Front Porch Blog

Rebranding Bank of America’s Responsibility

Join us in Charlotte on May 9 to remind Bank of America, the largest financier of the U.S. coal industry, of their responsibility to citizens and the environment. Visit our action page for more info and to sign up.

BREAKING: Daring Action at Bank of America Stadium,” read the first email in my inbox this morning. Immediately, I thought what a crazed football fan might be capable of — in the offseason no less — if they were to break into the complex.

Turns out my imagination had taken the wrong course. The “daring action” at Bank of America Stadium targeted the bank itself. This morning, five activists from the Rainforest Action Network scaled the stadium walls before unfurling a banner suggesting a more appropriate name for the corporation. The “Bank of Coal” banner is a reminder to shareholders, board members and thousands on their daily commute, that the Charlotte-based bank cannot hide its long-standing relationship with coal industry under fluffy pronouncements of corporate responsibility.

Bank of America is the largest financier of the mining, transportation and burning of coal, a fuel that causes 80 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation in the United States. It has given hundreds of millions in loans to Arch Coal and Peabody Energy — the two largest coal companies in the nation, and underwrites billions to coal-heavy utilities such as Southern Company.

Just yesterday, RAN released its Coal Finance Report Card for 2012. Apparently, all of the largest banks in the United States have not been doing their homework by considering human health or the environment in their coal-financing decisions. Over the past few years, Bank of America alone has underwritten $4.3 billion in the coal industry, significantly more than any other U.S. bank.

Under its mountaintop removal coal mining policy, announced in 2008, Bank of America claimed that it would “phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountaintop removal.” Then, in 2011, the bank participated in a $1.6 billion loan to assist Alpha Natural Resources’ effort to raise the capital needed to buy Massey Energy, the largest mountaintop removal mining company.

The banner was promptly removed and the climbers arrested. But the action may be the start of months of protests in The Queen City. And the protesters aren’t the only ones preparing. As shareholder meetings of Bank of America and Duke Energy, and especially the Democratic National Convention approach, the city of Charlotte will be testing out expanded police power. In preparation for the DNC, the shareholder meetings have been designated “extraordinary events.”

On Wednesday, May 9, citizens will gather outside Bank of America headquarters during a shareholders meeting to put the bank on notice for targeting minority communities in the sub-prime mortgage crisis, for investing in private prisons and immigrant detention centers, and for destroying the environment and contributing to climate change by continuing to finance destructive projects of the coal industry.

Considering that today businesses of all sizes hail transparency as their highest ideal, perhaps RAN’s suggested rebranding to “Bank of Coal” isn’t that far of a stretch. On a bad day, the “Bank of Coal” Stadium seats about 74,000 disappointed football fans, just a fraction of the number of people fed up with Bank of America’s irresponsible investments. Join us in Charlotte on May 9 to tell Bank of America and its shareholders that it’s time to rethink their responsibility to citizens and to the environment.

Brian is an environmental news junkie concerned with our lagging energy policy and revealing the true cost of coal on our health, the environment and the climate. He is Appalachian Voices' Director of Strategic Advancement.


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