By Richard Brooks, Iconic Divestment Coordinator at

As oil is begins flowing through the completed Dakota Access Pipeline, it’s time to ask more questions about who has blood oil on their hands and who holds responsibility for this violation of Indigenous rights.

Obviously it’s the pipeline companies. There are a handful behind the DAPL, lead by Energy Transfer Partners. Then there are the banks who financed the pipeline and remain linked to it despite calls from hundreds of thousands to cut their ties. There are seventeen banks.

And then there are the owners of the pipeline companies like: the state of New York’s pension plans.

To the tune of about $400 million dollars.

The $175 billion state pension plans helpfully and annually publish a full accounting of their investments in different companies. As a shareholder, New York state’s pension system partially ‘owns’ these companies. And it’s not too much of a stretch to say that if you partially own something, you are at least partially responsible for how that company acts: how it respects Indigenous Rights (or doesn’t), how it protects water and the environment (or doesn’t), how it engages with those who want the company to act differently (cue rubber bullets, tear gas, stun grenades and guard dogs).

Dog at with blood on his snout after attacking water protectors - Credit: Democracy Now video

Dog at protest camp with blood on his snout after attacking water protectors

We know of 6 pipeline and infrastructure companies that are part of the partnership behind the Dakota Access Pipeline. The NY State pensions own 4 of them. These aren’t banks financing the project, these are the builders of the pipeline, the ones who own it and will reap the (blood) money rewards if it is profitable.

The NY State pension plans owns:

$15 million of Enbridge

$93 million of Marathon Petroleum

$90 million of Energy Transfer Partners

$209 million Phillips 66

For a grand total of over $400 million dollars.

Dakota Access Pipeline - Credit Tony Webster

Dakota Access Pipeline – Credit Tony Webster

One person is ultimately responsible for deciding the future of these investments – to keep owning the fossil fuel companies behind this pipeline (and others) or divesting and sending a message that the NY State pensions will respect Indigenous Rights and keep our waters clean. He’s the elected state comptroller and his name is Thomas DiNapoli.

Engagement and letters to these companies or their banks ain’t working. And it’s a shirking of responsibility, an attempt to punt accountability.

By continuing to own fossil fuel companies to the tune of over $12 billion, the state pension funds, remain complicit in the human rights and environmental crimes and transgressions these companies cause.

It’s time for the state to divest from DAPL companies as a first step towards full fossil fuel divestment.

Send a message to the State Comptroller and join us to #DivestNY.

Learn more about the NY Pension Funds