Bank of America will no longer finance mountaintop removal coal mining
December 4, 2008
Bank of America will phase out financing for companies that practice mountaintop removal coal mining, a destructive and controversial method of coal extraction, according to a statement from the banking giant. The policy comes the day after the Environmental Protection Agency — at the behest of the Bush administration — approved a rule that will make it easier for coal companies to dump waste from mountaintop removal mining operations into streams and valleys.
“Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia,” the company said in a statement. “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.”
Bank of America is currently involved with eight of the U.S.’s top mountaintop removal coal-mining operators, according to the Rainforest Action Network, an environmental activist group that is campaigning against coal use.
Photo of a mountaintop removal site at Pickering Knob, in Logan County, WV. Appalachian Voices flight courtesy of SouthWings. Photo by Kent Kessinger and hosted by ILoveMountains.org.
“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 pressured 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.”
Bank of America says it will continue to finance development of carbon capture and storage, a technology that some energy experts say is decades from viability, and claims it has developed a policy that will ensure it “plays a significant role as a leading financial services company in promoting the responsible use of coal.”
RAN, along with an increasing number of environmental groups, maintains there is no such thing as “responsible use” of coal due it the adverse environmental impacts of its mining and burning, including air, soil, and water pollution; greenhouse gas emissions; and destruction of mountains, streams, and other habitats.
Some entreprenuers are looking at new ways to reduce the effects of coal burning once the fossil fuel is mined. Calera, a California-based start up, aims to use emissions from coal-fired power plants as a feedstock for cement, trapping carbon dioxide and other noxious compounds. The technology offers the potential to transform cement production — presently a source of carbon emissions — into a process that removes carbon from the atmosphere. However the technology would not address the issue of mountaintop removal coal mining.