Leaders across Wyoming are criticizing Bank of the West for its recent decision to stop doing business with coal, oil or gas companies — including financing coal mines or power plants, or engaging in activities to do with mineral exploration, distribution, or marketing. The bank has 23 branches in Wyoming.
In a statement, U.S. Senator John Barrasso called it “politically expedient” and blamed the bank for vilifying an industry that contributes to the state. In a press release, State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Mark Gordon said he will deny future applications from the bank to hold state money for loans. In a commissioners meeting in Sweetwater County, commissioners John Kolb and Wally Johnson both called to sever ties with the bank.
In an audio recording from the meeting, Johnson said: "My immediate reaction is they make a statement they don’t want to do business with anyone that's in the oil and gas/shale business, then my reaction is I don’t want to do business with anybody that takes that position.”
Gillette Senator Michael Von Flatern said his first thought was that energy is in for more trouble.
“The coal industry is already having trouble finding financial backers in their endeavors now. So, this just adds another arrow into the heart here of our carbon industry,” he said.
He attributed the decision to a “San Francisco attitude,” where the bank is headquartered, and expected the company to benefit from the decision.
“If you take the population of Wyoming and the population of Appalachia and maybe southern Illinois where they produce some coal and you put that against the rest of the country, they [probably] weighed their options and decided it was worth making that statement and business will be good for them,” Von Flatern said.
While transitioning away from energy, Bank of the West will invest more into women entrepreneurship programs, sustainable energy, and diversity.
A representative from Bank of the West wrote: “We do not have a total ban on coal, oil, and gas projects. We have, however, taken a specific stance focusing on financing energy projects that reduce carbon footprint and diversify sources of energy. Bank of the West, along with BNP Paribas, has had a long-term policy against financing Arctic drilling, and instituted guidelines around coal-fired power plant investment in 2015. In 2017, BNP Paribas committed to exiting fracking and tar sands work.”