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By Jesse Coleman

Since the presidential debate on Sept. 26, we've been hearing quite a bit about Donald Trump's tax returns (or lack thereof). While the conversation has revolved around why Trump has chosen not to release his returns—as all presidential candidates have since 1980—we do know some things about what those returns would reveal should he choose to make them public.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

In particular, we already know quite a bit about Trump's connections to the fossil fuel industry and to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Trump has deep financial and personnel ties to the pipeline, which would transport nearly 500,000 barrels of fracked oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline threatens the water supply and sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, who have joined with dozens of tribes and other groups to stop the project.

While much of Trump's finances remain a mystery, he did have to file a financial disclosure form when he declared his candidacy for president (despite his claims, this is not the same and does not provide the same level of transparency as a tax return). This disclosure form shows significant investments in the fossil fuel industry and two of the fossil fuel companies Trump holds stock in are directly funding the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Trump disclosed between $500,000 and $1 million in investments in the primary builder of the pipeline, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. He also disclosed $50,000 to $100,000 in investments in Phillips 66, which would own one-quarter of the Dakota Access Pipeline once completed.

Trump's Other (Disclosed) Fossil Investments Include:

But Trump's ties to fossil fuels and infrastructure projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline don't stop at his financial investments. They run deep through the team advising him on energy policy, including top adviser and oil billionaire Harold Hamm.

Hamm is Trump's energy adviser, campaign surrogate and the CEO of the largest fracking company in the country, Continental Resources. He's made billions of dollars drilling and fracking for oil in North Dakota and it would be Continental's oil that would flow through the Dakota Access Pipeline if completed.

Hamm recently announced to investors that oil fracked from his North Dakota holdings would be transported by the pipeline and he anticipates huge profits for himself when the project is completed.

Neither Trump nor his running mate Mike Pence has said anything about the Dakota Access Pipeline directly or the fight by Indigenous communities to stop it. But with the #NoDAPL fight raging in the background, Trump has vowed to "streamline" pipeline permitting and do away with governmental oversight of fossil fuel infrastructure projects. He also promised to bring the Keystone XL pipeline project back from the dead, which was halted by the Obama administration due to massive pushback from around the country.

What does it mean that Trump could personally profit off a project that tramples Indigenous rights and pushes us closer to climate disaster? For one thing—if Trump's past investments are any guide—this project could well crash and burn, which would be a relief to the Standing Rock Sioux, the climate and everyone in the path of this dangerous fossil fuel project.

Jesse Coleman is a researcher with the Greenpeace Investigations team. His focus is on front groups, fracking, and the oil and gas industry. Jesse's work has been featured in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Colbert Report, Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, and NPR.

Shailene Woodley, star of The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series, was arrested Monday morning while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in Sioux County, North Dakota.

Screenshot from Shailene Woodley Facebook page.

Woodley was streaming live on her Facebook page Monday during a peaceful protest at Standing Rock. The protest was in response to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Monday that lifted a temporary injunction on the pipeline, allowing construction to resume.

The actress and environmental activist was trying to head back to her RV to go back to camp, when she noticed it was surrounded by police and a riot vehicle. As she approached her RV, she was stopped by police dressed in riot and military gear. After speaking with them, she was told on camera that she was being arrested for criminal trespassing. A spokesman for the Morton County Sheriff's Department said she was also arrested for engaging in a riot. Her mother was with her at the time.

When she asked why she was being arrested and no one else, and whether it was because people know who she is, the officer who appeared to be in charge said it was because she was identified.

As she was being put in handcuffs, Woodley explained to a person off-camera that she was being arrested for trespassing down by the pipeline where hundreds of others had gathered, but that she left as soon as police arrived and was told to leave.

"It's because I'm well-known, it's because I have 40,000 people watching it," she said.

Twenty-six other protesters were also arrested, according to media reports.

Protesters and members of more than 90 Native American nations and tribes have been encamped on the Missouri River since May fighting against the construction of the 1,170-mile pipeline that would transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil across four states, including sacred sites and burial grounds.

Woodley has been very vocal on social media about her feelings on the Dakota Access Pipeline and has been at the protests on a consistent basis which she recently talked about on Late Night With Seth Meyers along with Bernie Sanders.


"It's been remarkable. It's one of the greatest experiences of my life," she said.

"This is the first time that you have this many tribes gathered in one place, standing together united, to stand up for not only their rights, but human rights, and the access to clean water—all they're doing is protecting clean water," she added.

Woodley said while the temporary halt on the pipeline's construction the Obama administration did is "beautiful," it's not a win. A win, she said, is for them to say we're not moving the pipeline to another location, but we're going to stop it, like the Obama Administration did with Keystone XL.

