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The Billionaire CEO Behind the Dakota Access Pipeline Would Rather Be Talking About Country Music

The bittersweet ballad of Kelcy Warren.

When he's not building pipelines, Kelcy Warren likes to write melancholy country ballads. In one, the Texas billionaire sees his girlfriend with his best friend and then takes a solitary drive to New Orleans, where he feels even more lonely in the lively crowd. Another song mourns a lost friend: "Do you ever talk with angels? Put in a word for me."

Warren is a co-founder and CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the conglomerate whose security contractors have deployed pepper spray and snarling dogs against the Native Americans protesting its Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota. He's laying another contested pipeline, the Trans-Pecos, near Big Bend National Park—hallowed ground to many Texans. He's spent millions of dollars supporting right-wing politicians. He gave $700,000 to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's political action committee and $6 million to PACs supporting former Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign. He also put Perry on ETP'S board.

With his business partners, Warren has distributed $223,000 to the three members of the Texas Railroad Commission, who rule on the eminent-domain requests his companies often use to run pipelines through privately owned farms and ranches. He personally spent $100,000 to help elect Trump—formerly an ETP shareholder—with the unvarnished expectation that the new administration would remove the last hurdles for the stalled North Dakota project on "January 20 or shortly thereafter." Indeed, four days after taking office, Trump issued an executive order to speed the completion of the pipeline; this week, the Army Corps of Engineers granted an easement that will allow the construction to proceed.

The scale of Warren's projects is mind-boggling. The 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline will carry 570,000 barrels of oil a day through watersheds and wildlife habitats. Add that to the 75,000 miles of pipe Warren already owns, a carbon-based nervous system worth an estimated $67 billion, and it's not hard to see why he has become the target of some truly nasty personal attacks. Pipeline foes have called him "the face of genocide for Native Americans" and "nothing but a cancer on the planet."

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