In the vast Big Bend region of Texas, Energy Transfer, the unconscionable corporation behind the Dakota Access pipeline, is putting the finishing touches on another monument to corporate gain at everyone else’s expense: the Trans-Pecos pipeline.
Energy Transfer is led by Kelcy Warren, the billionaire who, three days after Trump’s election, called pressure on the banks bankrolling his company and Dakota Access “terrorism,” adding “that’s all that nonsense is.” We were first to publish information on those banks, instigating nationwide interest in municipal divestment from those finanaciers, and broader global pressure on Energy Transfer’s financiers.
Below, we present another a slice of the Frackopoly at work, to answer another simple question: Who’s banking on fracked gas exports to fill the Trans-Pecos pipeline? Our intention is to challenge the notion that this pipeline — and the broader policies focused on increasing oil and gas production — are really aligned with U.S. economic and energy security.
Don't begin to think that frackopoly finance is pretty.
This information paints the picture of short-sighted banks sinking billions to further oil and natural gas dependence. This profit-making is pure climate science denial. Through eminent domain, property rights have been trampled. Energy Transfer’s financiers are now clearly banking on Trump’s short-sighted vision.
Forbes now reports that Kelcy Warren’s “personal fortune” has ballooned from $2.7 billion to $4.8 billion over the past year. Former Texas governor Rick Perry recently resigned from Energy Transfer’s board to become Secretary of Energy. A spokeswoman for President Trump has said he’s sold his shares of the company, but there’s no documentation to back up the claim.
With the Trans-Pecos pipeline, Energy Transfer expects to add 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day in export capacity to Mexico. That is an amount equivalent to just over 6% of Texas gas production from 2016. The empire of Carlos “Slim” Helu, one of the world’s richest billionaires, is there to receive it, along with TransCanada and Sempra Energy, two companies involved in a pipeline and potential new LNG facility in Topolobampo, on the west coast of Mexico.
Indigenous groups in the Sierra Tarahumara accuse TransCanada and Mexico’s authorities of precisely the same treatment as came to define the outcome in Standing Rock, North Dakota. Tribes are afforded no rights of self-determination. The consent of Indigenous peoples is not sought.
North American Oil & Gas Industry Integration
Under the Obama administration, the United States – guided not just by the oil and gas industry, but also by big investment banks (see here and here) – set in motion plans to “integrate” oil and gas extraction and distribution activities throughout North America, in coordination with Canada and Mexico.
Pemex, Mexico’s state oil and gas company currently transitioning to private ownership, sees the country as well positioned to export gas from the continent. The Canadian government, under Trudeau’s leadership, is embracing a handful of tar sands pipeline projects; namely Line 3 by Enbridge, TransMountain by Kinder Morgan and a partner to be determined; Keystone XL and Energy East by TransCanada.
The expectation with Trump is that the Trans-Pecos pipeline and others will go beneath proposed wall on the border with Mexico. Of course, regarding oil, Trump’s already bending over backwards to push through not just Dakota Access but also Keystone XL.
Trans-Pecos Water Protectors, and Broad Resistance
Many Texans along the proposed path of Trans-Pecos do not want a high-pressure pipeline on their land, and do not want it near their homes. It’s clear why, given that pipeline failures occur on a frequent if irregular basis, and have led to massive destruction and even loss of life (see here and here and here).
The Big Bend region, home to the mysterious Marfa Lights, has remained otherwise unmarred by the oil and gas industy, relative to the rest of the state. Local groups have been fighting to stop the pipeline for years, but the odds have been stacked against them. They’ve been up against the powerful forces of the Frackopoly, in a state where the Frackopoly has long ruled.
In solidarity with Standing Rock, Indigenous groups in the region have organized camps and peaceful protest actions against Trans-Pecos. They stand in solidarity with Indigenous- and landowner-led resistance movements against numerous other projects, including but certainly not limited to:
- Spectra/Duke/NextEra’s Sabal Trail pipeline project in Florida:
- Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise and Sunoco Logistics Mariner East pipeline projects, both in Pennsylvania;
- EQT's Mountain Valley and Dominion/Duke’s Atlantic Coast pipeline projects in Virginia and the Carolinas;
- Sunoco Logistics/Phillips 66’s Bayou Bridge in Louisiana;
- Plains All America’s Diamond Pipline;
- The Constitution and Pilgrim pipeline projects in New York;
- Enbridge’s Lines 3 and 5 in Minnesota and Michigan;
- Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline in British Columbia; and
- TransCanada’s Keystone XL and Energy East pipelines across many provinces and states.
All told, just six U.S. banks alone — Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citibank — held over $200 billion in oil and gas industry debt as of the end of 2015. Of course widespread fracking to maximize oil and gas production, including for export, is what the oil and gas companies need to pay off that debt. That is, maximal oil and gas production, driven increasingly by oil and gas exports, is what these and dozens more banks need if they are to be paid back. That’s what these projects are all about.
Indigenous groups are leading most of these pipeline fights. Canadian First Nations and Native American tribes insist that there be real consultation, with recognition of their sovereignty and treaties. Under the banner “water is life,” the local movements and coalitions against these projects are drawing the attention of those holding the strings: the financiers. Water Protectors across North America are exposing the short-sightedness of an energy policy that prioritizes maximal extraction, at the expense of people and the environment.