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The money and blood flows from Standing Rock to Ohio and Minnesota

Gerry Bello

[Editor's Note: This article is the first in a two article series on the financial underpinnings of the Dakota Access Pipeline and who stands to profit from it's completion]

The Dakota access pipeline designed from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota, across the Standing Rock Reservation to the Missouri River and beyond. It is an environmentally unfriendly project from start to finish even by the low to non-existent standards of the oil industry. The oil is acquired via deep hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and then shipped either by train to St. Paul or leaky pipeline to Canada. All pipelines leak. The North Dakota access pipeline is being jammed, despite unprecedented and under reported protests and resistance, across Native land to the Missouri River. Any leak threatens the water supply of the entire Sioux Nation and the drinking water of over 10 million people downstream.

Protests at the point of construction have been met with repression. Non-violent protestors have been attacked with dogs and tear gas, faced draconian criminal charges, and been met with police and National Guardsmen using surplus military equipment from America's wars in the Middle East. A great deal of power is being brought to bear to gain cheaper access to over 4.3 billion barrels (Total reserves of the formations may exceed 500 billion barrels) of oil recoverable with today's technology. “Advances” in fracking technology will increase the recoverable amount. As of today this oil's wholesale value is 219 billion dollars. 3.2 billion dollars is slated to be spent on the pipeline over the next 5 years. Who profits from this investment that could send 20,000 students to college over the same time frame?

The public discourse on the ownership of the Dakota access pipeline has focused on it's majority shareholder, Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE: ETP) of Dallas Texas. Energy Transfer Partners is mostly engaged in transfer and refining of oil, although they own Sunoco gas stations and the convenience store chain Stripes. Energy Transfer Partners actually only owns 66% of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.

The remaining third of the project is owned by two other companies that have a long relationship with each other, transferring subsidiaries back and forth. Those companies are Western Refining (NYSE: WNR), through its Northern Tier Energy subsidiary based in St Paul Minnesota, and Marathon Petroleum (NYSE: MPC) of Findlay Ohio.

Western Refining's refinery operation in St Paul represents half of it's total refining capacity and processes the majority of the rail shipped crude oil from Bakken oil field. The refinery was purchased from Marathon Petroleum in 2010. The sale also included the Super America chain of 284 gas stations and convenience stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.

Marathon Petroleum is an actual major player in the North Dakota oil field game as opposed to a bit partner. The company actually has oil drilling and exploration in the Bakken oil field. Oil from the Dakota access pipeline is slated to travel via river barge along the Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio rivers to the company's refinery in Cattletsburg Kentucky, located at the three way border of Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. Oil from the pipeline can also travel downriver to the another of Marathon's at Garysville Louisiana near New Orleans and thence be exported. Marathon also operates refineries at Robinson Illinois, Detroit Michigan, Canton Ohio and two in Texas City, Texas. It is through their Canton operation that dogs used to maul protestors by security contractors were hired. The kennels that bred, trained and deployed the dogs are a family owned operation in the area.

Marathon's refining operations directly feed their gas station and convenience store arms. Marathon operates an extensive network of points of sale through their own brand, Marathon, as well as through their subsidiary Speedway of Enon Ohio. Through Speedway, Marathon operates 2,700 convenience stores and gas stations under the Speedway and Hess brands as well as a nationwide network of 190 truck stops under the Road Ranger, Pilot, Flying J and Speedway brands.

Although the racist attacks on protestors at Standing Rock is not a new development in the history of the energy extraction industries in the United States, the recent prosecution of journalists for covering the events there is. Award winning documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg is currently facing 45 years in prison on conspiracy charges simply for covering the event. Journalist Amy Goodman was initially charged with trespassing for her coverage and then later had her charges upgraded to “riot.” The riot charges were dropped yesterday October 19th, in a courthouse surrounded by riot police, but the “investigation” into Goodman's reporting remains open. The prosecution hopes to acquire her raw footage in order to expand his “conspiracy” prosecution to more members of the press as well as Native and other activists who may have been interviewed.

Marathon is no stranger to profiting of gross human rights abuses. In addition to hiring literal attack dogs the company operates a joint venture in Libya with ConocoPhillips and Hess, the later of whom Marathon purchased the domestic retail operations of in 2014 through Speedway. The company began operating there as soon as George W. Bush signed an executive order permitting oil trade with the Qaddafi regime in 2004. They continued to profit through the chaos of “regime change” and continued to profit as Hillary Clinton was saying “We came, We saw, He died.” With regime change the Marathon is the majority shareholder in the Libyan National Oil Company which controls 80% of the country's proven oil reserves.

Energy Transfer Partners is face of the actual pipeline project and the lead company, but they are far from the company that benefits the most from it's completion. Marathon, and to a lesser degree it's little brother Western Refining, control the flow of oil from the well to the refinery to the pump. They stand to profit the most from the Dakota Access Pipeline as it will streamline their operations.

[A subsequent article in the coming days will detail the roll of America, Western European and Pacific Rim banks in the financing of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.]