Bank of America to Cease Lending for Mountaintop Mining
Amid much criticism that banks are refusing to lend for reasons of profit, one bank is refusing to lend for reasons of principle.
Bank of America on Wednesday announced that it will phase out its financing for companies that focus on mountaintop coal mining. That process — in which miners blast the tops off of mountains and push the rock, soil and other waste material into the surrounding streams and valleys — often ravages drinking water sources, ecosystems and communities, particularly in the Appalachian states of Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky.
From the company’s statement:
Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the policy change came just one day after the Bush administration finalized a new rule that will make it easier for mining companies to dump their waste into live streams.
Environmentalists, long-opposed to mountaintop mining, are cheering BoA’s decision. From the statement issued Wednesday by Rainforest Action Network:
“Bank of America’s decision is a giant leap forward in the fight against mountaintop removal coal mining, which has devastated Appalachian communities and the mountains and streams they depend on,” said Rebecca Tarbotton, director of Rainforest Action Network’s Global Finance Campaign, which has pressed Bank of America since October 2007 to cease financing of mountaintop removal mining and coal-fired power plants. “We hope that Citi, JP Morgan Chase and other banks follow Bank of America’s lead.”
President-elect Barack Obama has indicated plans to reverse a number of the Bush administration’s more controversial regulations when he takes over the White House next year. But these rules sometimes take years to craft — and could take at least as long to reverse. Whether the incoming president wants to spend some of his precious political capital on such a regional issue is yet to be known.