CHARLOTTE—In a sophisticated, peaceful action to pressure the bank to stop funding coal, nine people are risking arrest today at sit-ins at four different Bank of America locations across Charlotte. The activists are a part of Rainforest Action Network’s campaign to confront the bank’s leading role in coal financing, which impacts the quality of air in North Carolina and contributes to global climate change pollution.
Among those risking arrest is Patricia Moore, 75, of Charlotte, a Bank of America family shareholder and grandmother concerned about the impact coal pollution is having on her granddaughter who lives downwind of one of Charlotte’s five coal fired power plants and suffers from chronic asthma. Seated with her arm locked into a 55 gallon barrel with two other people at one of today’s four protest sites, Moore has effectively interrupted the branches’ operations while wearing a “Bank of America: Stop Funding Coal,” t-shirt.
“Most of the members of my family live within the ring of five coal plants that surround our city. When Bank of America funds coal, it sponsors the coal pollution that’s hurting my family,” said Moore. “We stand together today as people who understand the many problems that stem from coal. With the stroke of a pen, BofA could move from funding dirty energy to funding clean energy and green jobs.”
In the past two years, Bloomberg data indicates that Bank of America has invested $6.4 billion in the U.S. coal industry, surpassing any other American financial institution. Also according to Bloomberg Data, the bank is the top funder of companies that practice mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. The bank underwrites the entire spectrum of the coal industry, from mining, to transport, to the utilities that operate the dirtiest coal-fired power plants.
According to a 2010 Clean Air Task Force study, 325 deaths, 502 heart attacks and 5,490 asthma attacks are attributed to the five coal plants within 50 miles of Charlotte.1 A new Duke Energy coal fired power plant, known as Cliffside, is expected to begin operating before the end of the year.
Nationally, coal is a leading cause of life threatening air pollution like asthma-inducing smog. In the U.S., one of ten children suffers from asthma. It is the number-one illness that causes kids to miss school. Each year, coal pollution causes 12,000 emergency room visits and $100 billion in health costs. Half of U.S. families live in places with unsafe air.
Coal is also the leading cause of climate change in the country. “I wish Bank of America would stop enabling the coal industry that pollutes Charlotte’s air, but I am even more concerned about global climate pollution,” said Beth Henry, a resident of Charlotte risking arrest at today’s protest. “Coal contributes more global warming pollution than any other single source. With droughts and super storms devastating our economy and threatening the future, the bank needs to stop financing coal and fund the solutions.”
U.S. coal stocks have dropped considerably in recent days, due to expectations of regulation under the second term of the Obama administration, the price of natural gas, increasing public pressure about air quality and climate change concerns, and a significant drop in U.S. consumption.
"Plain and simple, coal is a bad investment. It's bad for our health, it's disastrous for our climate and it is ceasing to make financial sense," said Todd Zimmer. "It's past time Bank of America take a leadership role in transitioning this country to a clean, safe energy economy and that must start with a strong commitment to stop funding dirty and dangerous sources like coal."
In 2008, after working with the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Bank of America acknowledged the destruction caused by mountaintop removal coal mining and adopted a policy to phase out financing for companies predominantly focused on that extraction method. In the past four years, however, the company has increased underwriting for mountaintop removal companies and for the regional utilities that burn the coal for electricity. The company, according to a report by RAN released in 2011, has become the leading underwriter of coal in the country.
Rainforest Action Network, which organized today’s protest, has been pressuring the bank to end its financing of the coal industry since August 2011. In May of this year, the group hung a 70’ banner off the Bank of America Stadium reading, “Bank of Coal,” and helped to organize a 1000 person protest on the day of the company’s annual shareholder meeting. The group has also convened “Clean Air Day” protests to highlight the air pollution caused by coal. Last November, RAN rallied bank customers to transfer funds away from the bank with a peaceful sit-in and banner affixed atop flagpoles at the bank’s global headquarters in uptown Charlotte reading, “Not with Our Money.”
Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org