Bank of America Becomes Last of Six Big U.S. Lenders to Abandon Arctic Drilling
The Bank of America has become the sixth of six big U.S. banks to declare that it won’t invest in fossil projects in the Arctic, including the ecologically precarious Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
After the U.S. Sierra Club singled out Bank of America as “the only major U.S. bank not to rule out financing for the destruction of the Arctic refuge,” the Charlotte, North Carolina-based BofA said it decided some clarity was in order, Bloomberg Green reports.
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“There’s been misunderstanding around our position, but we have not historically participated in project finance for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic,” Larry Di Rita, the bank’s Washington-based head of public policy and strategy, told the news agency Monday. “But given that misinterpretation, we’ve determined that it’s time to codify our existing practice into policy.”
Bank of America’s move coincides with a last-ditch effort in the dying days of the Trump administration to sell oil and gas exploration leases in the ANWR. “It’s all about development for development’s sake. So at this time, we do find ourselves in a last-ditch effort, as David versus Goliath, to ensure the protection of these lands, the protection of our nation,” said Dana Tizya-Tramm, the chief of the Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation in Yukon. “But unfortunately, that doesn’t translate into Trump’s lexicon and it does not find its way into legislation.”
The Gwich’in have been running a fierce campaign urging banks to stay out of ANWR drilling, and a CBC network report over the weekend linked the survival of the nation, its culture and identity to the well-being of the Porcupine caribou herd.
“Our people have been intrinsically tied to this herd for millennia, our village being aligned with the traditional migratory routes,” Tizya-Tramm said. “To this day, our children are born and are fed caribou broth [and] teethe on the bones, as our Elders are fed choice parts from the caribou. So in every way, shape and form, even our government and our way of life is informed by the Porcupine caribou herd.”
CBC points to speculation last week that interest in Trump’s oil and gas leases may not be as high as the financially-strapped former real estate magnate may be hoping. “Some industry analysts believe there is a measure of uncertainty and risk that could lead to limited interest in a lease sale within the next two months,” The Canadian Press reported. “The coronavirus pandemic and an oil price war have hit the oil industry hard. Oil prices remain low, and there are high costs and difficulties involved in Arctic exploration,” not least that “public criticism of drilling in environmentally sensitive areas could weigh heavily on publicly traded companies.”
“Oil and gas companies aren’t talking publicly about whether they’d bid,” Alaska Public Media adds, in a post amplified by veteran climate journalist Emily Atkin on her daily HEATED blog. (Subs here.) “Even though Alaska politicians and industry groups have long fought to get drill rigs on the coastal plain, which is thought to hold billions of barrels of oil, [experts say] there’s currently a thick layer of uncertainty and risk that could lead to limited interest in a lease sale if one happens within the next couple months.”