Wall Street Invading Wet’suwet’en Territory

Wet’suwe

t’en fishing site on Bulkley River and the entrance of Moricetown Canyon, in Moricetown, British Columbia, Canada. Photograph Source: Jerome Charaoui – FAL

The uprising across Canada in support of Wet’suwet’en First Nation land defenders shows no sign of stopping. As of February 11, ports, bridges, rail lines, highways and roads have been blockaded across much of the country by solidarity protesters, who have also occupied the offices of politicians and at least one bank.

These actions were prompted by the RCMP’s invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory on February 5, after which they began arresting Indigenous members opposed to the 670 kilometers (416-mile), $6.2 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline being constructed on their unceded territory in B.C.

The Wet’suwet’en have never signed a treaty and in 1997 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that they hold “Aboriginal title” to the land on which the pipeline is being built.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline will carry fracked natural gas from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat, B.C., where a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal is being built by LNG Canada – a partnership of Shell, Petronas, PetroChina, Mitsubishi, and Korean Gas.

While protesters have rightly condemned the RCMP actions, they (and the corporate media) have largely overlooked the role of a major player in this whole debacle: Wall Street titan Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., better known as KKR.

Mega-Rich Titan

On December 26, 2019 KKR announced the signing of a “definitive agreement” to acquire – along with Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) – a 65 percent equity interest in the Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project from TC Energy.

Only days later, on December 31, a B.C. Supreme Court judge extended an injunction to stop Wet’suwet’en members from blocking access to Coastal GasLink’s work camp. The injunction will reportedly be operative until the pipeline project is completed.

KKR is mega-rich, even by Wall Street standards. It has US$208 billion in assets under management and US$153 billion in fee-paying assets under management. [1] AIMCo has $108.2 billion in assets that it manages on behalf of 31 Alberta pension, endowment and government funds. [2]

KKR is what is now called a “private equity” firm – a rebranding of what used to be called “leveraged buyout firms,” which pump money into struggling companies and then re-sell them for major profits. In 2014, KKR opened an office in Calgary with a $2 billion fund to find Canadian energy investments, especially in unconventional oil and gas projects.

In its December 26, 2019 press release, KKR’s Brandon Freiman stated that “Coastal GasLink represents our third investment in infrastructure supporting Canada’s natural gas industry.”

When contacted, KKR’s media office told me that the “other projects Brandon was referring to in his quote are Veresen Midstream and SemCams Midstream.”

 

Buying Up Midstream

In oil-industry parlance, midstream refers to the equipment and pipelines that transport oil and gas from “upstream” production facilities to the “downstream” users such as refineries or LNG terminals.

Shortly after KKR set up its Calgary office, in December 2014 Encana Corp. sold its natural gas pipeline and processing assets in Western Canada’s Montney region to Veresen Inc. and KKR for $412 million. The deal allowed Encana to concentrate on drilling and fracking (“upstream”), while Veresen Midstream LP handles transportation and expansion of infrastructure. The assets sold in this deal “comprise those in the Dawson, B.C. area operated by Encana independently and in a partnership it has with Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp.” [3] At about the same time, the partnership committed to invest $5 billion of new midstream expansion in the Montney region.

By October 2015, that expansion included Veresen’s announcement of approval of the $860 million Sunrise Gas Plant, which can process 400 million cubic feet per day. Located near Dawson Creek, the Sunrise Gas Plant has been described as “the largest gas plant to be commissioned in western Canada in the last 30 years,” with Veresen Midstream’s President and CEO David Fitzpatrick stating that his company’s “footprint in the Montney will grow substantially.” [4]

KKR also entered into a joint venture with Energy Transfer on SemCams Midstream, which owns and operates six gas processing plants and 700 miles of natural gas pipelines in the Montney and Duvernay areas of Western Canada.

You may recall that Energy Transfer is the company involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests of 2016, when NoDAPL indigenous protesters from the Standing Rock reservation in the U.S. were met with severe corporate and state-supported opposition.

So KKR not only has a primary position in the midstream natural gas industry of Western Canada, it also has scandalously partnered with a company well-versed in stopping indigenous protests.

