The leader of the company behind the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline is “100 percent” confident President-elect Donald Trump will help the project get finished.
Protesters from more than 200 Native American tribes have been camped out near the site since August. They are protesting the completion of the pipeline which stretches from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota down to Illinois.
Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren is breaking his silence, as he faces mounting threats and lengthening delays. He remains bullish on the post-election future of the pipeline, which he says is already 84 percent done, reports CBS News’ Mark Albert. But about 1,000 feet are being temporarily stopped by the Obama administration.
“We will get this easement and we will complete our project,” Warren said in an interview you’ll see only on “CBS This Morning.”
President-elect Trump has minor holdings in Warren’s company, and Warren donated $103,000 to Trump’s campaign.
“Have you spoken to Donald Trump about the pipeline?” Albert asked.
“I’ve never met the man,” Warren said.
“You’ve never met him but he’s invested in you and you’re invested in him,” Albert said.
Warren laughed, saying, “Well, I wish him well.”
Thousands of demonstrators in North Dakota have been camped out near several pipeline construction sites, which at times turned violent and led to over 400 arrests.
Native Americans and environmentalists say the pipeline could threaten the water supply of millions and disrespect sacred lands.
Warren told us it will make oil cheaper to transport and create jobs.
“But it doesn’t help the United States if it leaks, right? It doesn’t help the people who live downstream,” Albert said.
“I’m not gonna win that argument with you because pipelines do leak. It’s rare. I think the chances of this pipeline leaking is extremely remote,” Warren said.
The company says it is taking “every precaution” to make the steel pipeline safe, and its employees are facing death threats.
“Our people have been under attack,” Warren said.
“I hope your parents, your children especially, all burn in f****** hell,” one person threatened.
When finished, the pipeline will be more than 1,100 miles long. That’s just seven miles shorter than the controversial Keystone Pipeline, which President Obama rejected in 2015.
Trump has yet to speak about the Dakota Access Pipeline, but said this about another controversial pipeline last month: “We’re going to allow the Keystone Pipeline and so many other things to move forward.”
Warren “absolutely” thinks the protesters will leave once his company is done, saying “What is there to protest?”
“They will not stop our project. That’s naïve. They’re not stopping our project,” Warren added.
Trump’s team did not respond to our request for comment. Warren said the company wants to reimburse the state and Morton County for the money spent on handling the protests. But authorities have yet to accept the offer.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Trump’s holdings in Kelcy Warren’s company are relatively small.