U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) recently came out in support of the Dakota Access pipeline, the hotly contested Energy Transfer Partners-owned pipeline envisioned to move oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin. As the pipeline transports oil across North and South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, it will cross farms, natural areas, and perhaps most notably, ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which is one of several tribes disagreeing with Sen. Hoeven's assessment that this pipeline is “infrastructure we need.”
What Sen. Hoeven — an outspoken supporter of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline — did not mention, however, is his personal investment in 68 different oil-producing wells in North Dakota under the auspices of the company Mainstream Investors, LLC according to his most recent congressional personal financial disclosure form.
Seventeen of those wells are owned by Continental Resources, the company whose CEO Harold Hamm also serves as a campaign energy adviser to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Those wells have a value of between $11,000–$171,000, and 14 of them, named Wahpeton, are located within 18 miles of the Dakota Access Watford City terminal site.
In a twist of irony, Wahpeton is part of the namesake of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe, whose reservation sits in southeast North Dakota and northeast South Dakota. The tribe passed a resolution in 2014 in opposition to the building of the Dakota Access pipeline.
Image Credit: Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe
Many Native American tribes have come out against the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose current reservation is also within a half mile of the proposed pipeline's path, has filed a lawsuit and requested a court-ordered injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
However, Sen. Hoeven insists he has been supportive and “respectful” of tribal concerns about consultation during the pipeline permitting process, despite criticisms from three federal agencies about the process and continued complaints and protests from tribal members.
Hoeven is a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, where he has the responsibility to ensure tribal concerns are heard and adequately addressed. However, not all of his constituents feel he is living up to this role.
“It is deplorable that Senator Hoeven, and others like him, sit on the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs,” said Krystal Two Bulls, a participant in the Red Warrior Camp, which has joined up with the Sacred Stone Camp and is an ongoing encampment situated along the pipeline's route at the Standing Rock Reservation. “It's a Committee that should be comprised of people who will look out for the best interest of Indian country, but has turned into a gateway for predators to take advantage of Native American people and their lands.”
Continental has given Sen. Hoeven $10,200 in campaign contributions during this campaign cycle, and Hamm and his former wife Sue have given him $8,000 in campaign contributions since 2010, according to Oil Change International's Dirty Energy Money database.
The senator also has hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of investments in 33 North Dakota-based oil wells owned by Whiting Petroleum Corporation and hundreds of thousands of dollars more in investments in seven wells owned by ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy. Both companies have donated generously to his 2016 senate campaign.
“Senator Hoeven makes his decisions based on the merits,” Hoeven spokesman Don Canton said via email when asked if the investments and campaign money influenced his support for the pipeline. “As far as his other investments, they’re all fully disclosed.”