Wells Fargo has told tribal elders from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that it’s willing to meet with them before year-end to talk about the bank’s role in the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been the target of an ongoing protest by the tribe and others.
The San Francisco-based bank is one of more than a dozen major financial institutions with investments in the pipeline.
In a letter that some recipients posted on Twitter, Wells Fargo, which has its biggest employee hub in Charlotte, offered to hold a meeting with a “select group of tribal elders” before Jan. 1 and said it respects “all the differing opinions being expressed in this dispute.”
In a statement provided to the Observer, Wells said the company is “committed to environmental sustainability and human rights” and that it hopes “all parties involved will work together to reach a peaceful resolution.” Reuters reported on the Wells Fargo letter on Friday.
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The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others say the pipeline north of the reservation could pollute drinking water and threatens sacred sites and want changes made to its route. The pipeline is largely complete except for a short segment that is planned to pass beneath a Missouri River reservoir, and Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners says it is unwilling to reroute the project.
The proposed 1,172-mile-long pipeline would transport oil from the North Dakota Bakken region through South Dakota, Iowa and into Illinois.
On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied Energy Transfer Partners LP a permit to build a section of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota after weeks of opposition from Native Americans, environmentalists and other groups.
“There’s more work to do” in exploring alternative routes, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the corps’ assistant secretary for civil works, said in a statement Sunday, rejecting the company’s request for a permit to route the line under Lake Oahe. The move punts a decision to the administration of President-elect Donald Trump. He expressed support for Dakota Access as recently as Dec. 1.
Protests against the crude-oil pipeline have resulted in hundreds of arrests and drawn support from celebrities. The standoff is emblematic of a broader effort by environmentalists to stall oil and gas pipelines, which they say aren’t needed and hurt the nation’s progress in reducing its reliance on fossil fuels. Protesters who have camped for months in North Dakota had been told the area would be closed on Monday and they would have to move to designated protest zones.
Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners LP called the move “a purely political action” in a statement Sunday, adding that they are fully committed to bringing the project to completion.
In its statement, Wells said it is “committed to supporting responsible development of all forms of energy, including large investments in renewable energy,” adding that since 2012 the company has invested more than $52 billion in environmentally sustainable businesses.
Wells also said it has provided banking and financial services to more than 200 Native American tribal entities in 27 different states and in the past three years has provided more than $11 million in charitable contributions to hundreds of tribal nonprofit organizations.
The third-largest U.S. bank by assets said it is one of 17 banks involved in financing the Dakota Access Pipeline. The bank’s loans represent less than 5 percent of the total amount, Wells said.
The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Charlotte-based Bank of America had a role in the pipeline.