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Fact Check: AOC Mangles Every Major Claim in Viral Exchange over Keystone, Dakota Pipelines

No, taxpayers are not responsible for cleaning up any spills

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is heavily promoting her exchange today with the CEO of Wells Fargo, Timothy Sloan. 

Ocasio-Cortez focused her attack on the CEO over two issues: Wells Fargo providing financing to the operators of the Dakota Pipeline, and the bank having clients in the private prison industry.

Here’s how she’s promoting the exchange:

Tweet #1105529694395551745

And here’s a post she retweeted on the detention of children: 

Tweet #1105524666641338368

AOC is operating under the premise that Wells Fargo shares culpability for any bad behavior its clients engage in.

But is this a reasonable standard? As the Federalist’s Gabriel Malor wryly observed, this means “Wells Fargo should also pay to replace my car, since they financed it, after all.” And as Wells Fargo’s Sloan pointed out, his bank does not “cage children,” as the congressman claimed. (When he pointed this out, AOC promptly moved on to the pipelines.) 

On the pipelines, Ocasio-Cortez fared no better. 

AOC started out insisting that Wells Fargo backed the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline.

This is bad, she said, because the Keystone XL pipeline recently leaked 210,000 gallons of oil across South Dakota.

Only one problem: The Keystone XL pipeline doesn’t exist yet. The confused congressman appeared to be referring to the Keystone pipeline that’s been operating since 2010. But even in that case, Wells Fargo, as its CEO noted to AOC, has not financed the project.

No matter, AOC just turned her attention to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which the CEO admitted being one of “17 or 19” other banks to finance the project. 

“Okay, so let’s focus on the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Should Wells Fargo be held responsible for the damages incurred by climate change due to the financing of fossil fuels and these projects?”

“I don’t know how you calculate that, Congresswoman,” Sloan responded. 

Ocasio-Cortez then appeared to struggle thinking of how providing financing for a pipeline could be responsible for “the damages incurred by climate change,” and followed with: “Say, from spills, or when we have to reinvest in infrastructure building, seawalls from the erosion of infrastructure or cleanups, wildfires, etc.”

“Related to that pipeline, I’m not aware that there’s been any of what you described that’s occurred related to that pipeline,” Sloan replied. 

AOC then followed up, asking again why Wells Fargo would pay for spills, and Sloan again said there haven’t been any.  

"So, hypothetically, if there was a leak from the Dakota Access Pipeline, why shouldn’t Wells Fargo pay for the cleanup of it if -- since it paid for the construction of a pipeline itself?" she tried again.

"Because we don’t operate the pipeline,” Sloan told Ocasio-Cortez. “We provide financing to the company that’s operating the pipeline.”

But it gets worse. On Twitter, AOC trumpeted the exchange, claiming taxpayers are on the hook for any leaks.

That’s nonsense, says a spokesman for the Dakota Pipeline project, Craig Stevens.

“Her allegation doesn’t even make sense,” Stevens told Grabien. “Of course, any spill would be the responsibility of the operator.”

Ironically, it’s the anti-pipeline protesters AOC has celebrated who’ve created costs for taxpayers. 

“Cleaning up the trash that the protestors left cost North Dakota taxpayers over a million dollars and the law enforcement tasked with keeping the peace during the months-long standoff cost them tens of millions more,” Stevens said. 

Of Dakota, Stevens said AOC’s fears are entirely imaginary. 

“The Dakota Access pipeline remains one of the safest, most technologically advanced, and most studied pipelines in the world,” he said. The operators “met or exceeded all state and federal guidelines. They used double-walled pipelines through the sensitive areas (approx 50% thicker). Most of the line follows a pre-existing energy corridor and is buried at least 90 feet below Lake Oahe (where the protests were).”

These clips may play well among her fans online, but in the world of factual reality, AOC has fallen far short. 

Watch the full exchange over the pipelines here:

 

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