Dakota Access developer ‘underestimated’ social media opposition

Dakota Access developer ‘underestimated’ social media opposition
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The chief executive of the company developing the Dakota Access pipeline said he “underestimated the power of social media” in the wake of massive protests agains the project. 

On a call with investors on Thursday, Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren said he was surprised by the way Dakota Access opponents could share stories about the project online and “get away with it,” Bloomberg reports

“There was no way we can defend ourselves,” Warren said, according to the report. “That was a mistake on my part.”

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Environmentalists and indigenous rights groups broadly oppose the Dakota Access project and have rallied that opposition through protests in Washington, North Dakota, around the country and online. They say the project threatens water supplies in North Dakota and infringes on a local tribe's rights.

Opponents of the project were able to stall it for several months, but President Trump fast-tracked it in January. The company now expects to be able to move oil through the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile project within months.

Dakota Access supporters, including Energy Transfer Partners, insist they followed the law and worked to consult with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which opposes the project, before finalizing the pipeline’s route. 

A federal judge in September mostly approved the steps taken by both Dakota Access and regulators in finalizing the project.

Regardless, protests against the pipeline persisted into this month; on Wednesday, law enforcement officials in North Dakota cleared a protest camp established by the pipeline’s opponents while construction work on the project continues nearby.