Enviro groups give poor grades to coal lenders

The Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club kept up their pressure campaign on coal companies that use mountaintop-removal strip mining techniques and the power generators that buy coal produced at those mines be releasing on May 1 their Coal Finance Report Card 2012.

This is the third annual ranking by those environmental groups of the largest financiers of mountaintop removal coal mining and coal-fired power plants. The report looks at the stated policies for mountaintop removal and coal financing from each of the largest U.S. banks and assigns a letter grade to how well they uphold these policies based on investments, transactions and ownership of coal mining and coal burning utility companies.

For example, Bank of America gets a C- on mountaintop-removal financing and a D on power plant financing. GE Capital gets a D in both categories. Other companies graded include Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo. The highest grade any of the financial companies got was a C-.

In addition, this year’s report debuts the “Filthy Five” — the top 5 largest financiers of the U.S. coal industry. The list counts the number of transactions each bank had with coal-burning utility companies and the largest mountaintop removal mining companies between January 2010 and March 2012. Bank of America was found to be the number one worst bank for financing of coal with 44 transactions. JP Morgan Chase was number two with 42 transactions, followed by Citi with 40 transactions, Morgan Stanley with 33 transactions and Wells Fargo with 26 transactions.

“These banks are the ATMs for a dirty industry that is bad for health and bad for business,” said Amanda Starbuck, Director of Rainforest Action Network’s Energy and Finance Program. “Coal is the ultimate subprime investment for the climate. We cannot solve climate change if banks continue to prop up this risky and outdated industry. When it comes to protecting our air and drinking water, the health of our communities, and our climate we don’t grade on a curve.”

Mountaintop-removal mining is common in Central Appalachia, though years of environmental group lawsuits and tougher federal enforcement activity has severely curtailed the number and size of such mines. Massey Energy, before it was absorbed last year into Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR), was a particular target for criticism over this type of mining.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.