feb. 15, six activists from The FANG Collective delivered a letter to the downtown corporate offices of Citizens Bank asking the state’s largest financial institution end its line of credit for the 1,100-mile oil pipeline project.

According to FANG, Citizens Bank offers a revolving line of credit to Sunoco Logistics Partners, one of the owners of DAPL. The company recently merged with Energy Transfer Partners and the new company has four pipelines, including DAPL, under construction in the United States.

“These projects are neither conscionable or sustainable, and we write to advise that Citizens immediately close its line of credit for Sunoco Logistic Partners,” the letter said.

The message was addressed to Peter Lucht, head of media relations for Citizens Bank. Lucht hasn't responded to multiple requests from ecoRI News for comment.

Activism against DAPL’s financial backers, such as TD Bank, was prevalent last summer and fall both in Providence and around the country, when the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters clashed with police and private security forces in the plains of North Dakota. Much of the opposition effort ceased Dec. 4 when the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would seek an alternate route for a section of pipeline slated to go under Lake Oahe, which is part of the Missouri River.

The sense of victory changed Jan. 25, when President Trump instructed the Army Corps to issue an expedited approval of the crude-oil pipeline. On Feb. 8, the Army Corps gave the green light for construction under Lake Oahe. Work on the pipeline has resumed and, according to some estimates, the pipeline could be completed within a month. Legal challenges have, so far, failed to pause construction.

The future of activism at Standing Rock is unclear. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe asked activists to close and vacate a camp by Feb. 22. While the site is being dismantled, protesters are relocating to a nearby Sacred Stone Camp, one that sits at a higher elevation to avoid seasonal flooding. More activists are arriving daily and building shelter.

The lake, a half-mile from the tribe’s reservation, is an ecologically sensitive reservoir and is revered by Native Americans. Opponents fear the pipeline will rupture and contaminate the local drinking-water supply. According to a report by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistic Partners suffered 35 oil spills, releasing 111,000 gallons of fuel, during the past two years.

In its letter, FANG praised Citizens Bank for offering programs that improve financial literacy and reduce homelessness. The environmental advocacy group now wants the bank to apply those ethics to its core business.

“We call on you to act now: condemn the violence at Standing Rock. Align your financial investments with your commitments and name climate justice and indigenous rights as pillars in your mission. Protect your moral standing,” the letter said.