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May 01, 2012

Banks Risk Public Health, Mountains, and Climate by Financing Coal

Although the clean energy economy is gaining steam and our use of coal is declining, my home region of Appalachia is still threatened by mountaintop removal coal mining.

We've seen it with the overturning of the veto for the massive Spruce No. 1 mountaintop removal coal site in West Virginia, we've seen it as West Virginians continue to fight Arch Coal for its plans to strip mine historic Blair Mountain - and those are just two examples. Day after day, families in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee continue to suffer from damaged homes, polluted air and water, and threats to their health caused by mountaintop removal.

It's important to remember that these attacks on Appalachia's mountains and communities don't just come from coal companies, but also from the banks that finance these operations. Banks with household names are complicit in polluting our air and water, threatening the health of Appalachian families, and destroying our natural heritage.

That's why today the Rainforest Action and Sierra Club are releasing a report detailing the five filthiest banks in our third annual "Coal Finance Report Card." This year, we looked at not only financing of mountaintop removal, but also at financing of the coal fired power plants that are our nation's biggest source of the sulfur pollution that harms our health, the mercury pollution that harms our children, and the carbon pollution that harms our planet.

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.

Here are the worst of the worst:
Coal finance report card grades

My colleague at RAN states it well: "These banks are the ATMs for a dirty industry that is bad for health and bad for business," said Amanda Starbuck, Director of RAN's Energy and Finance Program. "Coal is the ultimate subprime investment for the climate."

We're not the only organizations seeing the problem with financial organizations investing in dirty energy. This week also marks a huge 200-mile march across Pennsylvania by a coalition of groups hoping PNC Bank (headquartered in Pennsylvania) will stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining. Spread-headed by the Earth Quaker Action Team, the walk is part of their fantastic "Bank Like Appalachia Matters" campaign.

Through today's report, Sierra Club and RAN are not only pointing out where banks are failing as energy and climate leaders, but also we are reaffirming our strong commitment to work with the companies to adopt and implement meaningful policies on coal.

Protecting the health and safety of our families is everyone's responsibility - including those that fund this destructive and dirty practice.  We hope this report card helps draw attention and scrutiny to those who are bankrolling some of the biggest polluters in our country.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Beyond Coal Campaign


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