The nine-member council unanimously approved an ordinance to end its nearly two-decade relationship with its primary financial services provider, Wells Fargo, which is an investor in the pipeline and the company building it, Energy Transfer Partners of Texas. The bank handles about $3 billion a year for the city.
Yet questions over how effective such a move might be rose even before the hearing began, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, following instructions from President Trump, informed Congress earlier Tuesday that it planned to issue the final easement for the pipeline as soon as Wednesday.
The $3.8 billion, 1,170-mile pipeline would travel from North Dakota to Illinois, with the most controversial segment running beneath a dammed section of the Missouri River just north of the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The tribe, which says the pipeline threatens its water supply and sacred sites, said Tuesday it would continue to fight the project’s completion.
Hundreds of protesters remain in snowy camps near the planned river crossing in North Dakota — a fact noted by many people in the far more comfortable City Council chambers.
“It really moves me to think of the people who are hundreds of miles away from us today, waiting in the cold for our vote,” Lisa Herbold, a council member, said shortly before the vote.
Seattle, which is thriving on science and technology a thousand miles west of the pipeline’s route, would not seem to suffer obvious impacts if the pipeline were completed. But the city is deeply liberal, environmentally minded and riding a wave of activism that has put it at the forefront of social and economic causes — most recently as the location where state lawyers persuaded a federal judge, appointed by George W. Bush, to order a stay of President Trump’s travel ban.
The area also has a large Native American community that has actively opposed the pipeline, and one member of the council, Debora Juarez, is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation tribe in Montana. Another council member, Kshama Sawant, is a socialist.