CalPERS Puts Pressure on Banks Funding DAPL

CalPERS, the California public employees pension fund, along with over 120 other major investors, have called on the banks funding Dakota Access Pipeline construction to have the pipeline rerouted away from tribal lands. In a statement released February 16 the investors cite possible reputational and financial risk and urge 17 banks financing the pipeline to “utilize their influence…to reach a peaceful solution.”

The statement listed worries over both environmental and social issues if the pipeline’s course is completed as planned, saying:

“We are concerned that if DAPL’s projected route moves forward, the result will almost certainly be an escalation of conflict and unrest as well as possible contamination of the water supply”

The decision follows a meeting of the CalPERS board on February 13 at which more than 40 pension fund members, tribal representatives and California residents pressed the board to divest from DAPL. Organizers of the push for CalPERS divestment — Fossil Free California, Climate Hawks Vote and the California League of Conservation Voters — also delivered more than 53,000 signatures on a petition demanding the fund’s divestment from DAPL.

CalPERS alone is worth $300 billion, and the investors who signed on urging lenders to action have a combined $653 billion. The investors’ letter also notes that consumers have closed accounts worth $53 million and have threatened to pull out another $2.3 billion from banks funding the pipeline.

Janet Cox, of Fossil Free California, notes that the financial managers, health care companies, philanthropies and faith organizations that signed the statement stopped short of divesting from Energy Transfer Partners, the group building the pipeline. Cox said the statement represents organizational activism of a different type:

“This is an interesting test for CalPERS’ vaunted preference for ‘engagement’ with companies it disagrees with, over divestment. If the banks pay attention to these big investors and are successful in urging ETP to change the pipeline’s route, that will score one for very specifically targeted shareholder engagement.”

CalSTRS, California’s second-largest pension fund, which serves public school teachers, did not sign the letter. CalPERS and CalSTRS, which are both objects of Big Oil divestment campaigns, have an estimated combined $100 million invested in ETP.

How you can help:

  • Add your name to our petition calling on both CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest from Energy Transfer Partners.
  • Save the date: on Wednesday, April 5 at 9 am, there will be a rally at CalSTRS headquarters, 100 Waterfront Place, West Sacramento, to deliver Divest DAPL petitions to CalSTRS.

Read more about the investors’ letter to banks at the Financial Times. And read our coverage of the February 13 CalPERS meeting here.