Shaun King, a writer for the New York Daily News, has uploaded what appears to be a recorded audio file of Energy Transfer Partners’ Chief Operating Officer saying that “election night changed everything” for the company as it relates to its embattled Dakota Access Pipeline.
King stated on social media and on the SoundCloud page on which he posted the file that a source sent him the file on December 13, hours after Matthew Ramsey — COO of Energy Transfer Partners — gave his speech. The source who gave King the audio, he explains on SoundCloud, “claimed to be in a corporate meeting at Energy Transfer Partners” and told him that the person speaking was Matthew Ramsey, the COO of Energy Transfer Partners. King also wrote that the recording was made during a mandatory company meeting.
“I’ve got to tell you, election night changed everything,” Ramsey apparently said in the 10-minute clip, the authenticity of which DeSmog could not independently verify. “We now are going into a transition where we are going to have a new President of the United States who gets it. He understands what we’re doing here and we fully expect that as soon as he gets inaugurated his team is going to move to get the final approvals done and we’ll begin to put [Dakota Access] across Lake Oahe.”
Dakota Access has yet to receive the easement permit it needs from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in order to cross Lake Oahe, which the company has publicly decried. Ramsey said in the clip, one in which the voice sounds similar to his voice heard in a November 21 company conference call, that it will take about 65 days to cross the lake once they get the permit.
Energy Transfer Partners recently saw one of the members of its Board of Directors, former Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry, nominated as U.S. Secretary of Energy by President-elect Donald Trump. Perry also sits on the Board of Directors of Dakota Access LLC co-owner, Sunoco Logistics.
Two days after the presidential election, Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren expressed a similar sense of jubilation about the prospects for Dakota Access when Trump assumes the White House.
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“Having a government that actually backs up what they say that we’re going to support infrastructure, we’re going to support job creation, we’re going to support growth in America, and then actually does it?,” Warren told The Dallas Morning News. “My God, this is going to be refreshing.”
Warren was a major donor to Perry’s short-lived run for president during the Republican Party primary cycle and also served as a major donor to Trump’s presidential campaign. Warren also sat on the advisory board for Perry’s run for president.
Ramsey and Energy Transfer Partners spokeswoman Vicki Granado did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DeSmog.
In the tape, the voice that appears to belong to Ramsey spoke about the political battle ensuing over Dakota Access, which has lasted almost two years and recently stalled temporarily after the Army Corps of Engineers said it needed more time to do a more thorough environmental impact statement for the prospective Lake Oahe easement. The fight against the pipeline has engendered one of the largest cross-tribe mobilizations of Native American people in U.S. history.
“This has been quite a fight here on [Dakota Access],” remarked Ramsey. “So let me just tell you, make no mistake about it, this pipeline is going through. It’s going through exactly where we have planned.”
He also said Energy Transfer Partners “always, always plays by the rules” as it relates to following the letter of the law for its projects, saying that Dakota Access LLC “crossed every ‘t’ [and] dotted every ‘i’” relating to rules and regulations.
Police repression has also played a central role in the ongoing Dakota Access fight and so the audio confirms what many likely already thought. That is, law enforcement has worked closely alongside Dakota Access LLC to fend off those fighting against the project.
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“We met with some of the officials in North Dakota [during a recent trip to the state],” said Ramsey. “We met with the National Sheriff’s Association. People are tired of this. They’re tired of seeing what’s going on in the community and we think that the tide has turned and people are understanding what a great project this would be for the State of North Dakota. That came right out of the governor’s mouth. He’s very much in favor of this thing. So, I think we’re off and running on [Dakota Access].”
“I know that everybody in this room has had to deal with the protesters. Everybody in this room has had to read on social media the misinformation that’s out there. It’s not fair. We feel like keeping our head down and doing what we do best, which is to put this pipeline in the ground, is the best thing we can do. We never stopped doing that.”
“A lot of times people say to me, and I’d like to answer this question more directly, ‘Why don’t we just immediately answer back every time something is stated wrong about the company and what we’re doing?’,” said Ramsey.
Concerns about water contamination and a pipeline spill have played a central role in galvanizing support for those who have protested alongside the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Indeed, participants in the protests and encampment call themselves “water protectors.” But the audio captures Ramsey dismissing those concerns out of hand, saying it is “not about water” at all.
“And you have to understand, and I didn’t really understand this until I got deep into it. This is not really about water. This is not about [unintelligible]… this is about environmental activism. And it’s nothing more than that.”
But as King pointed out, a pipeline spill actually took place the morning Ramsey gave his speech, however. That spill of 176,000 gallons of oil into a creek ensued just 150 miles from the Standing Rock protest site.
Ramsey also alluded to the “Keep It In The Ground” campaign, saying that Dakota Access fit under the umbrella of those demanding to keep all fossil fuels in the ground. Keep It In The Ground, though, did not target the pipeline as part of its broader campaign and focuses on supply, not midstream assets like pipelines.
“These are people that are pushing to keep all fossil fuels in the ground, at every angle. And make no mistake. This is an event that they are using to raise lots and lots of money. If they can create a cause and they can create a lot of publicity, which they’ve clearly done here, it’s an avenue for them to raise money. Not only to fight us on this project, but to fight all infrastructure projects like this in the United States,” Ramsey claimed.
“So we’ll continue to fight through this thing. But please, please, please be confident in this company. We are going to get this thing through in short order. We couldn’t be more confident in that fact. And look for us to be pouring oil through this thing in spring of next year.”
In a December 11 interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Trump said Dakota Access will “start one way or the other” once he takes office, but did not offer any detail beyond that.
Not everyone believes that “election night changed everything,” however. Enter Jane Kleeb, Founder and President of the Bold Alliance.
“Election night did nothing to change Big Oil from trampling over property rights of farmers and Sovereign rights of Tribal Nations,” Kleeb told DeSmog. “For us in the states, in the proposed pipeline routes, water is everything. Our livelihoods, our families, our communities all rely on clean water.”
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