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Bank of America Puts a Deposit on Our Mountains

Rob Perks

Posted December 3, 2008 in Environmental Justice

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Great news:  One of the biggest banks in the land is saying NO to the baddest strip mining on earth -- mountaintop removal coal mining.

This summer, after months of conversations, some top executives from Bank of America agreed to accompany NRDC staff on a fact-finding trip to Appalachia. In July we flew them over moonscaped mine sites in West Virginia, took them to Kayford Mountain for a closer look at mountaintop mining, and introduced them to several local residents/activists who are fighting to save their beloved homeland from reckless coal mining companies.


Today, BofA released its revised coal policy, which will have the immediate effect of curtailing commercial lending to companies that mine coal by blowing off the top of mountains.  The policy states, in part:

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.

Why is this significant?  Consider that Bank of America stands as a pillar of our country's shaky financial system.  In fact, the trying economic crisis has only served to strengthen this behemoth bank while other once proud and stable institutions fall by the wayside.  All the more reason to engage BofA in using its investment power and influence to affect positive environmental change.

That's exactly why our friends at Rainforest Action Network targeted BofA as a prime candidate for a public campaign to pressure the bank to de-invest in companies that practice mountaintop removal.

NRDC decided we could be more useful engaging BofA in a different way:  By talking to the bank's executives directly and explaining the great opportunity available to them as responsible corporate citizens to help end this travesty. That's when they agreed to the West Virginia trip and saw firsthand the Appalachian Armageddon their funding was supporting.

Is BofA's policy perfect?  No.  Is the policy as strong as we'd like?  Not really.  Will this shut down all mountaintop mining operations?  Of course not.

But BofA's bold step forward sends an unequivocal signal to the mining industry that business as usual is no longer acceptable.  And for the worst offenders of mountaintop mining, like Massey Energy, the bank's new policy will effectively stop the flow of the funding for this activity from one of the nation's leading financial giants.

Make no mistake, this is a big step from one of the nation's biggest lenders.  And it marks a turning point in the campaign to end the war on Appalachia being waged by the coal industry. 

At a time when the Bush administration is weakening laws to benefit the mining industry, NRDC is pleased to be moving forward with our Appalachian allies and leading corporations like Bank of America in the campaign to stop mountaintop mining.

UPDATE: For those BoA customers who asked where to send a thank-you note to the bank, here is the address: Environment@bankofamerica.com

 

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Comments

Scott ParkinDec 4 2008 08:18 AM

In the contrast between Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and NRDC's styles to bringing companies like Bank of America to the table, it's like the carrot and the stick. Mountaintop removal wasn't even on Bank of America's radar until groups like RAN, Rising Tide, Mountain Justice and community groups began a public campaign which put pressure on them to change their policy. When thousands are calling your offices, protesting in front of your branches, publicly questioning your executives and putting their bodies on the line with civil disobedience, you begin to take notice. I think NRDC's inside approach was equally useful and the efforts were cumulative, but I don't think one strategy was more effective than the other.

Eric JohnsonDec 4 2008 02:37 PM

I strongly agree with Scott Parkin. RAN and others created the opportunity for NRDC to be effective in this way. Congrats to all parties who contributed to this outcome.

And, let's keep moving forward.

BigManWalkingDec 4 2008 03:26 PM

I read this on DailyKos first. I immediately searched Rob Perks on Twitter and got zero. You really should get the word out there. I have a couple articles that are for organizations, for- or non-profit, that may convince you. There are millions of people there and the viral opportunity to get your word out is huge.

You can check out Business Microblogging and Guy Kawasaki Use Twitter on my list - "Sites I'm Checking Out" on the right side of my blog.

I truly believe you could explode the number of people who know about this if you're on Twitter disseminating your thoughts.

Blessings,

Charlie

Scott @ NRDCDec 4 2008 04:12 PM

Hi Charlie,

@NRDCSwitchboard is using Twitter, and so are several of us at NRDC. (You'll actually see a button on the right of the Switchboard homepage inviting you to follow us on Twitter.) I know that @apollogonzales, who worked with Rob on the Mountain Top Removal campaign, tweeted about this immediately.

We agree with you about the power of Twitter and would appreciate your efforts to help us spread the word about this great development there. Earlier this week, I actually blogged about my personal list of "Great green Twitter feeds for environmental news junkies". (I'm @scottdodd, by the way.) Maybe after your note, Rob will want to join us, too (but no pressure or anything, Rob)!

Best,
Scott

Rob PerksDec 4 2008 04:19 PM

Yes indeed, Twitter is the next step for me. A big one, considering I just started blogging a few months ago and only joined Facebook a few weeks ago. Thanks,Charlie, for the tip (and you, Scott, for the nudge).

Gail ClementDec 4 2008 06:46 PM

How do I get in touch with and who do I contact at BofA to thank them? I am a "preferred customer" with about 5 BofA accounts and I would really like to let them know how great this is.

GOOD JOB TO ALL INVOLVED!!!!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU, Gail

davidDec 5 2008 11:13 PM

YES , Promoting this attitude of gratitude
& acknowledging what is working to stop mtntop removal mining . i will be putting
this up on our Unitarian Church Social Justice News Board on Sunday . Let the
church bells ring . This along with the good news of Duke Power's Cliffside Coal Plant in western NC losing its court case . more oxygen for all of us O2varians , less toxins
for our planet earth . dave

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