Energy Transfer Goes Silent on Dakota Access After Trump Move

  • Pipeline giant doesn’t want more attention on line: analysts
  • The company still needs a federal easement to complete project

Winter in Standing Rock at the Oceti Sakowin protest camp in North Dakota, Dec. 5, 2016.

Photographer: Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Energy Transfer Partners LP got a boost on Tuesday when President Donald Trump threw his weight behind its controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline.

While rival TransCanada Corp. promptly commented on Trump’s similar show of support for the Keystone XL crude pipeline, Energy Transfer went quiet. Reached by e-mail Wednesday, the company declined to comment. Why the silence? 

The company declined to comment on that, too.

The reason, analysts say, is the memo Trump signed in support of Dakota Access fell short of granting Energy Transfer the easement it needs to drill the final portion of the pipe beneath North Dakota’s Lake Oahe. So litigation surrounding that will continue. And since that part of North Dakota became a massive rallying site for protesters last year, it’d be unwise to draw more attention to the process -- especially if you think, like most investors, that Dakota Access will be completed.

“It’d be like scoring a touchdown in the first minute of the Super Bowl and you’re doing a big dance in the end zone,” said Libby Toudouze, a partner and portfolio manager at Cushing Asset Management in Dallas. “The powers that be are probably just saying: ‘Can you just not say anything? Let’s wait till we get the approval.’ ”

In fact, Trump’s memo could ultimately push the Army Corps of Engineers to grant Energy Transfer the easement before a federal court in Washington reaches a decision on the matter, according to Brandon Barnes, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.

“There’s still more process left," Barnes said. “There’s no reason for them to attract more attention to it than they need to at this time.”

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