Energy & Environment

Trump administration blasts banks that refuse to fund arctic drilling

The Trump administration is pushing back against banks that have announced they won’t finance oil drilling operations in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), arguing that banks must provide “fair access to all legal businesses.”

“Oil is the most actively traded commodity in the world,” Brian Brooks, acting comptroller of the currency at the Treasury Department, wrote to Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). “Given the industry’s importance and ubiquity in our daily lives, I am skeptical of claims that the sector poses a ‘reputational risk’ to the banks that serve it.”

The Alaska delegation has sought the administration’s help as a growing number of banks have announced they won’t offer financing for activity in the sensitive area of north Alaska that hugs the border with Canada.

Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have all pledged not to finance any drilling in ANWR.

Brooks said his office would “take a serious look at these banks’ actions.”

“The OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] intends to seek additional information from the banks involved to understand the rationale for these decisions as well as their effect on our national economy and local communities. This will, in turn, help us analyze whether these actions violate any duty or obligation under federal laws,” he wrote, adding that the OCC must ensure that banks provide “fair access” to financial services.

The letter was first reported by Politico.

Drilling in ANWR was permitted under the 2017 tax cut legislation, and the Trump administration recently determined that allowing drilling activity there would not disturb endangered polar bears’ hibernation habits.

House Democrats passed legislation to block drilling in ANWR, but it was never taken up by the Senate. Now, some are raising issue with the Interior Department study that cleared drilling for the area.

A review of the environmental impacts of drilling in the area “makes the unsupportable conclusion that industrializing the entire Coastal Plain—including the most important terrestrial denning habitat for among the most imperiled polar bear population on the planet—will not jeopardize the survival and recovery of the species,” Democratic lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee wrote to the Interior Department two weeks ago in a letter spearheaded by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.).

“This fundamentally flawed analysis ignores the overwhelming scientific evidence that identifies devastating impacts to polar bears from oil and gas activities,” they added.

Tags Alaska ANWR Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Arctic Refuge drilling controversy Dan Sullivan Jared Huffman oil drilling
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