Craig bank could lose business; longtime branch manager resigns in response to anti-coal social media statement
CRAIG — “We’ve made the decision to take action; we will no longer fund tobacco, coal, fracking, or Arctic drilling,” proclaimed Bank of the West in a post — that has since been edited — to its Facebook page earlier this week.
The original post rocked the coal-reliant communities of Northwest Colorado and has already resulted in actions to withdraw business; as the shockwave continues, the bank stands to lose more local accounts.
The corporation is a subsidiary of the French company, BNP Paribas, which has its U.S. headquarters in California and a high concentration of branch banks throughout the western states.
The decision is not a recent one, nor is Bank of the West alone in divesting from extractive industries that include natural gas and oil shale, in addition to coal, according to a 2017 report commissioned by more than 20 environmental groups reviewing the 2016 lending decisions of 37 of the worlds largest banks.
“Bank of the West has declined to fund coal-fired power projects (CFPPs) for years, in part because coal creates more carbon dioxide emissions than other energy sources, accelerating climate change. … We will no longer do business with producers, distributors, marketers, or traders focused on oil and gas from shale or oil sands. We will also quit financing oil and gas exploration and production in the Arctic,” according to a blog post on the bank’s website.
Moffat County — including the office of the county commissioners, county treasurer, and other county-level elected offices — has accounts with the bank with Bank of the West. The Board of County Commissioners plans to discuss options during its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 7.
Commissioner Ray Beck, chairperson of the BOCC, said any organization that doesn’t support our local economy and economics is a concern for the county. He added: “On a personal level, my wife and I have banked there for years and are considering our options. It’s not a decision that is about or against the folks that work in our local branch, knowing it was a corporate decision.”
Unlike the county, the city of Craig does not bank with Bank of the West, but Mayor John Ponikvar said, “I’m surprised that people would bank with them” because the company ownership and decision-making are based on what’s good for French owners.
The social media declaration prompted Bank of the West Craig Branch Manager and Vice President Stacy Razzano to resign her position of 27 years, effective Aug. 17.
In a letter to the editor submitted to the Craig Press Razzano said of her decision, “I support this community as the community has supported me throughout the years. I am, in fact, a coal miner’s daughter. My dad has retired from a local coal mine after 40 years in the industry. My brother currently works for a local coal mine. I stand by the coal community and will continue to support all the hard-working citizens of Moffat County.”
Razzano was unable to provide further comment regarding corporate decisions.
Bank of the West’s blog post further explained its stance by stating, “We are interested in solutions for the environmental and climate challenges we face — that’s just good business. Therefore, we are divesting from coal, tar sands, shale oil and arctic drilling — and investing and financing the transition to more sustainable energy sources.”
One caveat is that the bank “may fund coal-fired power plant projects that incorporate carbon capture and storage technology, and we will continue to finance power companies that generate less than 30 percent of their energy from CFPPs.”
The community seems prepared to send a clear message back that businesses refusing to support the local economy should not expect the community to support them.
Editor’s note: This is the first story reporting on the local impact of the global banking industry’s policies regarding climate change and divestment of natural resource extraction based-businesses.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.
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