Greenwashing

Equally odious, in 2007 KKR teamed up with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on something called the Green Portfolio Program through which participating companies could “develop eco-beneficial products and services and develop ways to grow revenue through environmental improvements.” [5]

That decade-long greenwashing effort has especially been useful for KKR’s financial investment in fracking. In 2012, Forbes magazine (not known for its radical environmentalism) singled out KKR in a piece called “Guess Who’s Fueling the Fracking Boom?”, revealing how KKR has been pumping money into expanded fracking by upstream drillers, and then flipping the companies in sales deals that bring billions in profits to KKR. [6]

Perhaps not surprisingly, KKR Global Institute’s Chair is David Petraeus, the former Director of the CIA, who has wholeheartedly endorsed fracking. [7]

In the KKR Global Institute’s latest report (issued on January 15, 2020), the company touts itself for partnering “with companies that mitigate climate change, enhance resilient development [and] protect water quality … As a result, ‘doing well by doing good’ remains a growing investment theme in KKR in 2020.” [8]

LNG Canada in Kitimat, where the Coastal GasLink pipeline will bring the fracked natural gas, has claimed that it will be the lowest carbon-emitting LNG plant in the world, and that LNG exports will substitute for dirtier fuels like coal. But critics such as the Pembina Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have seriously questioned this notion of LNG as a so-called “bridge fuel” to a low-carbon future, especially because of the methane leaks implicit in upstream, midstream and downstream processes. In terms of the climate emergency, methane is dozens of times more polluting than CO2.

Indeed, The Georgia Straight recently highlighted a statement by Stanford University professor Mark Z. Jacobson about methane leaks from an ExxonMobil fracking site: “Next time some paid liar in the fossil fuel industry insists fracked gas is helping solve the climate crisis, remind them a single @exxonmobil fracking site ‘leaked more methane in 20 days than all but 3 European nations over an entire year’.” [9]

Paid Liars

Wall Street’s KKR private equity titan appears to be packed with some very well-paid liars, who croon about “doing well by doing good” while invading Wet’suwet’en territory with their Coastal GasLink project and watching while the RCMP carry out the arrests. It’s time the focus should be placed on them. SOURCE

Why the Climate Movement’s Next Big Target Is Wall Street

Photo: Getty

Climate activists are taking on a new pipeline: The one that funnels money from Wall Street into planetary destruction.

A coalition of climate, environmental, youth, and indigenous organizations unveiled Stop the Money Pipeline, a campaign to “pressure banks, insurance companies and asset managers to stop financing fossil fuels and deforestation and start respecting human rights and Indigenous sovereignty,” late last week.

Banks, asset managers, and insurance companies may seem like less obvious targets than going directly after, say, oil and gas companies or the Trump administration. But Wall Street plays an essential role in the fossil fuel industry’s expansion. Staunching the flow of money could be an effective way to prevent more oil, gas, and coal from being dug up, which is exactly what has to happen (and then some) to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Though many banking institutions have branded themselves as green, the world’s top 33 largest banks collectively provided $1.9 trillion in financing for coal, oil, and gas companies since countries put forth the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.

“There are only a few major companies like Exxon Mobil, who can self-finance a project and put up all the money themselves,” Jamie Henn, 350.org co-founder, told Earther.

And even oil majors like Exxon rely on capital from investment firms like BlackRock and insurance from companies like Liberty Mutual (that have also both adopted green branding), said Henn. “If we can knock out this pillar of financing for the fossil fuel industry, we can take out the entire industry itself,” he said.

There’s precedent for successful public pressure campaigns going after money that finances fossil fuel exploitation. The divestment movement led by 350.org has seen colleges and universities, cities, religious institutions, and pension funds to withdraw their investments from fossil fuel corporations. The climate divestment movement itself is modeled after the successful efforts to divest from apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.

“When we launched that campaign, we were actually saying, ‘we’re not really looking to make a financial impact,’ we want to make a political impact with this work,” he said. “What surprised us is how much of a financial impact it actually made.”

In late 2018, the movement hit a milestone with 1,000 groups agreeing to divest from fossil fuels. The number has since risen to nearly 1,160 groups managing $12 trillion (though not all of it is in fossil fuels).

Henn said he realized the financial potential of the movement in 2016, when Peabody, the world’s biggest coal company, announced it was going bankrupt and listed divestment as one of the reasons why. A 2018 Goldman Sachs report shows it’s not just Peabody, noting that the “divestment movement has been a key driver of the coal sector’s 60% de-rating over the past five years.”

There are other recent successes beyond divestment as well. Due at least in part to public pressure, Goldman Sachs became the first major U.S. bank to stop funding oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge last month. An in July, Chubb announced it will be the first U.S. insurer to phase out its coal investments and insurance policies within the next three years. The four largest European insurance firms no longer cover coal power-related projects.

“So what we’re doing now is sort of taking this to the next level and going to the banks and insurance [companies] and the asset managers themselves,” said Henn, “to demand that they take action… against all fossil fuels.”

