The fifth largest commercial bank in the United States has pulled gas and oil pipelines from its list of investments. It is the first major bank to do so.
U.S. Bank made the announcement during a shareholders meeting in April, but environmental group 350.org shared the news in a post yesterday (May 15). The bank’s 2017 Environmental Responsibility Policy is explicit: “The company does not provide project financing for the construction of oil or natural gas pipelines.”
In addition, any relationship U.S. Bank has with oil and gas pipeline industries are “subject to the Bank’s enhanced due diligence processes,” the policy states. That includes coal mining, hydraulic fracturing (otherwise known as fracking) and electric power generation.
The bank was among many that helped finance the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. The resistance movement against it has included a divestment component dubbed #DefundDAPL. The Lakota People’s Law Project, a nonprofit comprised of indigenous attorneys who played a major legal role in Standing Rock against the Dakota Access, states on its website that the bank invested a total of $275 million via developers Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and Sunoco Logistics, both of which are now merging.
U.S. Bank’s relationship with ETP doesn’t appear to be over, however, according to 350.org:
As recently as March 2017, U.S. Bank has renewed commitments with [ETP], the company constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline, and with [energy company] Enbridge Energy, whose pipelines operate within Minnesota. However, advocates are hopeful that the bank's newly released policy will limit other kinds of financing relationships with these industries.
The environmental organization credits the bank’s decision to exclude oil and gas pipelines to pressure from local environmentalists challenging the 1,172-mile long Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as those fighting Enbridge Energy Partners, which is trying to expand one of its pipeline systems in Minnesota. Tribal groups have been strongly opposing this project because of potential oil spill risks.
In January, three activists were arrested for dropping a banner that read “Divest,” during a Minnesota Vikings game in Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium—a direct message to U.S. Bank.
“We applaud this progressive decision from U.S. Bank,” said Tara Houska, national campaigns director of Honor the Earth, in the 350.org release. “A strong message is being sent to the fossil fuel industry: We are consumers, we have agency and the right to know how our money is being invested. Move to a green economy and a future that does not profit off the destruction of Mother Earth and our communities.”
The bank does list wind, solar and geothermal energy on the lists of projects it invests and promotes.