Shortly after noon on Sunday, visitors to Bank of America and Citi branches in downtown Portland found local ATMs temporarily closed. Notices on the ATMs informed customers that the bank was “temporarily closed until in invests responsibly in renewable energy.” It seems both Bank of America and Citi have been up to no good again, lending financial support to projects that destroy the planet and human health while contributing to irreversible global warming.
Bank of America and Citi have gotten a lot of flack for their past investments in activities like rainforest destruction and mountaintop removal. Thanks to years of pressure from groups like the Rainforest Action Network, these two largest banks in the US have taken at least some steps to pull their support for those projects. However they still haven’t gotten the message that responsible investing means no loans given to high-carbon industries. Even as they distance themselves from destructive extraction in the eastern US, both banks are funding the drive to make the Northwest a fossil fuel import-export zone.
To take an example, Citi and Bank of America are major lenders to Arch Coal: one of the companies now looking at building coal export terminals on the Columbia River. If Arch and its allies get their way, the Columbia could soon be pumping millions of tons of coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming to the gargantuan coal market in China. Meanwhile as Arch tries to ship fossil fuels out of the Northwest, other companies are bringing extraction infrastructure in, shipping drilling equipment up the Columbia en route to the Canadian tar sands. Banks like Citi and Bank of America are helping to fund that activity, too.
Clearly something has to be done. If Citi and Bank of America won’t put the brakes on dirty energy and invest in renewables themselves, then grassroots activists will have to do it for them. That’s why volunteers took the streets of downtown Portland on Sunday to notify the banks’ customers about the problem with dirty investments.
The Northwest is a region that prides itself on being an ecological leader, and Portlanders don’t take to it kindly when giant corporations try to turn our area into a fossil fuel commerce zone. At the same time that activists near the site of proposed coal export terminals are organizing to stop these projects moving forward, residents of Portland are throwing a wrench in the destructive transactions of Citi and Bank of America. The Northwest has a clean energy future to win, and Wall Street banks that stand in the way had better join in or go home.