Bank of America on Monday said it would not finance oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, joining other major banks that have released similar policies over the past year as the outgoing Trump administration moves to hold a lease sale in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Larry Di Rita, with Bank of America, told Bloomberg news on Monday that the bank has not traditionally financed Arctic oil and gas exploration. But it decided to put that practice into policy.
The bank’s announcement came days after the Trump administration, hearing concerns from Alaska’s congressional delegation, proposed a new rule designed to prevent banks from making such broad policy decisions. The fate of the rule is unclear with president-elect Joe Biden, who has vowed aggressive action to fight climate change, taking office on Jan. 20.
Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley have also said they would pull back from supporting new Arctic oil and gas projects, generating alarm among Alaskans worried the policies could hurt the state’s oil-reliant economy.
The banks’ announcements followed pressure from conservation and tribal groups concerned about global warming and other impacts. Also early this year, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, urged companies to emphasize steps they are taking to combat climate change.
The Sierra Club said in a statement on Monday that every major U.S. bank has now ruled out financing for Arctic drilling.
The banks have listened to indigenous concerns, said Bernadette Demientieff with the Gwich’in Steering Committee, advocating for tribal groups that subsistence hunt for caribou that migrate through the Arctic refuge.
“We will never stop fighting to protect the sacred calving grounds from destructive drilling, and we will prevail,” she said.