To understand the escalating pipeline conflict between the Wet’suwet’en First Nation land defenders and Coastal GasLink, it is necessary to trace the line of financial interests behind this CAD $6.2-billion investment. According to CTV News on December 26, 2019 TC Energy announced the sale of a 65% share of this pipeline project to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co and Alberta Investment Management Corporation (on behalf a number of its clients). In the oil and gas industry, pipeline infrastructure, which is located between extraction facilities and refineries/ export terminals, are referred to as the the ‘midstream’. Coastal GasLink is, in fact, the 3rd Oil ‘midstream’ Canadian infrastructure project that Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) has invested in. You could say that the Canadian oil and gas industry has delegated the most contentious aspect of the industry, the aspect that involves traversing First Nations territory, to KKR. So who are they?
Well, as Joyce Nelson informs us, KKR is a Wall Street ‘private equity’ firm with Canadian headquarters in Calgary. It is a massive financial entity that is in the business of investing in companies that are facing difficult scenarios, eventually re-selling the equity, to make large profits. In Western Canada KKR now owns the Encana Corp. natural gas pipeline and also has a stake in SemCams Midstream, which owns and operates 700 miles of natural gas pipelines in partnership with Energy Transfer. Energy Transfer is the company that, notoriously, subdued indigenous protesters from at the Standing Rock reservation in the U.S. in 2016 by marshalling effective state-supported repression.
In short, as nelson notes, “KKR not only has a primary position in the midstream natural gas industry of Western Canada, it also has scandalously partnered with a company well-versed in stopping indigenous protests”. Further, as if to underscore its access to the apparatus of the state, KKR has appointed retired four-star U.S. general and former director of the CIA, General David Petraeus as chair of KKR Global Initiative, its own in house intelligence agency.
Indeed, in the conflict over Coastal GasLink’s passage across unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, the hereditary Chiefs of the Gilseyhu, Laksilyu, Tsayu, Laksamshu, Gitdumdenet bands and their supporters are valiantly facing-off against the mighty governments of BC and Canada, as well as the combined corporate interests of TC Energy Corp, LNG Canada (Shell, Petronas, PetroChina, Mitsubishi Corp, Kogas Canada), Alberta Investment Management Corporation, as well as those of the insidiously tentacular Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.