The Seattle City Council took one more step toward the divestment of $3 billion of city funds from Wells Fargo this week as a protest against the Dakota Access pipeline. In a unanimous vote (8-0) on February 1, the Finance Committee voted in favor of legislation introduced by Council members Kshama Sawant and Tim Burgess.
Anti-pipeline activists held a victory rally outside City Hall following the vote.
According to a public statement by Kshama Sawant:
If Seattle divests from Wells Fargo, it will greatly fuel the inspiring nationwide struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the oil lobby. I urge Councilmembers to support this legislation ... as part of Seattle's fightback against Trump and the billionaire class.
President Trump has signed two executive orders that would advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The executive action established a deadline for the US government's review of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline that is proposed to bring tar sands crude from Alberta to refineries in the US.
Although Trump's actions do not give a complete green light for the projects, it is an indication that his administration supports the pipelines. It also appears that the US government will attempt to open up new lands for oil drilling.
Currently many environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Rising Tide are opposed to President Trump's policy towards fossil fuels and the construction of new pipelines, including the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
The Seattle City Council legislation is now being referred to the whole city council for a vote on February 6.
This is not the first time that the Seattle City Council has voted in favor of divesting from major corporate banks. During the Occupy Wall Street movement the City Council also considered divestment from Bank of America and Chase as a protest against publicly funded financial bailouts.
In an editorial published by the Seattle Times, former progressive City Council Member Nick Licata is calling upon the community to sever all banking ties with Wells Fargo:
The proposed ordinance would also see the city end its current $3 billion relationship with Wells Fargo when its current contract expires at the end of 2018. The reason for this is Wells Fargo's high-profile corporate malpractice as well as its funding of the highly controversial Dakota Access pipeline. Both are clearly in violation of socially responsible banking practices.
In response to the preliminary vote by the Seattle City Council's Finance Committee, Wells Fargo spokesperson David Kennedy released this statement:
While Wells Fargo is one of 17 financial institutions involved in financing the Dakota Access pipeline, the loans we have provided represent less than 5 percent of the total. We are obligated to fulfill our legal obligations as outlined under the credit agreement, as long as the customer continues to meet all of its terms and conditions.
As a company committed to environmental sustainability and human rights, we respect all the views being expressed by tribal governments and communities, other groups and individuals in the Dakota Access pipeline dispute. We hope that all parties involved will work together to reach a peaceful resolution.
The final Seattle City Council vote on the divestment plan will take place February 6.
On October 27, 2016, the New York City Council issued an official proclamation of solidarity to Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault III.
If the Seattle City Council approves the measure as expected, it will be the first large city in the nation to divest its money from Wells Fargo as a protest against the bank's continued funding of the Dakota Access pipeline.