Mountaintop Mining Loses Two Big Financiers

In addition to closing coal plants, we’re finally seeing movement away from financing mountaintop removal coal mining – an insane method of getting to coal by literally blowing the tops off of mountains in Appalachia.

After years of pressure and protests, two of the biggest financiers have pulled out – PNC Bank and Barclays.

In a policy statement, Barclays – the top financier – says support for major players using this practice will be allowed "by exception only."

Grounds for exception may be:

  • a written commitment by the company to transition away from mountaintop mining within a reasonable timeframe
  • use of funds known to be for reclamation/ restoration of affected sites
  • use of funds known to be for the express purpose of assisting a client to transition away from mountaintop mining. 

The policy statement also says: Due to a confluence of market forces [the move to natural gas] and regulatory scrutiny in recent years, we believe mountaintop mining will be phased out in the near to intermediate term. 

"We’re going to monitor Barclays’s future financing decisions very closely to see how this policy is implemented, but overall the announcement is a very good step in the right direction. It’s also a powerful affirmation of what we’ve been saying for years to see Barclays predict that mountaintop removal will be ‘phased out’ as a result of both market and regulatory pressure. That stark assessment points to just how toxic and risky this practice has become in the eyes of the financial industry," says Ben Collins, Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network.

Mountaintop Removal Mining

Besides literally exploding ecosystems with dynamite, the enormous amounts of rubble and mining waste are simply dumped into valleys below, destroying waterways and communities.

The dust alone is linked to the highest lung cancer rates in the US. Communities there also have the highest rates of birth defects and Parkinson’s disease.

Alpha Natural Resources, the third largest coal company, has almost 6300 violations for spewing mining waste directly into  streams and rivers.

Last year, a court threw out the GW Bush Administration’s rule that eliminated even a 100-foot buffer between mining operations and waterways. But these days, Republicans fight anything that prioritizes the environment over profits, and this rule is on their hit list of "burdensome regulations." And even though black lung is rising again, they are fighting any EPA reforms that would tighten coal dust rules.

In the Cromnibus – the budget approved through September – Republicans deprived the EPA of another $60 million in funding. That brings EPA’s staff to the lowest levels since the 1980s,  preventing enforcement of our air and water laws. The budget specifically prohibits EPA from regulating mountaintop-removal mining and lead ammunition – which it hasn’t proposed. 

Read our article, JP Morgan, Bank America, Citi Still Top Coal Financiers.

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