Texas chooses the fossil fuel CEO behind Dakota Access to guard its parks and wildlife

Dallas billionaire and longtime pipeline exec Kelcy Warren was appointed by Gov. Abbott.

Protesters outside the federal building housing the Army Corps of Engineers offices in Dallas, November 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/LM Otero
Protesters outside the federal building housing the Army Corps of Engineers offices in Dallas, November 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/LM Otero

Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, has had a long career in the fossil fuel business. While the months-long fight over his company’s controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and slump in oil prices contributed to what Warren called the “toughest year of my career,” things seem to be looking up for the Dallas billionaire. Donald Trump is now president and Warren’s nomination to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on its way to approval.

A state senate nominations committee voted 4–3 along party lines Thursday to approve Warren’s nomination to the 10-person commission, the Guardian reported. Warren has been serving on the commission since November 2015, when he was nominated by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to help steward the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department — the stated mission of which is to “manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas” and ensure present and future generations have access to hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities. This session is the first opportunity for state Senate confirmation.

Dakota/Lakota Sioux writer Ruth Hopkins called Warren’s appointment “ludicrous.”

The prolonged battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline — a 1,172-mile oil pipeline stretching from North Dakota to Illinois — was one of the most significant environmental stories of the last year. The Standing Rock Sioux fought the pipeline’s construction for months, arguing that they weren’t properly consulted and that the proposed route threatened the tribe’s sole source of drinking water. Protesters were met with a militarized police force reportedly armed with water cannons, pepper spray, and rubber bullets.


When President Obama denied the final easement and ordered further environmental review late last year, environmentalists and native groups cheered the victory. But it was short-lived.

Donald Trump moved into the White House and was clear about his intent to do whatever he could do boost fossil fuels — including approving the Dakota Access pipeline. His administration granted the final easement in February. The two men have close financial ties: Warren gave more than $100,000 to Trump’s campaign and at one time Trump had between $500,000 and $1 million invested in Energy Transfer Partners, according to reporting by the Guardian, plus another $500,000 to $1 million holding in Phillips 66, which would have a 25 percent stake in the completed pipeline.

Warren told the Dallas Morning News in January that he was personally victimized by Dakota Access Pipeline protesters. “It was hurtful,” he said. “I’m really trying hard to not personalize it, but it’s been difficult.”

While the Dakota Access Pipeline has already begun operations, it isn’t Warren’s only controversial project. Louisiana residents are fighting ETP’s Bayou Bridge Pipeline, the tail end of Dakota Access, which would carry 480,000 barrels of oil per day through multiple watersheds and long stretches of fragile wetlands. For months, protesters gathered in Texas to fight the construction of the Trans-Pecos pipeline, which was recently completed and will carry fracked gas to Mexico. And the company’s Rover natural gas pipeline spilled 50,000 barrels of drilling fluids into Ohio wetlands earlier this week.

The full Texas Senate will vote on Warren’s appointment to the Parks and Wildlife Commission later this year.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Warren’s nomination was effective immediately, although he is still awaiting state Senate confirmation.