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Wall Street Protests Converge on Bank of America Marathon to Highlight Banks Role as Lead Funder of Coal

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

CHICAGO—Today, dozens of environmental and economic justice activists with Rainforest Action Network and Stand Up! Chicago joined the Chicago marathon to call attention to the marathon’s main sponsor, Bank of America’s, reckless economic and environmental practices. In particular, the bank’s role as a leading financier of the city’s two controversial coal plants, Fisk and Crawford. The route for today’s marathon takes this year’s 45,000 runners directly past the Fisk coal plant in Pilsen. The runners with the two groups wore gas masks to vividly call attention to the devastating public health risks associated with coal. 

Last week, Rainforest Action Network found that according to Bloomberg data Bank of America provided $66 million in financing to Edison International and its subsidiary Midwest Generation last year alone.

“As a resident of Pilsen, I'm glad that Bank of America is endorsing exercise and sponsoring the marathon, but I am not happy that the bank is helping contaminate the air we breathe, by providing funding to some of the country's worst air polluters. Fisk and Crawford coal plants, just a few blocks away, need to be shut down. We need to breathe clean air,” said Pilsen resident Leila Mendez, a member of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (P.E.R.R.O), which endorsed the protest.

Bank of America last week touted a company-funded report by the University of Illinois’ Regional Economics Applications Laboratory that estimated that the annual marathon event produced $171.5 million in business activity. However, this number barely makes up for the cost of hidden health damages from Chicago’s coal plants, which according to a report released by the Environmental Law and Policy Center has reached around $127 million per year.

“While Bank of America is touting the economic benefits of its marathon sponsorship, its core business practices are causing a drag on Chicago’s public health and the economy. The Bank of America marathon should be about supporting physical health and Chicago’s future. Sadly, as the lead financier of Chicago’s toxic coal plants, Bank of America is doing far more to keep the city’s air polluted, asthma rates up and coal plants standing,” said Amanda Starbuck, energy and finance program director for the Rainforest Action Network. 

“We're running on Sunday and marching on Monday,” said Patrick O'Heath, a deli clerk in Wheeling, referring to the Take Back Chicago week of action in which 7,500 Chicagoans will march downtown on Monday to protest the Futures & Options and American Mortgage Bankers Association expos taking place in the city next week. “We'll be marching not just to take back the jobs that the banks have taken from us, but also to take back the health of our communities.”

Chicago is the only major metropolitan area with not only one, but two polluting coal plants within the city limits. The Fisk and Crawford plants, both owned by Midwest Generation and financed by Bank of America, are located in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods. This weekend’s marathon will run right by the Fisk plant in Pilsen.

Coal fired power plants kill between 13,000 and 34,000 people a year--as many as one person every 15 minutes.  That staggering figure includes the 42 Chicagoans who die as a result of pollution from Fisk and Crawford. According to a report from the Clean Air Task Force, residents are at risk for heart disease, cancer, and respiratory illness because of pollution from these plants.

“Sponsoring marathons and funding billboard ads is Wall Street’s failed model for good corporate citizenship. Our standards for what the country needs from banks is much higher. Now more than ever, we need banks like Bank of America to show leadership in protecting the health of our economy and our communities,” continued Starbuck.

Coal fired power plants are the biggest single source of global warming pollution in the United States.  Together, Fisk and Crawford generate about 18 times the emissions of O’Hare airport’s ground operations and equal two-thirds of the CO2 emissions generated by all modes of transportation in Chicago.

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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

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