Warren Buffett fuels anti pipeline campaign

Billionaire donor and Railroad owner bankrolls anti-pipeline agenda and gets richer through secretive foundations

Opponents of the Sandpiper Pipeline Project across Minnesota have portrayed themselves as simply being a home-spun coalition of family, student, hiker, and Native American grassroots activists.

It’s a nice fable. But it’s false.

In truth, according to new research conducted by CFACT policy analysts Ron Arnold and Paul Driessen, the anti-Sandpiper campaign is being funded and coordinated by a number of shadowy out-of-state foundations and financiers – including the Tides Foundation and billionaire railroad tycoon Warren Buffett.

These allegedly grassroots groups are actually part of a tightly orchestrated, generously funded anti-pipeline campaign to help the vested interests of the oil-transporting BNSF Railway, its parent company Berkshire Hathaway, and CEO billionaire Warren Buffett. It’s the Attack of Buffett’s Puppets.

Arnold and Driessen note that while some small local and state groups – such as Friends of the Headwaters and Occupy Minnesota – are involved in this debate, these organizations have little money or clout.

The true leader of the campaign against Sandpiper is in fact Honor the Earth, a Native American group that wants “No more mines. No more pipelines.” It’s not incorporated and files no income tax reports of its own. Instead, Honor the Earth is a “project” of the Tides Foundation, which also serves as its fiscal sponsor.

99% of Honor the Earth’s money – nearly $1.5 million – was funneled to it by out-of-state donors.

Honor the Earth is also sponsored by the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), another Native group. However, Minnesota corporate records show no incorporation entry for the anti-pipeline IEN. And only $120,000 of the IEN’s $2.2 million in tax-exempt foundation money came from inside Minnesota.

In fact, behind these “grassroots” groups is a formidable $25 billion in foundation investment portfolios.

“That’s the real power behind the scenes: Out-of-state donor puppeteers who pull the activists’ strings,” said Driessen.

The Tides Foundation is one of the biggest environmentalist donors. It is a massive, secretive San Francisco operation created to hide the names of donors who want to block development.

Our researchers also uncovered that Tides has given over $700,000 to Honor the Earth to oppose development, particularly pipelines – first Keystone XL and now Enbridge’s Sandpiper pipeline, both of which are potential competitors for oil-by-rail companies.

Tides also gave over $670,000 to the Indigenous Environmental Network to oppose pipelines.

Amazingly, the Tides Foundation’s biggest donor is multi-billionaire Warren Buffett and his family.

Mr. Buffett is one of President Obama’s most important friends, advisors, and major campaign contributors. At Buffett’s urging, and because of constant pressure from environmental and climate activists, Obama vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline and is blocking other pipelines.

Warren Buffett’s interest in blocking pipelines like Sandpiper is likely financially motivated.

Most oil that isn’t shipped by pipeline is shipped by rail cars – like the BNSF Railway and Union Tank Car Company, both of which are owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.

So it appears Minnesota’s anti-pipeline activists are, perhaps unknowingly, helping Warren Buffett maintain his railroad’s oil transport operations, using their activism to help strangle competition from Sandpiper and other pipelines.

“No wonder $30.5 million in Buffett money went to the Tides Foundation – which funds dozens of anti-pipeline activist groups. His $30.5 million investment is generating billions in oil-by-rail revenues,” commented Arnold.

In an ironic twist, the Greens, by stopping the pipeline construction, may in fact be placing the environment more at risk. This is because railroad tanker cars all too frequently have accidents, like the horrible spill in Lac Megantic, Quebec, which caused huge fires that destroyed much of the town and killed 47 people.

“It may be a game for them, but they’re playing with lives, livelihoods, and living standards,” commented Driessen. “They’re getting rich on the backs of poor and middle class families whose energy costs are skyrocketing and whose families and communities are put at risk when companies are forced to ship oil by less safe tanker trucks and rail tanker cars, instead of by modern pipelines,” he added.


Journalists, citizens, and political leaders who care about honesty and transparency need to ask:

  • Why did “No more pipelines” Honor the Earth get over $700,000 from a San Francisco money-funnel for Warren Buffet’s oil-by-rail fortune?
  • Why are the anti-pipeline groups so secretive about their money and ties? What else are they hiding?
  • Why aren’t Minnesota’s news media, legislature, governor, and attorney general digging into this?
  • Why aren’t they investigating the dangers of truck and rail oil transport, compared to pipelines?


Protesters who are ranting about Sandpiper, Keystone, and other pipelines must be asked:

  • Didn’t anyone tell you you’re actually campaigning on behalf of the interests of Warren Buffett and the Tides Foundation?
  • Do you know who is really bankrolling and calling the shots in this anti-Sandpiper campaign?
  • Are you happy to be working for pennies for oil-by-rail billionaires, helping them get even richer?
  • Did you know you might be endangering American lives along these oil-by-rail lines through cities?