Pages tagged "banks"


Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining: Five Things You Need to Know

MTR funded by BofAA few days ago, I sat down for an interview with the good folks at Living on Earth, Public Radio International's weekly environmental news show.

We talked about RAN's work fighting mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining in Appalachia, and the banks that fund it. From that interview, here are five things you need to know:

    1. MTR destroys some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the U.S. The first step in blowing the top off a mountain is clear cutting the forest off the top of it—some of the most diverse forests in the United States.
    2. MTR debris is toxic. The rubble that's left after the coal gets picked out of it is full of mercury and heavy metals—and all of it gets pushed into the valleys and streams next to the blown-up mountain.
    3. MTR is big business for big banks. When RAN began campaigning on MTR, all of the major U.S. banks and most of the big European ones were doing deals with MTR mining companies.
    4. Our pressure on the banking sector is working—but there are some significant holdouts. We’ve successfully pushed Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland and BNP Paribas/Bank of the West to stop doing business with the biggest MTR companies. But PNC Bank, Citibank, Morgan Stanley and Barclays—the number one financier of MTR—are still profiting from this horrific practice.
    5. Banks don't like it when you ask them about MTR. Living on Earth contacted all four holdout banks. Only Barclays offered any response.

Read—or listen to—the whole thing!


Time for France’s Biggest Bank to Stop Funding Mountaintop Removal Coal

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.

Take action: Now’s the time to back them up — please add your voice now! GFC_MTR_crop 

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!

Take action: Will you tell Crédit Agricole Jean-Paul Chifflet to close the bank’s huge MTR loophole?

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.

Take action: We have Crédit Agricole's attention — will you add your voice?

Yann Louvel, Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator, BankTrack
Ben Collins, Research and Policy Campaigner, Rainforest Action Network


Mountains, Water and Community

Last week, Rainforest Action Network and three allies testified at Bank of America's annual shareholder meeting, urging them to drop coal, to stop profiting from environmental destruction and human rights abuses. In the next two weeks, we'll be posting the statements of our three allies. Add your voice by telling Bank of America to stop funding coal --  and come clean on climate change

My name is Elise Keaton. I am the Executive Director of the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation and I am from southern West Virginia. I currently live in Charleston, West Virginia. I am here today to ask you to please stop financing the destruction of our mountains, our water and my community.

On January 9 of this year, I came home from work, poured a big glass of water from my tap and drank it. As soon as I set my glass down I received a text message from my landlord stating, “Don’t drink the water! There has been a chemical leak!

Over the next hours, I experienced acute symptoms from exposure to the coal-processing chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), including irritated eyes, nose and throat, nausea, and stomach cramps. If the spill had been immediately lethal, I thought, the authorities would have sounded the chemical valley alarms. So I monitored my symptoms and concluded that I did not need to go to the emergency room that night. I figured that the next day, we would know more about what had happened.

What we learned over the next week was that a Freedom Industries facility storing coal-processing chemicals leaked MCHM into the Elk River, contaminating the drinking water for 300,000 households. The first question a thinking human being should ask is, “Why are 300,000 households, spread across nine counties in a rural state like West Virginia on a single water source in the city of Charleston?” MTRQuote_720x720

The answer is: their local water sources have already been compromised by the mining industry. Their streams and springs have been destroyed or buried by mountaintop removal. Their wells have been compromised by blasting or polluted by coal slurry injections.

And instead of addressing the sources of this pollution, the political-industrial establishment in West Virginia decided that your quarterly profits were more important than clean water for our communities and they answered that loss of water by extending the municipal water source further and further out into those counties.

Four months later, we still lack access to guaranteed safe drinking water in West Virginia. Our esteemed congresspeople have insisted that they are drinking the water. But no public health official has declared the water safe to drink.

I am 34 years old and I am getting married this summer. I've waited a long time to start my family. Now, I have postponed my plans to have children indefinitely because no one can tell me the impact MCHM may have had on me and my reproductive ability.

I am here today to ask you to please stop financing the destruction of our mountains, our water and my community. The minuscule profits you received as a result of mountaintop removal mining are incomparable to the catastrophic damage caused by the practice. It is killing us.

More than 20 peer-reviewed health studies have shown that living near mountaintop removal sites is deadly for the people of Appalachia. Please stop financing the destruction of our mountains, our water and my community.

