This post is by Ben Collins of RAN and Yann Louvel of BankTrack.
The campaign to stop bank financing of mountaintop removal coal mining is gaining momentum.
For years, RAN and other organizations in the global BankTrack network have urged U.S. and European banks to stop financing the devastation caused by mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. BankTrack members have worked closely with advocates from Appalachia — the region hardest hit by MTR — including Paul Corbit Brown and Elise Keaton from Keeper of the Mountains, and Bob Kincaid from Coal River Mountain Watch. Together, they’ve travelled around the U.S. and Europe to speak directly to CEOs and boards of banks at their annual shareholder meetings and urge them to stop bankrolling mountaintop removal coal mining.
This week, we have an opportunity to push France’s biggest bank, Crédit Agricole, to stop profiting from MTR once and for all. At today’s annual shareholder meeting, Paul Corbit Brown and staff from Friends of the Earth France urged the bank’s CEO, Jean-Paul Chifflet, to follow the lead of other banks and stop funding the biggest and most destructive MTR companies.
Public pressure to stop funding MTR started showing results a few years ago. U.S. banks were the first to react in 2008, adopting a mix of enhanced due diligence procedures and financing thresholds for companies that engage in mountaintop removal. But real change started to happen last year, when Wells Fargo in the U.S., and Crédit Agricole and BNP Paribas in France, adopted new policies on MTR. These covered both direct project financing of MTR projects — which is pretty rare — and, more importantly, general corporate financing of coal mining companies active in MTR.
The implications of these new policies are potentially huge: the biggest and most harmful producers of MTR coal, such as Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal, raise their funding from general corporate loans from banks or from bonds or shares issued to investors. And these are precisely the transactions that should be excluded by these new policies, which bar financing for companies that are “significant” producers of MTR coal.
But we’ve learned that different banks define "significant" in wildly different ways. BNP Paribas blacklists the main companies active in MTR production, including Alpha and Arch. But Crédit Agricole — while its policy looks similar to BNP’s on paper — excludes only those coal mining companies that produce more than 20% of their coal from MTR. In practice, they aren’t prohibited from doing business with any MTR companies at all!
Crédit Agricole has financed several loan and bond deals for Alpha and Arch — the worst of the worst MTR companies — while BNP Paribas hasn’t done any deals with these two companies since last year. Ironically for Crédit Agricole, financing MTR has not only been bad for the environment and human rights — it’s also been a bad investment. The bank suffered significant financial losses from loans it made to recently-bankrupt MTR miner Trinity Coal.
In contrast to Crédit Agricole, other U.S. and European banks have taken concrete steps away from MTR financing this spring. Last month, JPMorgan Chase published an update of its environmental and social policy framework, stating that they expected to continue defunding companies engaged in mountaintop mining. And in the U.K., Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) published a mining policy update prohibiting deals with the main MTR producers. Unlike Crédit Agricole’s new policy, these policy changes at JPMorgan Chase and RBS have teeth: both banks will stop financing top MTR producers, including Alpha and Arch.
Today, our allies went straight to Crédit Agricole’s annual shareholder meeting to tell the bank’s CEO and board close its massive MTR loophole, and stop funding Alpha and Arch.
Yann Louvel, Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator, BankTrack
Ben Collins, Research and Policy Campaigner, Rainforest Action Network
- The proposed Otter Creek Mine, which sits between two national forests, would cover 7,639 acres of state, federal and private land in southeastern Montana.
- Arch Coal owns the rights to mine approximately 1.5-billion tons of coal in southeastern Montana.
- In March 2010, St. Louis-based Arch Coal agreed to pay the state of Montana $86 million plus future royalties to mine a half billion tons of coal on state-owned Otter Creek land.
- The application calls for transporting the coal by rail, but the proposed Tongue River Railroad, which would transfer much of the coal from the Powder River Basin, has yet to gain federal approval. In June the Surface Transportation Board ordered the proposed railroad’s backers to submit a new application. The board also said it will conduct another environmental study of the line proposed between Miles City and Ashland.
- No financing for companies pursuing new coal-fired power plants and life-extending retrofits of existing coal-fired power plants.
- No financing for companies engaged in mountaintop removal coal mining.
- No financing for companies pursuing coal export infrastructure.
- Shift the balance of energy financing to support power generation that is less threatening to our health and environment.
Dirty Energy is Over, Fund the Future Join Us and Put Wall Street on Notice: No More Money for Dirty Coal and Tar Sands Join our campaign to stop the financing of coal and tar sands by Wall Street. Coal and tar sands are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in North America — causing catastrophic climate change, poisoning communities with toxic pollutants and destroying eco-systems with destructive extraction. Join Rainforest Action Network for our banks “Tour of Shame” as we call out the corporate finance behind dirty coal and oil extraction WHEN: Saturday, April 16th at 1pm WHERE: Meet in front of the DC Convention Center at 7th and Mt. Vernon NW CONTACT: Scott at email@example.com; 415-235-0596 Big Banks — Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, PNC Bank and Morgan Stanley — raise billions of dollars for the fossil fuel industry every year. It’s time for Wall Street to take responsibility in how their investments affect public health and the climate. Join us on Saturday afternoon and demand a transition in energy financing from dirty coal to clean energy solutions like wind and solar.