JPMorgan Chase says it will no longer finance new oil and gas projects in the Arctic.
“JPMorgan Chase is expanding its commitment to a low-carbon economy and further supporting the clean energy transition,” the bank said in an email to reporters on Monday.
It is the second big U.S. lender to back away from potential support for projects such as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in recent months. Goldman Sachs in December said it would stop financing new oil exploration in the Arctic.
Goldman Sachs’ announcement prompted Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration to retaliate, removing it from a billion-dollar plan to borrow money to pay tax credits to Alaska oil and gas drillers.
On Monday, groups opposed to drilling in the refuge celebrated news reports about JPMorgan’s plans. The bank has been the top funder of Arctic oil and gas projects in recent years, according to a report by the Rainforest Action Network, the Sierra Club and other advocacy groups.
“We’re glad to see America’s largest bank recognize that the Arctic Refuge is no place for drilling, and we hope that soon other banks and the oil companies they fund will follow along,” said Bernadette Demientieff with the Gwich’in Steering Committee.
The committee, which advocates for 15 Gwich’in communities in Alaska and Canada, has argued that drilling will hurt caribou and other subsistence foods.
The Gwich’in Steering Committee and Sierra Club members have met with large U.S. banks in recent months, said Ben Cushing, a campaign representative with the Sierra Club in Washington, D.C. The groups argue the banks’ reputations could be damaged if they provide financial support for drilling in the Arctic.
Several banks outside the U.S., including Barclays in London and Crédit Agricole in France, also have said they won’t support new oil and gas projects in the Arctic, Cushing said.
“It’s been mostly firms outside the U.S. until recently,” he said.
JPMorgan’s new climate change initiative will not allow "financing for new oil and gas development in the Arctic,” among other steps, according to a statement from the bank that was emailed to reporters Monday.
The bank’s plans will be announced at an annual investor day meeting on Tuesday.
Dunleavy in December said that he has “serious questions” about doing business with any company that isn’t willing to work with Alaska. Dunleavy told Fox Business in a December interview that drilling in the refuge is important to the state and national economy.
The governor’s office did not immediately provide comment on JPMorgan’s decision on Monday.
The $67 billion Alaska Permanent Fund had about $950 million invested in JPMorgan funds in December, according to the Permanent Fund’s latest monthly report published online.
Craig Richards, chair of the fund’s board, said the board will not get involved in political decisions to determine its investments. Richards is also a former Alaska attorney general who is now representing a group opposing the recall effort against the governor.
Richards said as an Alaskan, it is personally “disappointing to me to see banks that are bowing down to political pressure by certain activists and that are making political decisions, not business decisions.”