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Congress Urges Major U.S. Banks Not to Finance Destructive Drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

February 20, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representative Huffman (D-San Rafael), Chair of the Water Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee and member of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, led 32 colleagues in sending a letter to five of the largest U.S. banks urging them not to provide financing for oil drilling and development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This effort comes after Goldman Sachs became the first major U.S. financial institution to announce that it would not provide direct financial support to new Arctic oil exploration or development.   

“We write today to urge [you] to join Goldman Sachs and more than a dozen worldwide financial institutions in refusing to finance any oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As the world rapidly shifts towards clean energy sources, we are gravely concerned about the climate, financial, and reputational risks associated with pursuing a speculative fossil fuel source that will likely become uneconomical,” the representatives wrote. “Any development in the coastal plain would permanently destroy this critically important intact ecosystem. We urge you to take a leadership role in recognizing that investing in a project that would threaten human rights and worsen the climate crisis is an expensive risk that’s not worth taking.

“The House of Representatives understands the importance of protecting the Arctic Refuge, which is why we approved legislation last year to protect this important landscape from destructive oil and gas exploration. Now is the time for banks to do their part,” they concluded.

The critical push to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been a consistent bipartisan charge led by Representative Huffman and other members of Congress. In September, Rep. Huffman’s bipartisan bill to block oil and gas drilling in the Refuge, the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, passed the House and is now awaiting a vote in the Senate. Last November, Representative Huffman –  alongside 48 members of Congress – sent a letter urging the House Appropriations Committee leadership to protect the American taxpayer and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by holding the Trump administration accountable to the fiscal promises made in the Republican tax bill. 

Congressman Huffman has been a long-time proponent of limiting financing for dirty energy, both in the U.S. and globally. In October 2019, Representative Huffman introduced the Standing Against Dirty Diplomacy (SADD) Act with Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) to block the U.S. financing of fossil fuel projects abroad on the heels of the House Financial Services Committee’s vote to reauthorize the United States Export-Import Bank. 

In addition to Representative Huffman, today’s letter was signed by Reps. Raul M. Grijalva (AZ-09), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Deb Haaland (NM-01), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Nanette Diaz Barragan (CA-44), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Joseph P.Kennedy, III (MA-04), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Mike Levin (CA-49), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Jerry McNerney (CA-11), Mark Takano (CA-41), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Harley Rouda (CA-48), Andy Levin (MI-09), Paul D. Tonko (NY-20), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), David E. Price (NC-04), J. Luis Correa (CA-46), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), and Peter A. DeFazio (OR-04) and was sent to JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corporation, and Morgan Stanley. With Goldman Sachs, these firms make up the six largest U.S. banks by assets, with over $10.7 trillion in assets combined.

The full letter can be found here or below. 

Dear Bank CEO,

We write today to urge [you] to join Goldman Sachs and more than a dozen worldwide financial institutions in refusing to finance any oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As the world rapidly shifts towards clean energy sources, we are gravely concerned about the climate, financial, and reputational risks associated with pursuing a speculative fossil fuel source that will likely become uneconomical. It is both deeply unethical and unwise to permanently destroy lands vital to the culture and existence of the Gwich’in people to pursue this high-risk gamble. The House of Representatives understands the importance of protecting the Arctic Refuge, which is why we approved legislation last year to protect this important landscape from destructive oil and gas exploration. Now is the time for banks to do their part.

We applaud Goldman Sachs’ recent policy changes to decline any direct financing of onshore and offshore Arctic oil exploration and development. With Goldman’s policy as a catalyst, we urge [insert bank name] to adopt new policies and lead the financial sector to ensure the Arctic Refuge is never developed. Indeed, you have an opportunity to be more expansive: to reject not just this specific oil drilling program but to prevent the financing of gas exploration, other drilling infrastructure, and to wind down the industry’s participation in the ongoing operations of existing oil and gas projects in the region.

The 19 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the wildest places left on the planet. Originally set aside by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960, the Arctic Refuge protects more abundant and diverse wildlife than any other conservation area in the five nation circumpolar north, including calving caribou, rare musk oxen, denning polar bears, and millions of migratory birds that nest or stage in the Refuge before traveling through every U.S. state and five continents. Roads, pipelines, gravel mines, airstrips, and other facilities that would be developed to support exploration and development on the coastal plain would fragment habitat, displace wildlife, and undermine the wilderness character of the Refuge. Millions of gallons of fresh water needed to support drilling activities could be drained from fragile Arctic rivers. And oil spills, which already occur on the North Slope, would harm fish and wildlife.

Any development in the coastal plain would permanently destroy this critically important intact ecosystem. We urge you to take a leadership role in recognizing that investing in a project that would threaten human rights and worsen the climate crisis is an expensive risk that’s not worth taking.

Thank you for your consideration.

— Members of Congress —

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