These banks are funding a threat to Wet'suwet'en land and abuse of Indigenous rights

posted by Elana Sulakshana

The short version 

JPMorgan Chase remains the primary banker of Coastal GasLink. It’s followed by Bank of Montreal, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and 17 other global banks. As of two months ago, the pipeline is slated to be owned by a new partnership: TC Energy, KKR, and AIMCo. Keep reading for all the details.

What’s happening now

Across Canada, protests have erupted in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en struggle against the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Indigenous peoples and allies are gathering at government buildings throughout the country, blockading the offices of Coastal GasLink and its financial backers, and shutting down ports, railways, streets, and bridges. 

This Indigenous-led uprising was prompted on February 6, when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police used assault rifles, snipers, dogs, sound cannons and helicopters to carry out a five-day militarized police raid and remove peaceful Indigenous land defenders from their homes on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.

For the past ten years, the Wet’suwet’en have asserted their sovereignty to stop fossil fuel companies from trespassing on their lands. Under ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law), the five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have not provided the free, prior, and informed consent to Coastal Gaslink and its parent company TC Energy to do work on Wet’suwet’en territory. 

And yet, the Canadian government is trying to ram through the 420-mile Coastal GasLink pipeline, which would carry fracked gas from northeast British Columbia to a massive proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on the coast. 

The banks and investors supporting the Coastal GasLink pipeline are contributing to this clear abuse of Indigenous rights, even though many of them have stated policies acknowledging the right to free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous communities.

Land defenders and protestors gather for a direct action on the second largest rail classification yard in Canada on Feb. 15, 2020. Photo by Jason Hargrove.

Who’s banking the pipeline? February 2020 Update

RAN published the original “Who’s banking the Coastal GasLink pipeline?” blog in January 2019. Here’s where things stand now.


Coastal GasLink is being constructed by TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. There’s currently no project finance package for the pipeline, so bank support for Coastal GasLink is coming from the banks that have made general corporate loans to TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., underwritten bonds issued by TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., and facilitated the sale of company assets. Those banks are as follows, in order of support:

1) JPMorgan Chase

JPMorgan Chase remains the primary banker of Coastal GasLink. JPMorgan Chase is the lead agent on the majority of TransCanada Pipelines Ltd.’s loans. The company currently has three loans worth a total of about USD$7.8 billion. Two of those, totaling USD$5.5 billion, were signed in December 2018 and extended by JPMorgan Chase and other banks just this past December 2019. JPMorgan Chase was the lead agent — the bank responsible for arranging the deal and coordinating between TC Energy and its lenders — on both of those new loans. That makes it the lead agent on more than half of TransCanada Pipeline Ltd.’s current credit. In fact, JPMorgan Chase’s infamous position as the world’s biggest banker of fossil fuels is in part due to its close relationship with TC Energy: Chase’s biggest fossil fuel client from 2016-2018 was TC Energy.

JPMorgan Chase is the #1 banker of TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., and therefore of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, despite an Environmental and Social Policy (see p. 17) that expects clients to obtain free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples.

2) Bank of Montreal

Bank of Montreal is the lead agent on a CAD$3 billion loan to TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. It’s also a lender on the two more recent loans and was a co-manager of the most recent bond issued by TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. in September 2019. 

3) Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) was the sole manager on the most recent bond issued by TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. in September 2019, and also is a lender to all three current loans.

CIBC also advised TC Energy on a November 2018 deal that sums up the company’s backwards direction: the sale of its stake in wind energy facilities in Quebec, to the tune of CAD$630 million, in order to fund Coastal GasLink pre-development costs.

5) 17 other banks

At least 17 other global banks are also supporting TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. in a range of roles on its current lines of credit and recent bond sales. These include: 

    • Canada: Alberta Treasury Branches, Desjardins, Export Development Canada, National Bank of Canada, Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, TD
    • U.S.: Bank of America, Citi, Wells Fargo
    • Europe: Barclays, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC
    • Japan: Mizuho, MUFG, SMBC Group
Activists with 350 Seattle shut down Chase’s Pacific Northwest HQ to protest Chase’s funding of Coastal GasLink and other fossil fuel projects on Feb. 19, 2020.

In December 2019, TC Energy announced it is selling 65% of the stake of the project to investment firms KKR and AIMCo. RBC are advising TC Energy on the deal, and HSBC and TD Securities are advising the acquiring companies. With the deal set to formally close in a few months, that makes three key owners of the project:

  • TC Energy: TC Energy (formerly TransCanada Corporation), is a major North American fossil fuel company. Coastal GasLink is a project of TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., the same subsidiary of TC Energy behind the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
  • KKR: Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) is a publicly-traded American global investment firm headquartered in NYC, with USD$208 billion in assets under management. The purchase of this pipeline marks KKR’s third investment in Canadian natural gas infrastructure. 
  • AIMCo: The Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) manages USD$81.2 billion in assets on behalf of 31 Alberta pension, endowment and government funds. It is a crown corporation, which means that it is owned by the government of Alberta.

In announcing the sale, TC Energy reaffirmed its commitment to continue managing all construction and operation contracts, now on behalf of the new partnership, and shared its plans to finance the USD$5 billion pipeline. Coastal GasLink intends to obtain project-specific finance for the pipeline from a group of banks by June of this year.

What’s next

This fight is not over. The outpouring of solidarity shows no signs of stopping, and the government, banks, and investors are coming under increasing scrutiny for their role in supporting Coastal GasLink and TC Energy. And, keep an eye out – TC Energy has said it is looking for project financing for this disastrous pipeline, as soon as June. No bank should touch that deal with a 10-foot pole.

We demand that the banks named above cut their ties with TC Energy, as the company tramples on Indigenous rights in order to ram through the dangerous pipeline. At the very least, banks should pledge not to provide project finance for Coastal GasLink. The world is watching — hundreds of solidarity actions are taking place across Canada and around the world — and RAN and allies will continue to pressure these banks to stop supporting Indigenous rights abuses.

How to Support

Donate: We encourage everyone to support the Wet’suwet’en by donating to the Unist’ot’en Camp and to the Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory.

Take action: Actions and events in support are continuing! Find one near you in the “When Justice Fails: Wet’suwet’en Strong Solidarity Actions” Facebook event, or organize your own in response to the call for international solidarity. For more resources, check out the 2020 Wet’suwet’en Strong: Supporter Toolkit

Sign the pledge: Join thousands of organizations and individuals in signing the pledge in support of Unist’ot’en. If you are part of a labour union, academic department, or community group, organize to write a Solidarity Statement in support of Wet’suwet’en jurisdiction and governance.

Flood the phone lines: Take one minute to call relevant politicians and demand that the Canadian government revoke this fracked gas pipeline and respect Wet’suwet’en jurisdiction. The following links connect you directly to their phone lines and provide sample scripts: click here to call British Columbia ministers and here for federal ministers

Join RAN’s Year of Climate Action: Sign up to join our monthly actions to pressure JPMorgan Chase and other institutions to stop financing fossil fuel projects and human rights abuses. 

Join Stop the Money Pipeline: Sign up for the growing movement calling on JPMorgan Chase, plus companies like Liberty Mutual and BlackRock, to stop fueling climate change.