Every major bank in the U.S. has now ruled out financing oil and gas exploration in the Arctic after Bank of America became the latest American financial institution to say it would not fund such projects.
The bank has faced increasing pressure from environmentalists to refrain from financing fossil fuel exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) due to the potential impact on the indigenous Gwich’in people and endangered species such as polar bears.
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Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Chase, Wells Fargo and CitiBank announced commitments not to do so earlier this year, and on Monday, Bloomberg reported Bank of America followed suit.
“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 head of public policy and strategy in Washington, told the news outlet.
“But given that misinterpretation, we’ve determined that it’s time to codify our existing practice into policy.”
A provision in the 2017 Trump tax bill passed by the Republican-controlled Congress opened ANWR to drilling after years of debate over the matter. In mid-November, the Trump administration launched the formal process of selling oil drilling leases in the region, although it’s unclear if the Bureau of Land Management would be able to complete the process in the remaining time before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office.
Biden has made it clear he’s opposed to drilling in the refuge and has called for permanently protecting the area, as well as bans on new oil and gas permits on public lands and waters.
The news of Bank of America’s stance on the issue was welcomed by environmental protection organization the Sierra Club.
“It has long been clear that drilling in the Arctic Refuge would trample Indigenous rights, threaten vulnerable wildlife, and worsen the climate crisis,” Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative Ben Cushing said in a statement.
“Now that every major American bank has stated unequivocally that they will not finance this destructive activity, it should be clearer than ever that any oil company considering participating in Trump’s ill-advised lease sale should stay away.”
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