- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 12, 2017

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he would consider divesting from banks that lend to the Dakota Access pipeline, following in the footsteps of last week’s decision by the Seattle City Council to cut its financial ties to Wells Fargo.

“I definitely have Seattle envy because they do such wonderful cutting-edge stuff all the time,” Mr. de Blasio told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer in a Friday interview.

He was referring to the Seattle City Council’s 9-0 vote Tuesday to direct Mayor Ed Murray to inform Wells Fargo Bank that the city will not renew its financial services contract with the bank when it expires at the end of 2018.

Seattle cycles about $3 billion through Wells Fargo each year. The measure also prohibits the city from investing with the bank for at least three years.

“Look, I think what’s happening with the Dakota Access pipeline is just plain wrong,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I think what the Trump administration did was wrong. I don’t know enough about which companies are involved, but I’m certainly interested in anything we can do to avoid that pipeline destroying the earth and harming Native American people.”

He added, “I think there’s a way we can use our pension fund power in that equation [that] I’m very interested in.”

Opponents of the $3.8 billion pipeline have put pressure on banks like Wells Fargo to stop financing the project as part of the “keep-it-in-the-ground” movement to stop fossil fuel extraction over concerns about climate change.

Wells Fargo is a major financier of the 1,172-mile, four-state pipeline, which runs from North Dakota to Illinois. Work on the final 1,100 feet of the pipeline, which is about 99 percent complete, began Thursday after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted a much-disputed easement.

“From our perspective we are always disappointed when a customer makes a decision to move business away from us. That is not an outcome we would seek,” Wells Fargo Vice President Tim Brown told The Seattle Times after the vote.

Seattle council member Kshama Sawant, who sponsored the divestment bill, predicted the vote would have a “ripple effect, with activists all over the country rising up to challenge the billionaire class and the oil lobby.”

The Seattle bill also requires the city to examine its preferred political causes before contracting with banks and providers of financial services.

The city council in Davis, California, voted Tuesday to seek out new banking services as a first step in ending its contract with Wells Fargo over the Dakota Access pipeline and other issues, according to the Davis Enterprise.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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