Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Karla Pomeroy
Editor 

Council votes to remove funds from Bank of the West

 

August 22, 2018



WORLAND — The Worland City Council voted quickly and unanimously to remove funding from the Bank of the West due to the bank’s recent positions on the oil and gas industry.

During Tuesday’s meeting, City Attorney Kent Richins said he was presenting the item for action for Clerk Tracy Glanz who was serving as an election judge for the county.

The city has about $447,000 invested in the bank and due to the bank’s position on energy resources, Glanz was recommending moving the funds to another bank.

Three council members simultaneously made the motion to move the funds with Dennis Koch noting the move should happen immediately.

According to the Associated Press, the San Francisco-based bank recently made it known that it would be “investing where we feel we can make the most impact” and withdrawing support for companies and business activities that are “detrimental to our environment and our health.”

That includes no longer doing business with companies whose main activity is tied to oil and gas from shale or tar sands. It also will no longer finance oil and gas exploration or production projects in the Arctic. Nor will it finance coal mines or coal-fired power plants that are not actively involved in the energy transition. The company also is cutting ties to tobacco-related businesses.

Worland Mayor Jim Gill said Tuesday night that Wyoming is an energy state and the council expressed Tuesday night that they are not happy with a bank that doesn’t represent or support the energy industry.

Council member Mandy Horath added that the council wanted to show support for the hard-working people of the state who work in the energy industry.

“We’re standing behind the cowboy way,” she added.

Gill added that those companies provide a strong tax base for the state.

The city’s position is not unique in Wyoming

Bank of the West has branches in every city and several towns in Wyoming, the top coal-producing state in the country. Fossil fuels are big business in Wyoming — extraction provides about 70 percent of its state revenue.

State Treasurer Mark Gordon threatened last week to stop depositing with the bank certain state funds intended to encourage local lending. The state has deposited $63 million with Bank of the West in Wyoming through the program over the years. Gordon also said he will ask the State Board of Deposits to review the bank’s status as a public depository for the state.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead made a similar threat to revoke public depository status, which would prohibit state agencies from using Bank of the West for petty cash accounts. Campground fees collected at state parks, for example, couldn’t be deposited at the nearest Bank of the West.

According to the Riverton Ranger, via the Wyoming News Exchange, Fremont County officials are discussing plans to sever their relationship with Bank of the West after the company announced plans to stop investing in oil and gas companies.

On Friday, Aug. 10, Fremont County Treasurer Scott Harnsberger sent out an e-mail to Fremont County Commissioners Clarence Thomas, Jennifer McCarty, Larry Allen, Ray Price and Travis Becker informing them that the bank recently had publicized plans to no longer invest in companies whose main activity is exploring, producing, distributing, marketing or trading oil and gas from shale and/or tar sands.

The bank also has decided to stop financing coal mines or coal-fired power plants that are not actively involved in the “energy transition,” wrote Harnsberger.

“This concerns me,” Harnsberger wrote in the e-mail. “I have been in contact with Bank of the West to let them know that Fremont County benefits tremendously from these industries … that support the economy and (are a) major contributor to Wyoming’s tax base.”

If the bank remains steadfast in its decision, Harnsberger said he would find a different bank for Fremont County to use “that will provide support for those industries.”

According to the AP, overall, the world’s biggest banks increased their funding in fossil fuels in 2017 by 11 percent to $115 billion, according to a recent report from Sierra Club and other environmental groups. But several banks, largely in Europe, have taken an environmental stand similar to Bank of the West. That includes HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of the West’s parent company, BNP Paribas. The move also comes as some investors, both institutional and individual, push for more environmentally responsible investing.

 
 

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