February 03, 2020

Van Hollen Joins Heinrich, Democratic Colleagues in Urging Top U.S. Banks to Not Finance Arctic Drilling

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Committee for the Environment and Public Works, joined U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and 14 other Senate colleagues in sending a letter to 11 of the largest U.S. banks asking them to update their environmental and climate policies to include a prohibition on funding for oil and gas drilling or exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"As one of the largest banks operating in the United States, we write to ask that you join your peers in the U.S. and abroad and commit to stop financing of oil and gas drilling and exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not only intrinsically important, it is also critical in the broader context of wilderness protection, Indigenous rights, working to combat climate change, and preparing the U.S. economy to weather the growing impacts of the climate crisis," the Senators wrote.

Recently, Goldman Sachs became the first major U.S. bank to announce that it would decline to provide financing that directly supports new upstream Arctic oil exploration or development, including but not limited to such projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The company added that it would apply enhanced due diligence for transactions relating to Arctic oil, including understanding companies’ commitment to reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental and community impacts of the project.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is home to unique and vulnerable ecosystems that provide habitat to 42 fish species, 37 land mammals, eight marine mammals, and over 200 migratory and resident birds. These lands and species are also central to both the subsistence lifestyle and culture of Indigenous peoples. The Arctic is also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) 14th Arctic Report Card, published in early December, cited continuing significant changes to Arctic ecosystems.

"The scale of your banks’ assets individually, let alone together, give you the ability to drive change in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in shifting towards a U.S. financial sector that effectively analyzes and plans for climate risks," the Senators wrote.

In addition to Senator Van Hollen and Senator Heinrich, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and was sent to JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corporation, Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., Morgan Stanley, U.S. Bancorp, PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., TD Bank, Capital One Financial Corp., Citizens Financial Group, Inc., and HSBC North America Holdings Inc.