Coal makes BoA’s Ken Lewis red in the face at AGM

posted by Josh Ran

Today’s Bank of America shareholder meeting was a packed house and CEO Ken Lewis was not having a very good day. Poor guy, first he had to deal with the crazy shareholder lady who launched into a monologue about how much she loved him, then with shareholder annoyance over the impending Countrywide deal and THEN there was coal. By the end of the meeting, I was quite sure that all that jaw clenching would have ground his teeth to nubs. By far the strongest showing at the event came from the eight people who spoke out against Bank of America’s financing of coal-fired power plants and Mountaintop Removal. Two coal-field residents (one of whom is a third-generation coal-miner) had this to say:

“I came all the way from Kentucky because I am trying to save my homeland from the total destruction caused by Mountaintop Removal (MTR) Coal Mining, which Bank of America is a leading financier of. The southern Appalachian Mountains have some of the most biodiverse forests in the world; MTR coal producers, funded by Bank of America, are exploding the tops off these mountains, and off our culture. This is not just about saving the climate, but also about the survival of our culture for our grandchildren and future generations.”
Carl Shoupe, Third generation Kentucky coal miner, city Council Member of Benham, Kentucky, and member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.

“While Bank of America’s Carbon Principles are important, I live with the extraction end of coal mining—Mountaintop Removal coal mining is responsible for the destruction of more than a million acres of the world’s most ancient mountains, and the transformation of healthy mountain woodlands into toxic sludge that has clogged more than 700 miles of rivers and streams. Bank of America must stop funding Mountaintop Removal coal mining, and, instead, start investing in clean, renewable energies.”
Teri Blanton, a survivor of a Superfund toxic waste site near her home in Harlan County, Kentucky, one of the poorest counties in Appalachia.

Then two Charlotte residents spoke eloquently, one about why Bank of America’s coal investments made her concerned for her grandchildrens’ futures and the other about why she had transferred ALL her Bank of America credit cards, accounts and loan agreements to another bank. Coal.

When Matt and I spoke up about the the climate, economic and reputational risk of continuing to invest in coal-fired power plant and mountaintop removal, Ken really started to get red in the face, but the turning point came however when Matt Wasson from Appalachian Voices commented that Bank of America was becoming the “face of Mountaintop Removal.”

86% of Bank of America shareholders were represented by the people in that room, and many of them had clearly never heard about mountaintop removal before so this was a fantastic education for them and for the Board of Directors who were also present.

All in all, concerns over coal investments by far dominated the meeting and I’m quite certain that Bank of America got the message.