Nordic investors reject Dakota pipeline operator’s allegations

OSLO (Reuters) - Nordic investors rejected on Tuesday allegations in a lawsuit by the operator of Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that they divested from the project due to pressure from Greenpeace and other environmental groups.

People gather near the Oscar ceremony to protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, in Hollywood, California, U.S. February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen

The $3.8 billion pipeline, the focus of months of protests by Native American and green groups over tribal sovereignty and the risk of water contamination, started pumping oil in May.

The pipeline’s operator Energy Transfer Partners LP sued Greenpeace last week, saying the negative publicity against it, its sister company Energy Transfer Equity LP and other firms caused billions of dollars in damage.

Nordic bank Nordea, Norwegian private pension fund Storebrand, Norway’s public sector pension fund KLP and Norwegian commercial bank DNB, mentioned in the lawsuit, said their decisions to divest from the DAPL and companies involved was a result of their own due diligence.

KLP, which manages more than 600 billion Norwegian crowns ($77.70 billion) in assets, divested around $70 million in ETP, Phillips 66, Enbridge Inc., and Marathon Petroleum Corporation in March.

“We find it puzzling that ETP refers to KLP’s decision in its discussion of alleged damages when the company made no effort to avail itself of multiple opportunities for comment,” KLP’s acting head of responsible investments Annie Bersagel told Reuters.

“We did not divest from ETP as the result of pressure from Greenpeace, and would have gladly communicated this to the company if they had returned our messages,” she added.

KLP said in March its decision was based on “an unacceptable risk of contributing to serious or systematic human rights violations.”

ETP did not respond to Reuters request to comment.

Odd Arild Grefstad, the chief executive of Storebrand, which sold $34.8 million of shares in Phillips 66, Enbridge Inc., and Marathon Petroleum Corporation in March according to the court’s filing, said ETP “seriously overestimated the reach of NGOs”, while ignoring investors’ concerns about sustainability issues.

DNB, which in March sold its $340 million loan to DAPL, accounting for about 10 percent of total financing, said its decision was based on dialogue with many stakeholders.

Sasja Beslik, head of sustainable finance in Nordea Wealth Management, said there was “no way that any NGO in the world could make Nordea to ‘cave in’ as alleged by the plaintiff”.

Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis; Additional reporting by Ethan Lou in Calgary; Editing by Edmund Blair