Video: Taking on the Financial Side of Coal

This week the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign launched a new initiative targeting JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. This is part of our coal campaign's push to look not just at the coal companies themselves, but those who are enabling them to pollute.

I wanted to learn more, so I interviewed Mark Kresowik, the Corporate Accountability Representative for our Beyond Coal Campaign. Kresowik says targeting financial companies is central to stopping coal altogether."If we are going to stop mountaintop-removal coal mining, stop the rush of new coal plants, retire the current fleet of old and dirty coal plants, and shift to energy efficiency and clean energy, we are going to need a massive change in the investment and underwriting practices of these banks, private equity firms, and investors," Kresowik explained. "And right now they’re not ready to make that change."

Kresowik says at the top of the pile of coal financiers is JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

"As the most publicly visible banker right now, Jamie Dimon talks a good game on efficiency and clean energy," Kresowik said. "But behind the scenes, JPMorgan Chase is the big money behind some of the most egregious dirty coal practices, like underwriting Massey Energy and three of the four largest mountaintop-removal coal mining companies."

JPMorgan Chase is also helping finance other companies that are building new coal-fired power plants - including American Electric Power, Duke, Dominion, American Municipal Power (now known as AMP), Otter Tail Power, and others.

All that talk about being a good corporate steward - and his company even has a set of Carbon Principles - but clearly the "walk" is not matching the talk.

And that's not even including the financial risks of it all, Kresowik added. "With big changes coming in policy, investing in highly-polluting energy infrastructure is a very risky gamble, and we don’t want to see the banks and investors make the same short-sighted mistakes that caused the current economic trouble. So we’re trying to help banks and credit rating agencies understand the risks and shift financial services away from dirty coal to the clean energy sector - where it is needed and the best bet to generate profits.

"We’re just letting Jamie Dimon know that Americans are paying attention when his mouth says one thing and his bank does something else," said Kresowik.

This new campaign to tell Jamie Dimon to change his and JPMorgan Chase's ways comes with an excellent video and a take action where you can email Dimon himself. The campaign is coordinated with the Rainforest Action Network and the Waterkeeper Alliance. Kresowik said they hope to soon put some pressure on JPMorgan Chase in person at their headquarters in New York City - and eventually at a bank branch near you.

Another reason to take on the financial sector? Because it's worked in the past, said Kresowik.

"We’ve been meeting with JPMorgan Chase and some of the other big financial backers of coal for nearly a year," he said. "Some of the banks we’ve been talking to understand the issues we’re raising, and are trying to do a better job. Bank of America instituted a new coal policy in December that includes phasing out financing for companies that do a lot of mountaintop-removal coal mining, thanks in large part to the work our partners like Rainforest Action Network did to raise the issue publicly. Other banks tell us they’re working on coal policies as well."

JPMorgan Chase is clearly falling behind its peers.

So, will you join us in asking JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to walk his talk when it comes to being a good corporate steward? No more financing of coal!

More posts on coal's financials.
Carbon Capture And Storage Will Happen - Here's Why We Should Support It
Clean Coal Financials Daunting in the Short Term
Evidence That Taxpayer Subsidies For "Sub-Prime Coal" Not Welcome ...

Tags: Coal | Corporate Responsibility