The Man Behind DAPL and His Role at Thursday’s Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Hearing
Kelcy Warren is a special kind of shale tycoon. He is the man behind the Dakota Access Pipe Line and you should know his history and political role in Texas.
According to a 2015 Bloomberg profile piece, Warren capitalized on the oil and gas crash after his competition was crushed to build the Dakota Access pipeline announced in June 2015. The sharp drop in oil prices weeded out weaker players so that well-capitalized and diversified outfits such as Warren’s Energy Transfer Partners could snatch up cheap investments. Consider his quote: “Like mother nature, the energy industry purges itself now and then.”
Warren’s personal worth is 7.3 billion and last year his company scored 40 billion in acquisitions. In fact, most of his company’s wealth and growth has been amassed in less than 5 years compared to its worth of 6 billion in 2010. “To be where we are today, it’s like a dream. I swear to God, I almost think we did it without anybody noticing.” The truth to that statement is eerie.
Here are some fun facts about his personal wealth: In addition to a mansion in north Dallas, Warren also owns an 11,000 acre ranch northwest of Austin, ranches in colorado and east Texas, a private island off the coast of Honduras, and donated millions of dollars to have a park in downtown Dallas named after his son, Klyde. Yes, that’s right. Klyde with a K. Warren also indulged in his own Austin based recording studio and music label called Music Road Records featuring soulless watered down Americana artists. The most successful release was a Jackson Browne cover album, including songs performed by Bruce Springsteen and Bonny Raitt. I wonder if they would like to know that their contributions made a bit of money for Warren.
Here’s the underlying reason we have to kill DAPL and other Warren holdings: Energy Transfer is one of four master limited partnerships over which Warren has primary control. MLP structures do not pay income taxes. Instead they pay taxes on quarterly cash distributions to investor holding units (kind of like shareholders). In order to operate at that level they must crank out cash payments and to do so Warren must keep acquiring and expanding otherwise, as he says himself, “you must grow until you die.” Shutting down the DAPL, an expansion project, has the potential to effectively put all of his operations in jeopardy.
In response to environmental opposition, he states that “I don’t think it’s fair for a few activists to decide what the American people want.” Oh man, that is RICH. So it’s okay for him to decide what the American people want, then? I suppose he has a pretty good idea of what’s best for native people. We’re all partially to blame for participating in a predestined consumerist system so it’s fine for him to subject us to a park named after his son, Klyde? I didn’t know the people of Dallas were demanding Zumba classes in Klyde Warren Park. Actually they probably are but I digress.
Here’s something else that’s hard swallow; shortly after the Bloomberg piece was published, Greg Abbott appointed Warren to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife Commission. According to the governor’s office, the purpose of this agency is to “manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas.” Warren’s recent plans include the construction of the Trans-Pecos pipeline already underway that would run through Big Bend. You tell me how that’s not a conflict of interest.
That brings us to Warren’s attendance of yesterday’s current regular TDPW meeting in Austin regarding approval of an easement through the environmentally sensitive J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area for GT Logistics to construct a pipe corridor to transfer petrochemicals. Warren has close business associations with GT and shareholders in the Energy Transfer group may use or benefit from the GT facilities. The TDPW report on this proposal item does not mention that Bakken Shale Oil and Alberta Tar Sands Oil would be transported through the proposed pipeline easement corridor, an accessory of the DAPL.
To get a sense of the GT and ETP connection, check out this webwork of corporate handholding. One of the major joint venture partners and shareholders in Kelcy Warren’s Energy Transfer group is Enbridge, Canada’s largest gas distribution company which operates an oil pipeline hub in Alberta. Enbridge is associated with Gibson Services, which provides additional transportation services to the Enbridge pipeline. Gibson Services is a joint venture partner with GT Logistics. Gibson and Enbridge transport Alberta Tar Sands oil via pipeline and that pipeline, if all goes as planned, will hub with the Dakota Access Pipeline and eventually travel to a Port Arthur terminus located near JD Murphree WMA, operated by Sunuco, another Energy Transfer company. It should be mentioned that Warren’s father worked in the Sunuco fields for 40 years. How sentimental.
Warren was repeatedly asked to resign from the commission by yesterday’s speakers while he mostly sat in silence until the last testimony from Mescalero Apache member Pete Hefflin who focused on sacred burial ground desecration by petrochemical companies to which Warren interrupted and adamantly denied. Hefflin quietly responded that there is an abundance of overt evidence and that he would be glad to sit down and get him acquainted with and in an unexpected turn of events, Warren agreed to a meeting with Hefflin. On camera. In a public hearing. Yes, the man ultimately responsible for the brutality in North Dakota was touched by an indictment of desecrating dead bodies. We’re all aware of the white man’s history of deal making with natives but it’s still a victory nonetheless and unprecedented for an oil executive to climb down from a position of absolute power and personally speak with a tribe member. It might be an empty gesture but he could have easily ignored Hefflin’s pleas and stayed silent. It’s still mind boggling how someone can be selectively cruel towards most aspects of humanity but feel vulnerable and defensive to this particular accusation. Perhaps it’s because he is a largely inaccessible executive and this could very well be the only direct confrontation he’s ever encountered.
By most standards the protest was successful, if only to buy time. After some deliberation, Warren recused himself from voting and the issue has been tabled until the next meeting in January. He’s still a commissioner and he’s still constructing his existing pipelines.
Furthermore, on a personal note, I had an experience at the protest that left me feeling uneasy. As I was standing alone outside watching the action, a man approached me and asked what I was doing here and if I knew anything about the issues and indigenous people’s concerns. I’m a white girl so I don’t know why he would ask me about their concerns, but I gave him a brief overview and told him that he should ask them if he wanted to know the particulars. I asked him what he was doing here and admitted to me that he was “monitoring” for lieutenant governor Dan Patrick. I was shocked that he would be so forthright because typically when I hear the word monitor in the context of a protest it gives me informant vibes. When I pressed him on what kind of information he would take to the lieutenant governor and for what purposes he said he was a policy analyst for Patrick’s office and he had an interest in learning more about the issue but he couldn’t do much except maybe write a letter of recommendation against the construction of the pipeline. This goes against Patrick’s political reputation and rhetoric and given that Warren is a major financial contributor to Patrick’s superior Greg Abbott, why would he have any interest in sending a monitor if he truly can’t do anything beyond a letter? I wasn’t aware that letters still hold currency. It was very confusing and when I asked if he had a position on the matter he said he had none. We exchanged contact information and left it at that.
To be continued.