Until then, we're sure to see Woodley out there again as she continues to fight for Native American rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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In a setback for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters, on Sunday evening, one hour before the start of the second presidential debate, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction that had stopped construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, allowing work to resume.

The $3.7 billion, 1,170-mile pipeline would transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil across four states, which include sacred sites and burial grounds documented by the tribe.

"We are troubled by the court's decision, but as water protectors and land defenders, our resolve to stop this Bakken frack-oil pipeline will not be diminished," Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said. "This fight is far from over."


Last month, after a federal judge rejected the tribe's challenge to halt construction on lands near their reservation, the Obama administration stepped in and revoked its authorization to construct the pipeline on federal land bordering or under Lake Oahu. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a review that it says will be completed within weeks.

In its order, the court noted, "But ours is not the final word. A necessary easement still awaits government approval—a decision corps' counsel predicts is likely weeks away; meanwhile, intervenor DAPL has rights of access to the limited portion of pipeline corridor not yet cleared—where the Tribe alleges additional historic sites are at risk."

"The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is not backing down from this fight," Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said on Facebook. "We are guided by prayer, and we will continue to fight for our people. We will not rest until our lands, people, waters and sacred places are permanently protected from this destructive pipeline."

While the court said the tribe hadn't met the strict requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act to force a halt to construction, it did express sympathy for the tribe saying, "We can only hope the spirit of Section 106 may yet prevail." Section 106 requires federal agencies to consult with tribes about any potential impact on their cultural and historic sites, and specifically directs agencies to "respect tribal sovereignty."

Archambault told NBC News, "It seems they are coming to the same conclusion as the federal government in acknowledging there is something wrong with the approvals for the pipeline. We see this as an encouraging sign."

By Larry Buhl

A federal judge in Washington, DC declined Tuesday to order the halt of all construction on a portion of the contentious Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) route that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe had recently identified as sacred tribal burial ground, a site that was bulldozed over the Labor Day weekend by pipeline construction crews.

Hundreds of people marched peacefully on Sept. 4 to protest the destruction of sacred sites and burial grounds in the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.Dallas Goldtooth

The ancient site was discovered only days before its destruction and was awaiting review by the state historic preservation office.

At the judge's request, Dakota Access LLC agreed to halt construction on only a small area in contention until the judge issues a separate ruling this week on a preliminary injunction motion brought by the tribe over the pipeline.

The tribe has been locked in a legal fight against Dakota Access and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over a pipeline that would cross sacred sites and potentially affect water that the tribe depends on. The DAPL pipeline's full path extends across North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II issued a statement saying the tribe was "disappointed that the U.S. District Court's decision does not prevent DAPL from destroying our sacred sites as we await a ruling on our original motion to stop construction of the pipeline."

The tribe had filed an emergency motion on Sunday, Sept. 4 for the temporary restraining order to prevent further destruction of sacred sites.

Tuesday's order isn't the end of these legal battles. Federal Judge James Boasberg is expected to rule on Friday on an injunction that would halt all pipeline-related construction near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Violence Against Protesters

On Sept. 3, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their swelling numbers of supporters were on their way to a blockade wall near the DAPL construction site to sing and give prayers as the tribe had done every day for months. They would then march back to the site of their protest camp.

On Tuesday morning, however, when they heard the roar of bulldozers from less than a mile away from the construction site, many of them ran to intervene. What they encountered was a scene, many of them say, out of civil rights clashes of the 1960s.

Widely circulated video first aired by Democracy Now shows pipeline security workers using attack dogs and pepper spray on demonstrators who were protesting the bulldozing of recently identified sacred sites. By the time the security team backed down and drove off, several protesters—including a child and a pregnant woman—were bitten by security dogs and 30 suffered from the affects of pepper spray.

Local authorities called it "a riot" and blamed the protesters, not the security detail, for the incident. North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley has called protests by the tribe and supporters "unlawful." According to NPR, the sheriff's department said protesters stampeded into the construction area with horses, dogs and vehicles.

Cody Hall, a spokesperson for the Red Warrior Camp, a group allied with the Standing Rock Sioux, was on the front line of Saturday's demonstration and tells DeSmog that the security company's claims of injuries are "absolutely false."

"The company says they were hit with objects which just isn't true," Hall said. "We had no weapons, just our voices. The video doesn't lie. One female security guard laughed and said, 'I told you so,' when her dog bit one of us."

Tomas Alejo

Tomas Alejo

What Hall found just as disturbing was the action of the state police present. "The state police were sitting there watching the whole scene," he said. "Not once did the police move to intervene."

All protest actions, ongoing since April, have been peaceful, according to a tribal spokesperson.

Dakota Access LLC's parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Sacred Site Destruction as Fait Accompli

A huge question looms. Why would Dakota Access bulldoze lands that it knew—or should have known—were sacred?

