Put dollars where your heart is and don’t help fund DAPL

Emily Sampson Guest commentary

By now everyone knows about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) controversy. Everyone except apparently the president of the United States, who recently said, “Ya know, I don’t even think it was controversial, nobody called up to complain.”

Emily Sampson, at left, was with a group that recently protested in Sylva.

Well, if the White House won’t listen because the phones are turned off, it’s important now more than ever to speak with our wallets, and our bank accounts. Here’s why:

Pipelines leak. According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safely Administration, more than 7 million gallons of crude oil leaked between 2010 and 2015. One of the largest spills happened in North Dakota in 2013 when lightning struck a pipeline, leaking over 840,000 gallons. Wikipedia reports another 300,000 gallons of crude and 331,000 gallons of gasoline leaked from U.S. pipelines in 2016. One of the most recent leaks was 130,000 gallons into a North Dakota creek on a tributary to the Missouri river, upstream from the water protectors at Standing Rock.

Wells Fargo, SunTrust, Bank of America, PNC and TD Bank, along with more than a dozen others (a full list of banks funding DAPL is at have collectively provided over $2 billion of depositor’s money in funding for the DAPL which is currently being drilled under the Missouri River and Lake Oahe. This, despite massive protests, lawsuits, support from the previous administration as well as people from all over the world, who want to stop the pipeline to protect the water source of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and some 17 million people who live downstream.

Last week, The Financial Times reported a group of more than 120 big investors, with combined assets of $653 billion, are now uniting in opposition to DAPL. Their recently released letter, addressed to their affiliated financial institutions including Citigroup, SunTrust Bank, TD and Wells Fargo (and a dozen other nation and international banks) stated “We are concerned that if DAPL’s projected route moves forward, the result will almost certainly be an escalation of conflict and unrest as well as possible contamination of the water supply … Banks with financial ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline may be implicated in these controversies and may face long-term brand and reputational damage resulting from consumer boycotts and possible legal liability.”

It’s not only the dollar amount being withdrawn that speaks, it’s also the fear of their reputation with the public that seems to be pushing these banks to consider whether oil is a good investment for them. As individual bank customers, we may not have the sway of millions of dollars, but what we do with our money still affects the credibility and image of banks like SunTrust.

Looking for a way to make a difference? If you bank at SunTrust, come out to your local branch here in Black Mountain and express your concerns. Tell them if SunTrust doesn’t cut their funding of DAPL you will withdraw your money and close your account. Take your money to a local bank or credit union and tell them why you did.

If you don’t have accounts with any of the banks listed, you may still be invested in the pipeline. Do you have a credit card with Chase or Citibank? Is your pension plan profiting from oil investments? It is time to ask yourself and the financial institutions with whom you do business these questions and put your money where your heart is. Whether you’re concerned with the violations of the rights of Native Americans on their own treaty land, the devastating environmental impacts of oil spills on wildlife, the risk to our drinking water, or fear of climate change, you can stop supporting oil development projects with your dollar.

Defund DAPL Asheville-Black Mountain’s mission is to help citizens, businesses, colleges, and local civic and government organizations divest from financial institutions invested in the DAPL. For more information on how you can divest, email

If you would like to be involved in future actions and efforts, find Defunddapl Asheville-Black Mountain on Facebook. Or join the Water Is Life Movement through your local Indivisible pipeline focus group, which can be found at

Emily Sampson, a Black Mountain resident, is a core member of Defund DAPL Asheville-Black Mountain.