Bank of America Puts a Deposit on Our Mountains

Great news:  One of the biggest banks in the land is saying NO to the baddest strip mining on earth -- mountaintop removal coal mining.

This summer, after months of conversations, some top executives from Bank of America agreed to accompany NRDC staff on a fact-finding trip to Appalachia. In July we flew them over moonscaped mine sites in West Virginia, took them to Kayford Mountain for a closer look at mountaintop mining, and introduced them to several local residents/activists who are fighting to save their beloved homeland from reckless coal mining companies.

Today, BofA released its revised coal policy, which will have the immediate effect of curtailing commercial lending to companies that mine coal by blowing off the top of mountains.  The policy states, in part:

Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies.

Why is this significant?  Consider that Bank of America stands as a pillar of our country's shaky financial system.  In fact, the trying economic crisis has only served to strengthen this behemoth bank while other once proud and stable institutions fall by the wayside.  All the more reason to engage BofA in using its investment power and influence to affect positive environmental change.

That's exactly why our friends at Rainforest Action Network targeted BofA as a prime candidate for a public campaign to pressure the bank to de-invest in companies that practice mountaintop removal.

NRDC decided we could be more useful engaging BofA in a different way:  By talking to the bank's executives directly and explaining the great opportunity available to them as responsible corporate citizens to help end this travesty. That's when they agreed to the West Virginia trip and saw firsthand the Appalachian Armageddon their funding was supporting.

Is BofA's policy perfect?  No.  Is the policy as strong as we'd like?  Not really.  Will this shut down all mountaintop mining operations?  Of course not.

But BofA's bold step forward sends an unequivocal signal to the mining industry that business as usual is no longer acceptable.  And for the worst offenders of mountaintop mining, like Massey Energy, the bank's new policy will effectively stop the flow of the funding for this activity from one of the nation's leading financial giants.

Make no mistake, this is a big step from one of the nation's biggest lenders.  And it marks a turning point in the campaign to end the war on Appalachia being waged by the coal industry. 

At a time when the Bush administration is weakening laws to benefit the mining industry, NRDC is pleased to be moving forward with our Appalachian allies and leading corporations like Bank of America in the campaign to stop mountaintop mining.

UPDATE: For those BoA customers who asked where to send a thank-you note to the bank, here is the address: