Energy

Alaska agency plans to halt investment in banks that don’t back Arctic oil and gas projects

An Alaska agency is taking steps to remove about $24 million in investments issued by financial institutions that have said they won’t finance oil and gas projects in the Arctic.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority is eyeing a rule change that will prevent its fund managers from buying securities, such as bonds, from banks with policies that prohibit “engagement in oil and gas development” in the region, according to the proposed resolution.

The Arctic includes Alaska’s North Slope region, home to the giant Prudhoe Bay oil field and other large oil and gas prospects.

The resolution would prevent the state agency from buying securities in banks such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, according to the proposal. Amid growing concerns about climate change, those and other major banks have said they would pull back from supporting new Arctic oil and gas projects.

The resolution is on the table for consideration at the agency’s board meeting on Thursday.

The quasi-independent state agency provides financing and support for Alaska projects.

[Alaska regulators maintain they lacked enforcement power over 2017 Hilcorp gas leak]

It holds $23.9 million in securities that would be affected, according to a Dec. 1 memorandum.

The money is an “insignificant” part of a $400 million fund that is conservatively invested, mostly in U.S. government securities, said Alan Weitzner, the agency’s executive director, in an interview on Friday.

If the board approves the measure, the affected assets can be sold and reinvested elsewhere, he said.

The agency hopes its actions raise awareness about policies that he said hurt Alaska communities, such as those on Alaska’s North Slope, that have benefited from oil and gas development and related jobs and revenue, Weitzner said.

“It’s not fair to take sweeping anti-development policies without looking at the benefit to Indigenous and rural communities,” he said. “We’re are really just trying to bring awareness.”

During the final days of the Trump administration early last year, the agency acquired seven 10-year leases for rights to explore and drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The agency is suing the Biden administration, after the administration suspended those leases to conduct an environmental review.

Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, representing 14 Gwich’in communities in Alaska and Canada who oppose oil and gas activity in the Arctic refuge, said she and others met with officials at some of the banks, encouraging them to adopt the policies.

She said the banks are listening to tribes and their people, while the state agency is not.

“It’s sad they are using money as a tool to try and punish people who are listening to our voice,” Demientieff said.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.

Sponsored