That action can’t come soon enough. The United Nations’ (UN) recent Production Gap Report shows that within a decade, planned fossil fuel production will “more than double what’s allowable to avoid 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming.” This year’s UN climate talks in November will also focus specifically on the role of finance in furthering the climate crisis. By that time, the campaign hopes to see firm commitments from banks and insurers to not finance projects that worsen climate change, and to instead fund renewable energy and reforestation.

The organizations running the campaign—which launched at the last Fire Drill Friday protest hosted by Jane Fonda in Washington, DC—have identified three initial primary targets. One, JPMorgan Chase, is the top global financer of fossil fuels. It has poured $196 billion in financing to fossil fuel companies since 2016, roughly 10 percent of all fossil fuel financing from major global banks. And Lee Raymond, Exxon’s former CEO, is on their board. Despite such a seemingly large investment in fossil fuels, shifting away from financing projects wouldn’t kill Chase. Janet Redman, Greenpeace’s climate campaign director, told Earther that fossil fuels roughly seven percent of Chase’s business.

“So while that is an incredible amount of money and it means a lot to the planet,” she said, “some of these institutions can make small shifts in their portfolio—really less than 10 percent effectiveness—and accomplish a lot for the planet.”

Another, Liberty Mutual, is a top insurer of and investor in energy mega-projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline. The company invests over $8.9 billion in fossil fuel companies and utilities. They’ve also withdrawn coverage from and increased the costs of insurance for longtime customers in areas at risk of climate change impacts, such as wildfire-affected areas in California.

And then there’s BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm with nearly $7 trillion in assets worldwide. It’s also the largest investor in commodities linked to fossil fuels and deforestation. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink frequently calls on corporations to take on a “social purpose.” But his company is the world’s top investor in public oil, gas and coal companies, and is among the world’s top shareholders in companies that deforest the Amazon to produce and trade soy, beef, palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber and timber.

Stopping these investments would not only be good for the climate, but also for indigenous communities and other vulnerable people worldwide. The Liberty Mutual-backed Trans Mountain pipeline, for instance is routed through First Nations territories. And deforestation in the Amazon, such as that undertaken by BlackRock’s clients, has caused a human rights emergency for indigenous people. Those human rights violations are not only ethically unconscionable, but they could also leave investors open to legal action down the road.

Last Thursday, BlackRock announced that it’s joining the Climate Action 100+, a group of investors that manage assets worth over $35 trillion worth, which pressures the world’s biggest polluters to show how they will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

In the coming months, the Stop the Money Pipeline campaign will demand each of these targets divest from coal, oil, gas, and deforestation, while pressuring the federal government to strictly regulate the energy industry. Next Thursday, the campaign will be targeting Wells Fargo in Washington, DC for their fossil fuel finance and human rights violations, and on February 13, they’ll hold a nationwide day of action targeting college campuses and state pension funds urging divestment from fossil fuels.

They might not have to wait long to see results. After Blackrock’s shift last week, the firm’s CEO said in his annual letter that the world is “on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” and announced that the company will no longer invest in thermal coal.

But the firm and others have a lot of work left to do, so activists will be reminding them of that in the coming weeks. SOURCE
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Protesters Dump Fake Blood On Charging Bull; Dozens Arrested

Cops cuffed 27 people Monday as environmental activists covered the iconic statue with fake blood and blocked traffic on Broadway.

Activists splashed fake blood on the "Charging Bull" statute on Wall Street during a Monday protest demanding action to address climate change.Activists spashed fake blood on the “Charging Bull” statue during a Monday protest demaning action to address climate change. Photo courtesy of @Postcards4USA/twitter

FINANCIAL DISTRICT, NY — Dozens of protesters were arrested after activists splashed fake blood on the Financial District’s “Charging Bull” sculpture during a Monday morning protest demanding action to combat climate change.

Cops cuffed 27 people during the demonstration in front of the Wall Street icon, which started about 11 a.m., the NYPD said. They will likely be charged with disorderly conduct, a police spokesperson said.

Dozens of protesters — some of them also covered with red paint — also blocked traffic farther up Broadway near Pine Street after splattering the statue in their bold effort to draw attention to the climate crisis.

“Denying it is — I’m not religious — but it’s sinful,” said Ben Watts, a protester from Brooklyn. “It’s totally immoral. I have a kid. The way it’s going, she may have no real future.”
The activist group Extinction Rebellion took credit for the protest, which drew more than 100 people to the Financial District. A video posted to Twitter shows an activist holding a flag emblazoned with the organization’s logo standing atop the bloodied bull.

Extinction Rebellion NYC 🌎@XR_NYC

Financial sectors profit from ecocide, so we must rebel

Embedded video

“Financial sectors profit from ecocide, so we must rebel,” the group said on Twitter.

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