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PSR Chides Bank of America on its Greenhouse Gas Loans

Posted by Barbara Gottlieb on May 13, 2013

Last week I stood before the CEO and board of directors of Bank of America and told them: Your loans to the coal industry intensify climate change and threaten our health and lives.

I also delivered to them the letter signed by 2,817 PSR members, urging the Bank to phase out loans to the coal industry. Thank you to everyone who signed that letter! You helped deliver a very important message.

The venue was the annual meeting of Bank of America’s shareholders. I was there to support a shareholder resolution calling on the Bank to assess the carbon impacts of its loans and reduce loans – especially those to coal companies and coal-fired utilities – that contribute so severely to climate change.

BofA is the largest financier of the coal industry in the world. Their loans result in massive emissions of carbon dioxide, as well as health-endangering air pollution from conventional pollutants.

My statement spotlighted how rising global temperatures contribute to two serious threats to health. Ozone pollution, which forms when pollutants from coal plants and heat waves that scar lung tissue and can cause convulsions and death.

I was invited to the shareholder meeting by Rainforest Action Network, which brought others besides PSR to testify about the harm from coal:

  • Women from southern Appalachia whose mountains have been leveled and whose waters have been poisoned by mountaintop removal;
  •  Activists from the Pacific Northwest opposing the proposed construction of massive coal export facilities to ship U.S. coal to China;
  •  University students who are organizing on their campuses to have their schools divest their coal-related investments;
  •  Others concerned that climate change is foreclosing our future.

Brian Moynihan, Bank of America's CEO, listened impassively. But as the morning wore on, he grew visibly uncomfortable with the steady stream of statements about the life-destroying impacts of coal.

While we didn’t get the resolution passed (no surprise there), we gave Mr. Moynihan and his board of directors a sense of the opposition and the liabilities Bank of America may face if it continues its coal lending.

And just for the record: No, I am not a shareholder in BofA. Someone who is, generously shared her voting proxy with me so I could enter the meeting and speak for PSR on the need to defend health -- and the future of the planet.


Charles Roth said ..

I can only second, third, etc., what you have all said. When money gets in the way of "People," intelligent judgment and decisions go out the window.

May 22, 2013
Ruth D. said ..

Thank you - a very worthy effort!

May 22, 2013
Carl Shaw said ..

I appreciate your efforts. You are a positive influence Best wishes.

May 22, 2013
d.o. said ..

Here's your reading assignment, Jim: Click on each link!

May 22, 2013
Marie said ..

Coal kills in many ways. 1. Underground mining - workers contract pneumosilicosis- black lung which is incurable; mining accidents take many lives - 27 miners died in an underground explosion in WV; treatment plants pollute ground water by storing water used to clean coal and coal slag in "settling ponds" that leach chemicals into ground and streams- and there's more. 2. Strip mining often involves stripping mountaintops. The soil is dumped in valleys, sometimes fording rivers and streams and causing killer floods; coal refuse also leaches into ground and water. 3. Transportation of coal in diesel burning trucks polluted the air. It has been proven that diesel exhaust is the most dangerous cancer causer. These are some of the ways coal kills.

May 21, 2013
DonFromFairfax said ..

So, Jim said .. you didn't read the part of her statement where she explained that coal pollutants combine with high heat in atmosphere to create ozone which cause lung scarring, illness and death. Or I suppose you've never heard of the deaths from pollution-causing asthma? Maybe you will recall that Mitt Romney, then governor of Massachusetts, in a 2003 press conference announced a crackdown on a coal plant in Salem: "I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people. And that plant, that plant kills people." But I guess you know more than concerned physicians.

May 21, 2013
Walter Tsou said ..

We're proud of what you did Barb. We need to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for the carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases that they are contributing to climate change.

May 21, 2013
Thomas said ..

Mission accomplished. Keep pounding on BofA until its actions show it has listened to us.

May 21, 2013
Paulette Capperis said ..

I lived about 9 miles from a coal plant. Me and almost all of my friends have thyroid disease or thyroid cancer. I am allergic to iodine and can't take the medication for it.. The regular meds for hypothyroidism almost killed me. Mold is sky high, poison ivy is all over the place because it loves high CO2, many people are walking around with their oxygen machines. Our air is so bad. Our weather has been getting worse and worse Co2 is the highest it has ever been. The planet is heating up and the polar ice cap is melting. Our oceans are rising.

May 21, 2013
Bob Rounsavell said ..

PSO/AEP of Oklahoma has submitted a plan that will shut down its two coal-fired units. One shuts down in 2016, the other in 1026 It's a good beginning.

May 21, 2013
Johanna Meara said ..

Way to go Barbara. These CEO's and anyone who enables coal companies need to hear loud and clear that their actions (e.g. making loans to coal companies) have consequences and a huge impact on the health of America's citizens.

May 21, 2013
Bob said ..

I am a shareholder and am in the process of selling all my shares. I will make sure to tell them the reason and how I will spread the word.

May 21, 2013
Michelle Stern said ..

God bless you. You truly care about people and their health. I hope Brain Moynihan will see the light and realize the effects of his actions on others. You must apply more pressure in the form of more petition signatures and shareholder oppostion though to get things done.

May 21, 2013
Polly said ..

How coal kills takes some science thinking: it puts the largest amount of carbon in the atmosphere of any other fossil fuel, helping to increase the heating of our planet. We humans are not used to this warming trend, bring us all the points made above. Ask any physician these days: their greatest fear is the poor health climate change is bring us. Bring on the Renewables so we can start healing.

May 21, 2013
Marcia Denison said ..

Beside pollution from coal trains, Amber's enclosed terminals are said to not let much dust out. Workers become unable to breath. The slurry would be barged to sea and pumped out to wash back up on beaches. Barges that burst into flame would drift out of control down the Columbia River our burn through dropping their toxic load to the bottom to leach hundreds of miles contaminating salmon.

May 21, 2013
Jose HdO said ..

For those who don't know, initially as black lung disease, thereafter as a massive emmiter of Green House Gas, leading to anthropogenic atmospheric warming, melting permafrost releasing methane and simultaneously warming the oceans increasing atmospheric water vapor and raising sea level. Those islanders and coastal residents too poor to move are killed by storm surge inundation. The best way to reduce CO2 emissions when coal is burned as a fuel,is to gasify it before it is mined and then use the gas. This method, called in situ gassification is very costly if done cautiously and therefore not used much.

May 21, 2013
Annie said ..

Thank you so much for being our spokesperson and delivering the health message in front of a group whose only concern is profit and high salaries.

May 21, 2013
Anonymous said ..

Carbondioxide is the atmospheric blanket whose known absorbtion spectrum allows scientist to predct the added heat returned to earth, as the amount of CO2 thickens. The incrase of Co2 from 0.028% to the current 0.04% is leaving its mark from the los of polar ice to the recent storms (Nee-York, Oklahoma and who is next. I fear for our children and grantchildrem.

May 21, 2013
nora said ..

Great work and we're thrilled that PSR is speaking out on coal.

May 21, 2013
Rich Yurman said ..

we are about to choke on the air we breathe BofA needs to join the fight to save us from this stop financing coal (or any unsustainable fuel, for that matter) go solar!

May 21, 2013
Jim said ..

Wondering exactly how coal "kills"?

May 16, 2013

Comments closed.