For the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters, the answer is clear: to project power and make the tribe give up.

Following Saturday's bulldozing, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archaumbault II said in a statement:

"They did this on a holiday weekend, one day after we filed court papers identifying these sacred sites. The desecration of these ancient places has already caused the Standing Rock Sioux irreparable harm. We're asking the court to halt this path of destruction."

After the initial destruction Saturday, Dakota Access workers returned to the area and dug up additional grounds before dawn on Sunday, Archambault said.

"These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground," Archambault added.

Dallas Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, released a statement on Facebook Sunday:

"Dakota Access literally plowed through a burial site and a significant ceremonial site that was JUST identified by the landowner and tribal experts a few days before. This was off-reservation. The tribe filed the discovery with a federal judge that is deciding whether to grant an injunction against Dakota Access. However … in order for construction to be halted, the ND State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) had to come and officially survey the site, because it was in their jurisdiction. So what did Dakota Access do?? They plowed through the land before the SHPO could come do their surveys."

Many tribe members and their supporters believe that—because the company knew about the sacred sites—the bulldozers were dispatched on Saturday as an act of psychological warfare against the tribe, a way of exerting power and projecting an air of inevitability.

"(The company) knows they can just bulldoze the site, destroy the evidence and pay a fine," Ben-Alex Dupris, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux, whose land abuts the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, tells DeSmog. "They can do whatever they want, but no amount of money can bring this site back."

Two Years of "Steamrolling" the Tribe

Tribal members began protesting the pipeline construction as early as April 2016, when a group of young tribal members from Standing Rock ran from North Dakota to Washington, DC, to present a petition in protest of the construction of Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access pipeline.

On Aug. 24, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed suit in federal district court in Washington, DC, against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is the primary federal agency that granted permits needed for construction of the pipeline.

According to the tribe's legal counsel, Earthjustice, the Army Corps took an illegally narrow view of its responsibilities to protect and engage the tribe when it granted the fast-track permits. The tribe further purports that pipeline construction was approved by the Army Corps without consulting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe or conducting a full review of crucial environmental or cultural impacts.

The lawsuit alleges that the Army Corps violated multiple federal statutes, including the Clean Water Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, when it issued the permits, and is demanding a halt to all construction near tribal lands until a more thorough assessment of the impacts is made.

Stephanie Tsosie, an associate attorney with Earthjustice, said the consultation process by the Army Corps of Engineers has been "inadequate at best."

"Since 2014, when the pipeline construction was announced, the tribe has consistently reached out for consultation, but the Corps steamrolled the tribe throughout the process," Tsosie told DeSmog.

"All the tribe wanted and what we asked the judge for on August 24 was for the tribe to have a seat at the table and for the Corps to fully explore all the risks and burdens associated with the pipeline," Tsosie added.

In July, Dakota Access filed an unrelated lawsuit in federal court in Bismarck, North Dakota, against the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, one of the tribe's elected officials and several other individuals. The company claimed that these individuals were interfering unlawfully with pipeline construction.

Allies Stand Against the Pipeline

Support and protesters have been flowing into the Sacred Stone Camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, since April, with a huge influx in late August. Right now there are more than five dozen Native tribes represented at the camp, which demonstrators say is starting to resemble a village.

For the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the pipeline is not just a spiritual crisis. They say it is a very real threat to the Missouri River watershed, which the tribe depends on. The entire Dakota Access pipeline would carry as much as 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil daily through the Dakotas, Iowa and Illinois.

Farmers whose land sits in the way of the pipeline are also concerned about safety and enraged about the cavalier attitude of the company. In Iowa, farmers and allies have risked arrest to take a stand against the pipeline.

Earlier this year, the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) granted Dakota Access eminent domain across the state's entire pipeline route, extending through 18 counties. Fifteen Iowa landowners have filed a lawsuit against the IUB, challenging its eminent domain authority and "public utility" claims behind Energy Transfer Partner's seizure of their land. The same company has used a similar argument to seize land for another pipeline in Pennsylvania.

More than two dozen environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, have severely criticized federal permitting agencies involved with the entire Bakken pipeline project for failures involving insufficient public engagement and environmental review.

Last week, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues called on the U.S. and Energy Transfer Partners to respect the Standing Rock Sioux's objections to the project and called for a "fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process to resolve this serious issue and to avoid escalation into violence and further human rights abuses."

Dell Hambleton

Cheyenne River Sioux member Ben-Alex Dupris says that the company's weekend actions underscore the operating procedure of Dakota Access and Energy Transfer Partners.

"This is the mentality of the companies," DuPris said. "Do whatever they want, don't worry if it's legal, pay a fine later. This should be a red flag about the safety of the water supply. How would they respond if there is a spill? Pay a fine and keep doing what they're doing."

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