I will close with this: when you remove coal by blowing up a mountain to extract it you have destroyed a “water maker” for the equivalent of one hour’s worth of electricity for the United States. Let me repeat that. When you extract coal by mountaintop removal you kill a resource that will make water forever -- for the equivalent of one hour’s worth of energy for the U.S. How is that a good investment?

As shareholders of one of the largest financial institutions in the world, you are savvy investors and business minded individuals. How is destroying the mountains that create clean water for a very small, short term financial benefit a good investment? Please stop financing the destruction of our mountains, our water and our communities. Your profits from mountaintop removal mean death for us.

Thank you.

Stand with Elise and RAN by telling Bank of America to stop funding coal --  and come clean on climate change


Did You Hear The One About The Bank That Couldn't Count?

BoA_ActionLast week, Bank of America (BofA) admitted a huge accounting error—for several years, it claimed a whopping $4 billion more in capital than it actually has. The day BofA announced its blunder, its shares closed down more than six percent, the stock’s biggest drop in two years.

But BofA had to come clean. Regulators, shareholders and consumers need an accurate picture of banks' balance sheets.

BofA’s admission gives us a rare chance to raise a far bigger question: What else are they hiding?

It's time for BofA to be transparent about something much more vital to the future of the planet: just how much its investments contribute to climate change.

Tell Bank of America: Come clean on funding climate change!

I'm writing to you from BofA's Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I'm about to speak in support of a crucial shareholder resolution. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility—backed by investors worth almost $35 billion—is pushing the bank to report on how much carbon pollution gets spewed into the atmosphere by the companies it funds.

BofA is a top funder of the biggest drivers of climate change: coal, oil, and gas corporations, as well as carbon–intensive electricity producers. But it's refusing to report on its financed carbon emissions. BofA knows that opening its books will create pressure to cut emissions by moving away from fossil fuels.

Now is the time to push BofA on climate change. Last week's accounting revelations were a big black eye, and at today's AGM, the bank needs to reassure its shareholders and customers that it doesn't have billions of dollars of climate liabilities on its books.

We need you to add your voice: Tell Bank of America to come clean on climate accounting!

Pushing for transparency is just the first step. We're also calling on BofA to cut its carbon pollution by stopping funding coal, the top contributor to climate change. I'll be making that call here at the AGM in just a few minutes, and ally organizations will speak to coal's cost beyond climate: mountains with their tops blown off in West Virginia, rivers wrecked by coal ash here in North Carolina, and human rights abuses by coal company security forces in Colombia.

Will you stand with us? Tell BofA that today's the day to come clean on funding climate change—and to cut its emissions by ending coal financing.


From Appalachia to London, Barclays Bank Takes Heat for Coal Financing

There is nothing quite like giving one of world's biggest banks a bad day. A bad week is even better.

Today, protestors swamped Barclays' annual shareholder meeting in London, calling out all sorts of nefarious deeds committed by the bank: speculating on food prices, supporting tax havens, ridiculous executive bonuses and its outrageous financing of the world's dirtiest fuel, coal. BarclaysEagle

Our friends at World Development Movement showed up as well-dressed eagles to spoof the bank's logo and call Barclays out for being the world's largest financier of mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR) in Appalachia.

Paul Corbit Brown, an Appalachian native and president of Keeper of the Mountains, drove the message home when he testified at today's Annual General Meeting about how MTR goes beyond just leveling mountains. It poisons communities and causes devastating health problems wherever it is practiced.

Since last Thursday, Rainforest Action Network members have sent more than 19,000 messages to Barclays and demanded the bank immediately start moving away from financing mountain destruction.

Our pressure appears to be working. World Development Movement reports that Barclays has agreed to meet with Paul for a further discussion of MTR.

Photo Credit: World Development Movement


I'm Visiting Barclays Bank and I Need You to Back Me Up

Paul Corbit Brown MTR imageThis is a guest post by Paul Corbit Brown, president, Keeper of the Mountains.

Tomorrow, I’m visiting Barclays and I need you to back me up.

In 2013 Barclays gave $550 million in financial support, more than any other bank, to companies destroying my home of central Appalachia with mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR).

That's why I've traveled all the way to England to speak at Barclays' annual shareholder meeting. I want to ensure that the bank's leaders and shareholders know about the true scale of destruction caused by MTR.

Will you help make sure Barclays can’t ignore the devastation? Click here to tell Barclays to stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining!

MTR is destroying everything I love. More than just leveling mountains, it will pollute our water for countless generations. The health of all those around me is already suffering. Cancer, birth defects, lung disease, heart disease, and dramatically shortened life expectancies have sadly become normal in the communities where MTR is practiced.

