Oil Lobbyists Use Three State Governors as Puppets for Dakota Access Pipeline

A woman holds a sign reading, "We can't drink oil! #NoDAPL."

This is a guest post by Jesse Coleman of Greenpeace USoriginally published on Huffington Post

The Governors of three states involved in the Dakota Access pipeline are marching to the orders of a PR company hired by the Dakota Access pipeline’s builders.

On October 25th of last year, the Governors of North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa sent a letter to the Army Corp of Engineers demanding approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

A Greenpeace investigation has revealed that the first draft of this letter was written by LS2Group, a PR firm contracted by Energy Transfer Partners, the Dakota Access Pipeline’s (DAPL) main builder.

Emails between Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s staff and Craig Schoenfeld, a senior account executive for LS2Group, contain a first draft of the three governors’ letter, written by LS2. An email from Schoenfeld obtained through an open records request makes plain that LS2 wrote the letter. He also questions why the letter was  not sent to President Obama and other agency heads, as LS2 initially requested.

The draft letter we sent the four governors for consideration last month was addressed to the President, DOJ, DOI and Army, but the one approved by ND, SD, and IA was addressed to the three USACE commanders. I was curious if this was a request by one of the governors for the change i.e.to steer clear of political pushback.”

The draft sent by LS2Group in September and the letter eventually sent by the Governors contain only minor differences in content.

LS2Group has multiple employees registered to lobby for Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), and has been lobbying for DAPL since at least 2014.

The PR firm has particularly strong ties to Governor Branstad of Iowa. It was Governor Branstad’s office that pushed the Governors of South and North Dakota to sign on to the LS2 letter.

As DeSmogBlog points out, Branstad’s chief of staff from 2010 to 2013, Jeff Boeyink, is now a Senior Vice President of LS2Group, and lobbies for ETP in Iowa. Susan Severino Fenton, LS2Group´s Director of Government Affairs, is also a registered lobbyist for Energy Transfer Partners.

LS2Group contributed $1,000 to Branstad in June of 2016. The PR firm has also contributed many thousands of dollars to the Republican party of Iowa since 2014.

The ease with which oil lobbyists were able to slap the official seals of three governors onto their clients’ missive underscores the cozy relationship between the oil industry and State Governments in the region.

The governors of Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota have fully supported the pipeline builders, providing militarized police to intimidate indigenous water protectors and their allies. As opposition to the pipeline escalated over the last few months, the Iowan government has brought severe criminal charges against those speaking against the pipeline.

Currently ETP is drilling under the Standing Rock Sioux’s water source, the Oahe Reservoir, despite a promise by the Army Corp of Engineers to conduct a thorough environmental review. A Presidential Memorandum by Donald Trump effectively cancelled any ongoing environmental assessment of the pipeline and gave the company permission to begin drilling. Donald Trump has investments in ETP and Phillips 66, which are partnered in building the pipeline. Trump also has close ties to ETP CEO Kelcy Warren, who contributed large sums to Trump’s presidential campaign.

Main image: Someone protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline holds a sign reading, “We can't drink oil! #NoDAPL.” Credit: Pax Ahimsa GethenCC BY-SA 4.0