While the nation’s biggest banks including Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs have renounced financial support for companies who want to drill in the Arctic Refuge, the country’s eponymously named Bank of America has not ruled out funding for energy exploration in the region.
Previously off limits to drilling the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plains was opened up for leasing under the Trump administration’s 2017 tax package in order to sweeten the deal and obtain support from Republican Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Bank of America, one of the nation’s sixth largest banks, has poured more than $150 billion into the fossil fuel industry, according to the Alaska Wilderness League.
The Refuge consists of more than 19 million acres of wild lands and was first set aside for protection in 1960. Seismic exploration and drilling require a small army of industrial vehicles and equipment to crisscross every square inch of the Refuge’s biological heart, including the critical habitat of the threatened Southern Beaufort Sea polar bear in the middle of polar bear denning season. The coastal plain is one of the most important onshore denning areas for polar bears in the U.S., more so now than ever as sea ice continues to recede. The seismic testing could frighten mother bears from their dens, leaving cubs to perish and contribute to further species decline as well as leaving lasting scars on the fragile tundra and its vegetation.
The Arctic is already warming at more than double the rate of the rest of the country and funding for drilling for fossil fuels will only exacerbate the perils wildlife face from climate change.
Shame on Bank of America for not stepping up to protect one of America’s last and most pristine unspoiled wilderness regions.