Just in time for JPMorgan’s annual shareholder meeting, which is happening in NY tomorrow, the lead U.S. financier of mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining released its first public statement on MTR financing. This just after RAN, the Sierra Club and BankTrack gave JPMorgan an ‘F’ in our recent MTR report card for its lead role in financing the devastating practice of blowing up the Appalachian Mountains and contaminating drinking for a tiny amount of coal.
We’re not popping the champagne over this one yet, but it’s definitely a solid step in the right direction. RAN has been campaigning for over a year to get JPMorgan to stop financing companies who practice MTR, and this is the bank’s first public step forward. To be specific, for the first time JPMorgan has included in its Corporate Responsibility report a statement on its “enhanced review” process for doing business with companies engaged in mountaintop removal.
One major point of interest is that JPMorgan is saying it did no financing for any company with “significant” MTR operations in 2009. What does that mean? Well, comparing its 2008 clients to 2009 and 2010, there’s an obvious exception: Massey Energy, the leading MTR company in the country which is currently facing criminal charges for last month’s fatal mine explosion. We’d like to think the removal of Massey Energy from the bank’s portfolio is an intentional part of the new enhanced review process, but JPMorgan won’t confirm that.
JPMorgan explains its new MTR position this way:
JPMorgan “has undertaken an enhanced review of all proposed banking transactions for companies engaged in MTR. This enhanced review is in addition to the customary diligence employed for companies in the extractive industries and includes considerations of a company’s regulatory compliance history, as well as exposure to future regulatory changes and litigation risks, particularly as they relate to valley fills and water quality issues.”
In much less wonky terms, this is what Amanda Starbuck from RAN had to say in a press statement this morning:
“JPMorgan has joined but not surpassed Bank of America and Citi who both announced financing guidelines on mountaintop removal coal mining in 2008. If JPMorgan wants to lead instead of follow on environmental responsibility, the way forward is a complete phase-out of mountaintop removal coal financing…JPMorgan’s statements on mountaintop removal coal mining are a testament to the hard work of Appalachian communities and activists across the country, whose collective pressure left JPMorgan with little choice but to begin addressing its support for this devastating form of resource extraction.”
As with all corporate policies the devil is the details. We will have to see if policy turns into practice and prevents JPMorgan from funding companies destroying Appalachian communities, mountains and drinking water. In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to monitor JPMorgan’s lending to ensure that its new position on mountaintop removal coal mining impacts reality on-the-ground for the people of Appalachia.