August 9, 2018 - Bank of the West’s recent announcement that it won’t fund coal-fired power generation has led to some criticism from those in the Energy Capital of the Nation.
The response includes social media backlash from other banks in Gillette, Wyoming and action in other energy producing communities.
The bank hasn’t funded coal-fired power plants for years, and it won’t start any time soon, it says on its website.
“We will no longer finance coal mines or coal-fired power plants that are not actively involved in the energy transition,” the bank announced in a statement on its website. “We believe in the need to reduce society’s reliance on fossil fuels and are making a concerted effort to reduce their negative impacts on the environment.”
Bank of the West said it may support coal-fired power plant projects that incorporate carbon capture and storage technology, as well as clients who “have a diversification strategy to reduce their share of (coal-fired power plant) energy generation, are willing to disclose their environmental data and have policies that protect worker health and safety.”
“As a long-term partner of the energy industry, we are proud to work with companies in oil, coal and gas that are actively involved in the energy transition and committed to building a more sustainable energy future,” the bank said.
The stance from the San Francisco-based bank isn’t going over well in communities that rely on fossil fuel economies where Bank of the West also has branches.
Some banks in Gillette have responded on social media. First National Bank of Gillette posted on its Facebook page, declaring its support for the coal industry.
“We believe the local energy businesses and their teams operate responsibly while caring for the environment and our community,” it wrote, adding that it is “committed to ongoing service to all our customers, including those in the energy industry.”
First Northern Bank of Wyoming said “whether it be agriculture, retail, commercial or those in the energy industry, we stand with you and support the employees, families and others which have been supported by these industries for many years.”
Campco Federal Credit Union told its customers not to “stick with mega banks that won’t stick with you! Join Campco FCU today, where local values matter.”
Campbell County Treasurer Rachael Knust said the county doesn’t have any accounts with the Bank of the West.
But in Sweetwater County, commissioners there aren’t happy with Bank of the West’s decision to shun coal energy. They expressed a desire to withdraw money and terminate business it has with the bank, adding they want to be cautious and not overreact.
Commissioner Wally Johnson called the decision a “major disappointment” considering the bank did not consult them or give any prior warning about the announcement. He will not only advocate pulling the county’s money from the bank, but also will stop doing personal business with Bank of the West.
Sweetwater County Treasurer Rob Slaughter discussed the county’s options with commissioners, saying it won’t be as simple as transferring money from Bank of the West to another bank. Slaughter explained that Bank of the West was able to collateralize the county’s funds to a financially acceptable level, whereas other local banks were not.
He also noted that he has good working relationships with other local banks and will negotiate other options with them.
The county has had good business dealings with the bank in the past, having formed excellent working relationships with its local employees. Commissioners noted they have no gripe with those individuals.
“The people I represent make their living here, and in my point of view we should terminate business with them. That’s no reflection on the people that work there,” said Commissioner John Kolb.
Bank of the West’s climate change stance is generating response in other communities, like Moffat County, Colorado, which, like Campbell County, produces coal.
The Craig Daily Press reports that Moffat County commissioners there also are discussing withdrawing county business from Bank of the West. Also, the bank’s local branch manager and vice president, Stacy Razzano, resigned out of protest after 27 years with the company.
Other projects and industries that Bank of the West will no longer fund include tobacco, fracking and arctic drilling.