Tech Company Helps Investors Divest From Dakota Access Pipeline

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Over a thousand miles away from the snowy Standing Rock Sioux reservation, where the tribe and activists have been fighting for months to stop the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a San Francisco tech startup focused on socially responsible investing is making it much easier for individuals to divest from companies supporting the project.

OpenInvest’s chief strategy officer Joshua Levin told CBS San Francisco that his company — which launched just five months ago with funding from Y Combinator — has designed a feature that automatically pulls from your investment portfolio companies funding the pipeline, as well as the energy companies that stand to benefit from it. Your portfolio is then automatically rebalanced with new investments.

Levin said OpenInvest built the algorithms and launched the feature just days after President Donald Trump issued an executive order directing the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

On Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers granted permission for the company, Energy Transfer Partners, to proceed with construction and the company has begun drilling the final segment.

But the Standing Rock Sioux say the final segment, located under Lake Oahe, would imperil their water supply. They have demanded an environmental study of the project. The tribe has also said the project threatens sacred tribal sites.

“Assets are one of the most powerful ways you can shape the world,” Levin said. “We wanted to support people’s efforts to fight back.”

In a blog post, OpenInvest writes, “Your money and investments powerfully impact the world. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and others are counting on you not caring to get away with profiting from the destruction of Native lands. It’s time to take responsibility and start fighting back.”

OpenInvest also allows investors to divest from petroleum companies altogether.

Following Trump’s executive order, the cities of Seattle, Washington and Davis voted to divest from Wells Fargo Bank, citing the bank’s involvement in funding the pipeline.

The City of Davis intends to move all city funds currently held in Wells Fargo accounts to another banking institution by the end of the year. City officials also pointed to the recent Wells Fargo scandal in which the bank opened unauthorized customer accounts.

After the Army Corps of Engineers granted permission for construction to proceed on the pipeline on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) was among the U.S. legislators — including Bernie Sanders — who wrote a letter blasting the Trump Administration’s executive order.

In the letter, Huffman along with fellow members of the Senate and House Natural Resources Committees, told the President, “This blatant disregard for federal law and our country’s treaty and trust responsibilities to Native American tribes is unacceptable…‎We urge you to immediately reverse this decision and follow the appropriate procedures required for tribal consultation, environmental law, and due process.”

By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.

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