Dakota Access CEO to step down

By Mike Soraghan | 10/09/2020 07:26 AM EDT

Kelcy Warren, pipeline mogul and one of President Trump’s biggest financial backers, says he is stepping away from day-to-day management of the company he built, Energy Transfer LP.

Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren.

Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren. Energy Transfer/Facebook

Kelcy Warren, pipeline mogul and one of President Trump’s biggest financial backers, says he is stepping away from day-to-day management of the company he built, Energy Transfer LP.

Warren, perhaps best known nationally for guiding construction of the Dakota Access pipeline through bitter opposition from tribes, will give up the title of CEO. He will remain as executive chairman and chairman of the Dallas-based company’s board of directors.

"Although I am stepping away from the day-to-day management of our business, I will continue to be intimately involved in the strategic growth of Energy Transfer," Warren said in a statement.


He is handing off day-to-day duties to two top executives who will serve as "co-CEOs," effective Jan. 1, 2021. Mackie McCrea and Tom Long will work together in the manner of an "Office of the CEO," the company said in a news release, and will jointly direct the business.

The move comes as the future of the Dakota Access line remains in doubt. Last summer, a federal judge ordered the line shut down and drained for a new environmental review. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit blocked the judge’s order and is set to hear arguments in the case the day after the November general election (Energywire, Sept. 18).

The court wrangling has left the pipeline vulnerable to the outcome of the election. Rulings have made its continued operation vulnerable to a president willing to shut off the flow of oil. President Trump would almost certainly keep it open if he’s reelected. But Democratic nominee Joe Biden would come under pressure from tribes and environmental groups to shut it down (Energywire, Aug. 28).

Warren has spent $10 million to keep Biden from getting that chance. Records show Warren sent $10 million on Aug. 31 to America First Action, a super political action committee supporting Trump’s reelection.

Warren and his wife, Amy, had already contributed at least $720,000 to the Trump Victory Fund. Warren also hosted a dinner at his Dallas mansion in June that raised more than $10 million for Trump’s campaign.

Warren co-founded Energy Transfer in 1996. At the time, it had about 200 miles of natural gas pipelines and 20 employees. Today, the company has more than 90,000 miles of pipelines along with an array of petroleum facilities, making it one of the country’s biggest pipeline companies. Much of the growth has come from acquisitions, and the company’s official subsidiary list has more than 350 names.

It has also been dogged by safety and environmental problems. The company’s Sunoco subsidiary ranks eighth-worst for volume spilled per mile for the last three years on pipelines carrying hazardous liquids such as crude oil, according to federal data. It’s had more accidents harming people or the environment than any other operator in the last five years, though it also has one of the largest pipeline systems (Energywire, May 26).

The $25 billion company has overseas operations and says it has the largest and most diversified portfolio of energy assets in the United States.

McCrea joined the company in 1997 and has most recently been president and chief commercial officer. Long has served as Energy Transfer’s chief financial officer since February of 2016. Before assuming that role, he served for five years as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Regency Energy Partners LP, which Energy Transfer acquired in 2010.