March 21, 2013
Bank of America Urged to End Financing of Coal
by Robert Kropp
Sustainable investors are among the 50 signatories to a letter delivered to Bank of America, urging
it to phase out the financing of coal and shift its lending priorities to renewable energy.
Earlier this month, the Rainforest Action Network
(RAN) published its most recent Coal Risk Update, which documents the adverse
impacts to the region around Blair, West Virginia, if Arch Coal goes ahead with its proposed
mountaintop removal plan there.
Along with the pronounced social and environmental
damage associated with any mountaintop removal project, Arch Coal's proposed Adkins Fork mine would
also "destroy the heart of the Blair Mountain battlefield site, which has been acknowledged to be
historically significant," according to RAN.
Seven of the nine banks that issued a $250
million loan to Arch Coal for the project are members of the United Nations Environmental Program
Finance Initiative (UNEP-FI) and commit to supporting "a precautionary approach to environmental
and social issues, which strives to anticipate and prevent potential negative impacts on the
environment and society." Several of them are also signatories to the Equator Principles, and commit to managing
environmental and social risks in their project finance transactions.
membership in both initiatives, Bank of America is one of the banks involved in the loan to Arch
Coal, and is in fact "the largest financier of the US coal industry," according to a letter
delivered to Brian Moynihan, President and CEO of the bank, this week.
The letter, which
was signed by 50 financial, environmental, and legal experts and released by RAN, states, "Your
bank has significant financial relationships with major coal mining companies, utilities with
emissions-intensive coal-fired power plant fleets, and companies that are developing coal export
terminals that, if built, will transport millions of tons of coal overseas each year."
signatories urge Bank of America to phase out its financing of coal-fired power plants, mountaintop
removal, and coal export infrastructure. They also recommend that the bank shift its financing
priorities to renewable energy.
Among the signatories to the letter are many
representatives of sustainable investment firms. "Investors have a clear financial interest in the
enduring health of capital markets and the economy," the letter states. "Coal combustion and its
links to negative environmental and health impacts present real risks to investors and bolster the
argument for stronger protections of public health and welfare."
Susan Baker, Vice
President of Shareholder Advocacy & Corporate Engagement at Trillium Asset Management and a signatory to the letter,
stated, "Bank of America has a unique opportunity to shift energy financing to support clean,
renewable power generation and reduce climate change risks in its operations. Squandering that
opportunity shortchanges investors, economic growth and the future of our planet."