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Enbridge remains set on Dakota Access pipeline stake

Enbridge plans to acquire a 27.6-per-cent interest in the Bakken Pipeline System, which includes the Dakota project, despite opposition toward the project from native American activists and their supporters.

Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

Enbridge Inc. remains committed to completing its purchase of a major stake in the Dakota Access pipeline, despite the high-profile confrontation between native American protesters and a would-be partner that is now building the $3.7-billion (U.S.) project, executives from the company's U.S. subsidiary said on Monday.

Enbridge announced in August a $1.5-billion (U.S.) deal to acquire a 27.6-per-cent interest in the Bakken Pipeline System – which includes the Dakota project – through its Houston-based Enbridge Energy Partners LP (EEP). The acquisition was expected to close in September, but EEP said on Monday that certain conditions required for closing the deal have not been met.

"We can't get into the specifics of this, due to the confidential nature of the agreement, other than to say we remain confident [the conditions] will be met," Guy Jarvis, executive vice-president at EEP, told analysts during a conference call.

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The company said it is "pleased" with its pending acquisition, which represents an "important link in [its] market access strategy" and is backed by secure contracts with shippers from North Dakota's Bakken fields that are eager to establish pipeline links to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Neither Mr. Jarvis nor Enbridge Energy Partners president Mark Maki commented on the standoff between Energy Transfer Partners LP and native American activists and their supporters, who argue that the crude pipeline would threaten drinking water at the Standing Rock Sioux reserve and disturb burial grounds on their traditional territory.

The Standing Rock fight has become the latest cause célèbre for activists opposed to the oil industry and for the growing native American rights movement, which is demanding that indigenous communities must provide their consent before resource projects proceed on their traditional territories.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde has voiced the AFN's support for the Standing Rock activists. And indigenous leaders warn of similar actions on this side of the border if the federal government approves the Kinder Morgan Inc.'s Trans Mountain expansion over the objections of coastal First Nations communities. The Liberal government is scheduled to rule on that $11-billion (Canadian) project before Christmas.

On Monday, an alliance of 85 First Nations and U.S. tribes called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to condemn Enbridge's role in supporting the Dakota Access pipeline.

A spokesman for Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr did not address U.S. controversy but said the Liberal government is committed to building a relationship with First Nations in Canada based on a recognition of rights, respect and partnership.

"We embrace a diversity of views and opinions with respect to Canada's energy future, and we encourage people to express their views peacefully‎," Mr. Carr's spokesman Alexandre Deslongchamps said.

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Meanwhile, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners LP are proceeding with work on the pipeline, despite a U.S. government decision to withhold approval of some critical work that has to be done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The administration said Corps of Engineers work would not resume until officials had a chance to re-examine complaints from the Standing Rock Sioux, leaving the completion of the project in doubt.

A spokesman for Enbridge Inc. said the company will hold a minority interest in the pipeline project, which will continue to be managed by Energy Transfer.

"There is a rigorous regulatory process set out for reviewing projects like these and two separate courts found that [the Dakota Access pipeline] followed the law and conducted well-documented consultation and environmental review," spokesperson Ivan Giesbrecht said in an e-mailed statement.

"Additionally, a review is under way by the U.S. Department of Justice and others. We recognize there are opposing points of view and are hopeful for a peaceful resolution that respects the legal rights of everyone involved."

Meanwhile, Enbridge Energy Partners said it lost $406-million (U.S.) in the third quarter after taking a writedown from the shelving of the company's Sandpiper pipeline because of a drop in expected crude production from North Dakota. The decision followed Enbridge's move to acquire a share in the Dakota Access pipeline.

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