Dirty Money: U.S. Banks at the Bottom of the Class

Written by Amanda Starbuck

Topics: Coal, Finance

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RAN Coal Finance Reportcard 2012Today Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club released our Coal Finance Report Card 2012, our third annual ranking of the largest financiers of mountaintop removal coal mining and coal-fired power plants.

The report looks at the stated policies for mountaintop removal and coal financing from each of the largest US Banks and assigns a letter grade to how well they uphold these policies based on investments, transactions and ownership of coal mining and coal burning utility companies.

In addition, this year’s report debuts the “Filthy Five” — the top 5 largest financiers of the US Coal industry. The list counts the number of transactions each company had with the dirtiest coal-burning utility companies and the largest mountaintop removal mining companies between January 2010 and March 2012.

The Filthy Five are:

  1. Bank of America: 44 transactions
  2. JP Morgan Chase: 42 transactions
  3. Citi: 40 transactions
  4. Morgan Stanley: 33 transactions
  5. Wells Fargo: 26 transactions

The report sheds light on how banks with household names are complicit in polluting our air and destroying our natural resources. Mountaintop removal mining is a destructive process where mining companies blow the tops off mountains to reach a thin seam of coal. This practice has damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 miles of streams and threatens to destroy 1.4 million acres of mountaintops and forests by 2020. In addition, the mining practice destroys Appalachian communities, the health of coalfield residents and any hope for positive economic growth.

Meanwhile, not only is coal burning responsible for one third of US carbon emissions — the main contributor to climate disruption — but it is also making us sick. Coal pollution is responsible for 13,000 premature deaths every year, more than $100 billion in annual health costs and over 200,000 asthma attacks annually. Pollution from coal-fired power plants leads to smog, which can cause chest pain, coughing, and breathing difficulties and can make conditions like bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma worse or even fatal. Today 2 out of every 5 U.S. families live in places with unsafe air.

2 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. David says:


    Where did you grow up,, for me it was the Coal fields of WV. Its has supported my family for over 80 years,, helped me pay for collage. (No dam government hand out here.) It’s a way of life for a lot of people ,, if you don’t like coal shut all your electricity off in your home,, and move under a rock as coal touches every thing in your life.

    People like you make me sick,, you don’t see me trying to put you out of work.

    COAL like WORK is not a bad word.

  2. Gene says:

    I’ve heard this same kind of argument most of my life in NC where Tobacco is still King, even tho the industry has murdered people for well over a century. Yes, they build hospitals, universities, and arts councils to clean up their image. But calling them ‘foundations’ does not change where their tainted money comes from.

    If it were up to me, I’d have each Corporation in America post a billboard at Headquarters & plants, like some used to do saying “000 days with no accidents!”, except these would be scoreboards saying “We killed 000 this week”, and could only be taken down when that number was zero.

    Until we stop living in denial, and refuse to count those killed by Corporations as part of the cost of doing business, Corporations will remain out-of-control. Corporations need re-defined purposes, in this order: 1) provide jobs; 2) pay taxes; 3) pay dividends. And underlying them all is this: Operate so that you do not kill people because we allow your products/services to exist on this Earth.

    As it is, there is not a CEO or Board Member of any major Corporation who is not a willing participant in mass-murder. No problem can be effectively solved until we first identify what it is, and then a solution can be sought.

    And David, collage is not the same as college. I’ve made a few collages in my lifetime, and studied and taught at a few colleges. I’d love to shut off all coal-fired electricity to my home as you suggest.

    Live under a rock? They do it in Spain, where every roof is a ‘rock’, being of tile made from mud instead of asphalt shingles, made from fossilized mineral extractions. We don’t make you half as sick as you make innocent Americans who breathe your air pollution and suffer your coal ash. No one wants to put you out of work, but rather to provide you with a job you don’t have to apologize for.

    So you see, David, your jabs contain the gist of solutions, if only you adjust your mind’s eye to see them.

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