The coal industry could not do its dirty work without the help of banks like Barclays. We need to make sure the bank and its shareholders hear that no corporation and no individual has the ethical right to profit from the destruction and sickness caused by MTR.

When people like us hold banks responsible for financing destruction, we can make a difference. We've already persuaded JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and BNP Paribas to move away from MTR financing.

Barclays bank's executive team will be under tough scrutiny at their shareholder meeting. If we act in unison today, we can ensure that the message I'm going to deliver to the meeting packs a powerful punch—and demands responsible and ethical action from the bank.

Tell Barclays to take responsibility for its investments and stop financing mountain destruction!

GFC-Paul-HeadshotPaul Corbit Brown is president of Keeper of the Mountains, a West Virginia-based foundation that aims to educate and inspire people to work for healthier, more sustainable mountain communities and an end to mountaintop removal. He is a photographer who has worked in more than a dozen countries and exhibited throughout the United States.


Extreme Coal - No Longer Business as Usual

Extreme Investments

For the first time since we began publishing coal finance report cards five years ago, we have an encouraging trend to report: Major banks have begun making noise about the growing financial risk associated with climate change—and specifically associated with coal, the top global contributor to carbon pollution.

On top of that, major banks have begun to cut ties with the biggest mountaintop removal (MTR) coal companies. This progress has exposed a growing gap between banks that are still sinking billions into coal, and those that are cutting ties with the worst-of-the-worst in the coal industry.

Today, RAN, the Sierra Club, and BankTrack released our 2014 Coal Finance Report Card, “Extreme Investments, Extreme Consequences,” which grades U.S. banks on their performance and policies related to coal-fired power and mountaintop removal coal mining. We also uncovered the top financiers of contentious coal export schemes like those in the Pacific Northwest and coal trains that transport dusty coal across the United States.

All told, banks sank over $31 billion into the worst companies in the coal industry last year, with $6.5 billion coming from Citigroup, the top funder of coal-fired power. However, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo began to phase out financing for MTR, earning our first ever “B” grades, and marking a positive trend away from the extreme mining practice.

Meanwhile, UK-based Barclays increased its exposure to MTR, financing $550 million for mountaintop removal coal companies last year, more than any other bank.

Environmental damage from mining, transporting, and burning coal—including health hazards like air pollution and water contamination from spills—doesn’t just harm communities and the environment, it costs banks money. In the report card, we highlight examples of this in case studies about the rising cost of clean-up for water contamination at mine sites, increases in coal company bankruptcies, and money-losing coal-fired power plants.

Download the 2014 Coal Finance Report Card

Download the 2014 Coal Finance Report Card.

The report comes on the heels of analyst publications from Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Citigroup last year, each of which challenged the case for continued investment in the coal industry. These and other banks have acknowledged that power plant regulations, a potential price on carbon, and competition from renewable energy sources could “strand” assets such as coal mining, transport, and power generation facilities. With billions of dollars in loans on the line, it’s not a question of if climate risk will translate into financial risk, but when.

Ironically, these very same banks maintain deep financial ties to the riskiest and most environmentally destructive companies in the U.S. coal industry. As credit ratings for some coal mining companies sank farther below investment grade last year, banks continued to place bets on risky loans to the sector.

The report card warns banks that before the carbon bubble bursts onto their balance sheets, it will irreversibly destabilize the climate. So while we are happy to report that a few banks took the first steps to cut off financing to the worst-of-the-worst of the coal industry, the banking industry as a whole must now cut its losses and forge a path away from coal, before it’s too late for both them and us.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Barclays, the number one banker of mountaintop removal, to end its support of destroying mountains and poisoning communities for coal.


