MN ethanol plant builder gives 125k to tribe protesting pipeline

fagen-plantIt remains to be seen if and when Bakken shale oil will flow through the Dakota Access Pipeline that’s still under construction, as well as protest, in North Dakota. The company building the pipeline asked a federal court this week to order the U.S. Corps of Engineers to issue final approvals and clear the way for the 1,175 mile project.

But the controversy hasn’t stopped two sizable financial contributions from flowing to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe opposing the energy project. The cash flow includes $125,000 from a quiet but well-connected Granite Falls, Minnesota ethanol plant construction company, Fagen, Inc. The curious timing of the donations attracted the attention of a Washington watchdog.

Two green energy companies made six-figure donations to a North Dakota Native American tribe days after the tribe began protesting a controversial oil pipeline that passes near its reservation, a review of tribe documents shows.

On April 5, the Standing Rock Sioux’s tribal council unanimously voted to accept two $125,000 donations from ConEdison Development and Fagen Inc., a green energy design and construction company, according to council meeting minutes.

ConEdison and Fagen worked closely on the recent construction and sale of a 94 megawatt wind farm in northeastern North Dakota. But the project was wrapped up months before the combined quarter million dollar donation apparently in response to the tribe’s support in the wind farm project.

ConEdison Development, an unregulated subsidiary of utility company Consolidated Edison, acquired and began construction on a wind power facility near the Standing Rock reservation last year. Fagen was a contractor on the project.

ConEdison’s chief executive told a North Dakota news station in April that its donation to the tribe was meant as a show of appreciation for the Standing Rock’s cooperation in building the Campbell County Wind Farm.

However, the timing coincides with intense tribal opposition to the planned Dakota Access Pipeline. The donations from ConEdison and Fagen came a year  after the construction of the Campbell County Wind project, but just four days after the tribe’s pipeline protests began.

Both ConEdison and Fagen have extensive portfolios of green energy projects listed online. But neither company commented on the donations revealed by the Washington Free Beacon.

Both Standing Rock Sioux donors are involved in a number of renewable energy projects around the country. ConEdison’s website lists 34 wind and solar projects, including the Campbell County project and one other wind farm in South Dakota.

Though wind and solar do not compete directly with oil, which is generally not used to generate electricity, Fagen has worked on numerous biofuel and biomass projects, including dozens in states through which the Dakota Access Pipeline passes.

The company was a design-build contractor for three ethanol plants in North Dakota, according to its website, and has performed contracting work on 40 other ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel projects in South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois.