On Friday, Sept. 9, hundreds of Food & Water Watch activists delivered a petition to a Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) board of trustees meeting in Mechanicsburg, Pa. The petition calls for state officials to drop investments in Energy Trust Partners (ETP), one of the companies by the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that will connect Bakken and Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Ill.
The pipeline was originally supposed to cross through the Missouri River near Bismarck, but it was moved to North Dakota on the ground that an oil spill in that area would have had a negative impact. The pipeline will enable the transportation of crude oil North Dakota to Illinois, and was anticipated to be fully functional by 2016.
The pipeline has stirred up controversy ever since its approval in July of 2015. According to a letter written by Pennsylvania State Representative Leanne Krueger-Braneky, the pipeline will “disturb ancient and sacred burial grounds belonging to North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and compromise their water safety.”
Just after the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues called the United States and the pipeline’s main backer, ETP, to respect the protests of the Standing Rock Sioux to prevent an escalation of violence, pipeline security workers were seen siccing attack dogs on Native American protestors on Saturday, Sept. 3.
A tribal spokesman said six people were bitten and 30 people were either sprayed with pepper spray or maced.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archaumbault II said in a statement: “These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaces. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground.”
While many Native American tribes and citizens are protesting the creation of the pipeline on the grounds of environmental issues, many more are protesting due to financial effects.
One of the investors of ETP is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and records show that as of this past June, the commonwealth owned some five million shares of ETP.
Records also indicate that a bulk of the investment is through PSERS. According to the Food and Water Watch Organization, an environmental conservation organization, much of the commonwealth’s shares are tied to the pension fund for public school employees.
Senior organizer at Food & Water Watch Sam Bernhardt says, “Our tax dollars should not be used to support climate catastrophe and the destruction of sacred land for oil company profiteering.”
Editor-in-chief Samantha Mineroff commented on the controversy surrounding the creation of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“I don’t think the Commonwealth should invest their money into something that will eventually harm the environment,” she said.
Kinjal Shah is a third-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at KS826308@wcupa.edu.