Breakthrough: JPMorgan Chase Dropping Mountain Destruction

This could be the tipping point for the horrific practice of Mountaintop Removal coal mining. Just this week, JPMorgan Chase updated its environmental policy, revealing that it will be ending financial relationships with Mountaintop Removal coal mining companies. Wells Fargo and BNP Paribas/Bank of the West have recently taken similar steps. If the other major banks commit to stop financing mountaintop removal, fossil fuel companies will have no choice but to end the obliteration of mountains and poisoning of communities for coal. That's why thousands of people are joining Rainforest Action Network to tell Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to stop financing Mountaintop Removal coal mining! [caption id="attachment_23642" align="alignnone" width="500"]MTR Site Photo: Vivian Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition[/caption] Mountaintop Removal (MTR) is a mining practice that uses explosives to literally blow the tops off mountains for the coal inside. The rubble is then pushed into streams and poisons the water supply for thousands of people. This is morally unacceptable and why many, many local communities in Appalachia, along with activists around the world, are taking a stand against MTR. For more than five years, Rainforest Action Network members like you have demanded JPMorgan Chase and other banks drop MTR financing. And while we’ll have to remain vigilant to ensure JPMorgan Chase stays on the path away from MTR, the bank’s new policy demonstrates that your activism is working. JPMorgan Chase will no longer be doing business with companies like Alpha Natural Resources—the worst of the worst when it comes to MTR. Last month, the EPA issued Alpha the largest water pollution discharge penalty in the history of the Clean Water Act. The company also faces ten lawsuits over water pollution at its MTR mines.; JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the United States, shows that the smart money is leaving companies like Alpha Natural Resources. Other major banks do not want to be singled out for continuing to support environmental destruction and poisoning communities. TAKE ACTION: Tell the banks to drop Alpha Natural Resources and adopt a policy to phase out MTR financing. Our movement is truly turning the tide against MTR. Companies like Alpha Natural Resources need financing from big banks to continue the destruction. If we make sure the banks can’t hide their responsibility for keeping MTR alive, we can force them to act to protect their image. JPMorgan Chase is acting to protect its image right now by moving out of MTR financing. Let’s use that momentum. Send the banks a message today and help end Mountaintop Removal coal mining once and for all.

Banks Move to Measure Their True Climate Impacts

MoneyChimneyThe banking sector has a huge influence on climate change. Behind every energy carbon-emitting utility, fossil fuel company and infrastructure project you will find a complex web of financing: from underwriting and loans, to advisory services and asset management. For the last decade, our team at RAN has been challenging banks to take responsibility and work to reduce these emissions. If you take the time to read the average large banking corporation’s annual ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ report, you’ll likely find a statement like this about carbon emissions: “Achieving these (our 2017 targets) will represent a 37% decrease from 2006 for office emissions.” Now, at first read, a 37% emissions reduction target sounds bold, ambitious and in line with the scale of reductions that we need to make if we are to keep global warming below two degrees and avoid catastrophic climate change. But sadly, when a bank focuses on reducing office (or ‘operational’) emissions, they miss the point. The bulk of emissions that banks are responsible for stem from lending to and underwriting debt for carbon-intensive industries, like coal. These financed emissions dwarf the emissions caused through operational activities like electricity used in buildings and staff travel. And up until now banks have not been reporting these, their biggest climate impacts: financed emissions. But that could be about to change. Because this week sees the launch of a new initiative to help banks and other financial institutions measure their climate emissions from lending and investment portfolios. Initiated by the World Resources Institute, it’s called the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Financial Sector Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard. Twenty three banks and financial-sector actors are working together to develop the standard, including the United Nations Environment Programme, the Carbon Disclosure Project, Bank of America, Citi and Wells Fargo. This is encouraging news: banks are finally acknowledging their role in and exposure to climate change. For this initiative to paint a complete picture of financed emissions, it should measure the full extent of a bank’s exposure to climate risk from its lending, underwriting and investment activities. And most importantly, for banks to do their part in reducing climate emissions they will need to commit to using this financed emissions reporting initiative to inform what companies and projects they do and do not fund in the future, especially those that involve fossil fuel and electric power industries. For a full set of recommendations, check out RAN’s 2012 publication, “Bankrolling Climate Disruption”.

Coal India Threatens Communities and Forests

Coal Mining IndiaThis summer, the RAN energy team has been casting our eyes around the globe and researching the impact that coal mining is having on deforestation. One of the regions that we are most concerned about is in India, where more than 1.1million hectares of forest are threatened by the expansion of open-pit coal mining. Open-pit mining entails clear-felling of forests, with impacts on forest-dependent communities, as well as endangered species such as tigers, leopards and elephants. The vast majority of Indian coal mining is carried out by the state-owned company Coal India Limited (CIL). CIL has a serious record of corruption, legal violations, water and air pollution, and a poor safety and labor rights record to boot. That’s why RAN was alarmed to discover that several major U.S. banks are considering underwriting an upcoming share offer by CIL. This week, along with our allies at Greenpeace India, we wrote to Bank of America, Citi and Goldman Sachs to alert them to CIL’s poor record and to politely request that these banks stay clear of doing business with this environmental and human rights offender.

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