CEO Behind Dakota Access Pipeline Says Protesters Should Be “Removed From the Gene Pool”

by Molly Dorozenski

March 15, 2018

Energy Transfer Partners CEO comments at an industry conference about having pipeline activists ‘removed from the gene pool’ are the latest example of his reprehensible approach to human rights.

Energy Transfer Partners President and CEO Kelcy Warren speaking on a panel at the CERAWeek Conference on March 7th, 2018 in Houston. It was during his talk he suggested that pipeline activists should be "removed from the gene pool."

Energy Transfer Partners President and CEO Kelcy Warren was speaking on a panel at an industry conference in Houston to discuss the strong opposition that his pipelines have faced from communities across the United States. Flanked by his peers Russell Girling from TransCanada, and Steven Kean from Kinder Morgan, Warren was asked about his thoughts on growing opposition to oil and gas pipelines. Describing an incident where activists drilled holes in an empty pipeline, Warren said: “you’re talking about somebody who needs to be removed from the gene pool.”

This appalling remark was met with laughter from both Girling and Kean, but also from Brian McCabe who represented Credit Suisse — a major financial player in pipeline expansion — on the panel.

Warren’s words most likely refer to the actions of Jessica Reznicek, 35, and Ruby Montoya, 27, Iowa activists involved in the Catholic Workers social justice movement. But given the United States record of violence against Indigenous People, referencing the “gene pool” also carries a troubling racist subtext that reinforces the history of genocide that has continued to this day,  including recent historical incidents like the forced sterilization of Indigenous women. These remarks emphasize that the actions of Energy Transfer Partners against Indigenous protesters have been consistently dehumanizing.

The CEO’s remark and the reaction of the people that surround him must not be taken lightly. They provide a glimpse of the underlying values of an industry that has shown repeatedly how far it is willing to go to shield profits.  

In addition to Warren’s remarks, we witnessed the heads of two major pipeline operators in North America and the co-head of Credit Suisse’s American oil and gas group passively condoning a statement that publicly shows contempt for human rights. The decisions these top executives make in their corner offices impact the lives of frontline and Indigenous communities in the paths of their pipelines.

Unfortunately, this is not a first for Warren or his company. Millions across the country and the world saw in real time the virulent reaction that Energy Transfer Partners had to the peaceful Water Protectors at Standing Rock.

Water Protectors engineered a makeshift wooden pedestrian bridge over the Cantapeta Creek. They were trying to access ancestral burial grounds they believe are being damaged by the Dakota Access Pipeline construction. Heavily armed law enforcement officials were deployed. As they pulled the bridge apart with boats, the Water Protectors swam and used their own boats to cross the water. Standing unarmed in the cold water, the protectors were forcibly repelled by the enforcers with tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets.

Facing effective opposition from the Indigenous-led movement at Standing Rock, Energy Transfer Partners hired TigerSwan to usurp police tasks and spy on Water Protectors opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. The company also paid TigerSwan for information that was used to manufacture a meritless conspiracy lawsuit against environmental groups that supported the Indigenous-led movement.This is a firm founded by former U.S. military contractors turned corporate mercenaries. TigerSwan has still not been held accountable for human rights abuses against peaceful demonstrators.

Make no mistake — with Warren’s apparent contempt for the Indigenous communities and allies who stand in opposition to these pipelines, along with the egregious practices employed by Energy Transfer Partners against non-violent water protectors, it is clear this company will stop at nothing to protect its own interests.

As oil and gas pipelines continue to meet effective opposition across the country, their owners and financial backers need to be reminded that human lives are a priority over any business deal. We cannot let this pattern of behavior go unchecked.

By Molly Dorozenski

Molly Dorozenski is a Project Leader at Greenpeace US, where she has worked for eight years in creative and strategic communications. She has planned and executed comprehensive communications campaigns including campaigns on climate, the Arctic, the Gulf Oil Spill, as well as a variety of corporate campaigns that helped move companies towards more sustainable practices. In 2015 she received an Effie Award for work with the VIA Agency that pushed tech companies to commit to using more renewable energy.

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