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January 13, 2014
Goldman Sachs Exits Coal Terminal Investment
    by Robert Kropp

BankTrack and the Rainforest Action Network applaud the investment bank's decision to withdraw from funding a proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point, Washington.


Why is it that many of the worst performers in the Newsweek Green Rankings are financial institutions? In 2011, Cary Krosinsky, then Senior Vice President at the environmental research firm Trucost, explained the cause of the phenomenon to SocialFunds.com.

"The largest financial services companies are actually universal owners," Krosinsky said. Standards relating to Scope 3 emissions, or emissions from indirect sources such as supply chains or lending portfolios, include "what financial services companies need to account for in their Scope 3,” he continued. If you just look at the financial sector in the US, we find that none of these companies actually measure this.”

The nongovernmental organizations BankTrack and the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), among others, have been detailing the persistent funding of projects injurious to the climate for several years, and have consistently reported that US-based financial institutions rank as the world's worst; the 2013 Coal Report Card, for example, reported that “US banks financed a combined $20.8 billion for the worst-of-the-worst companies in the coal industry in 2012.”

“With few exceptions, bank lending and financing policies for the coal sector for this year’s report card received disappointingly low grades,” the report continued. Goldman Sachs ranked among the the worst of the nation's banks, according to the report.

Yet could it be that Goldman's executives are finally setting aside their focus on quarterly earnings reports and attending to matters of sustainability instead? Last week, BankTrack reported, the bank's Infrastructure Partners unit “sold off its remaining equity investment in Carrix, the parent company of Pacific International Terminals and SSA Marine that are behind a colossal coal export terminal proposal near Bellingham, Washington.”

“If built, the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point would mean up to 18 mile- long coal trains traveling through local communities and up to 48 million tons of coal exported to Asian markets each year,” BankTrack continued. “It would be the largest coal export terminal in North America, and threatens to ruin the rich biodiversity and unique cultural legacy found in the region.”

The US Army Corps of Engineers is undertaking an environmental impact study of the project, which, according to the State of Washington's Department of Ecology, is scheduled to be available for public review and comment this month. RAN is encouraging stakeholders to make their opinions on construction of the terminal known. In response to Goldman's decision to pull out the project, Amanda Starbuck, Energy and Finance Program Director at the NGO, stated, “Goldman Sachs is taking a welcome step forward when it comes to walking their sustainability talk, offering more evidence that the financial sector is moving toward abandoning risky investments in the US coal industry.”

“Coal companies and their proponents have tabled or dropped three out of six proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest in the last two years,” BankTrack stated.

“This move of Goldman Sachs is one in a string of decisions made recently by both public and private sector banks to retreat from the coal sector,” Yann Louvel, climate and energy coordinator of BankTrack, said. “Whether driven by concern for the disastrous climate impact of coal, or, as with Goldman Sachs, mere profit calculations, the coal industry will face ever more reluctant financiers in the years to come. Groups like us will continue to pressure banks to quit coal.”

The final environmental impact statements are not scheduled for delivery until 2016. In 2015, a new international climate change agreement is scheduled to be agreed upon by all parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), which will include targets of emissions reductions starting in 2020.

 

 
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