People around the world are celebrating the U.S. Army Corps’ decision to block the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, but that doesn’t mean the project is not forging forward in other areas. Locals at Standing Rock fear that this move is just a foil and a way to avoid protesters at the build site. Although many of us can’t join in the fight for tribal rights and clean water, we can make a powerful statement – by switching financial institutions away from banks funding the 1,172-mile-long underground pipeline set to transport crude oil across four states from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to an oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois.
Norway’s biggest bank, DNB, recently announced that it had sold its assets in the Dakota Access Pipeline and that it is reconsidering its loan, accounting for 10 percent of the total funding for the project. There are 17 banks directly funding the pipeline project, according to Food & Water Watch. They are:
The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ
SMBC Nikko Securities
Switching banks is not just a form of protest at this point. While a long shot, a massive movement of money out of the project’s primary lenders could convince these banks to back out. The financial institutions are holding on to the remaining $1.4 billion that is needed to complete the pipeline, pending approval of final permits by the Army Corps of Engineers.
After closing your account, you will of course want to open an account at a bank that isn’t financing environmental destruction and the trampling of Indigenous rights. Options include banks that fund renewable energy projects, community banks and credit unions.
Banks supporting renewable energy
Since the Connecticut Green Bank was founded in 2011 as the first green bank in the United States, green banks have expanded to New York, California and other states. Green banks are great tools for accelerating financing of clean energy projects by using public funds to leverage private capital investment. While green banks should be encouraged at every level of government, you will need a checking account from a commercial bank that invests in clean energy after switching out of one of the 17 banks financing DAPL.
A 2014 Bloomberg Markets’ ranking of the world’s greenest banks includes Royal Bank of Canada, Goldman Sachs, Spain’s Banco Santander SA, UniCredit SpA of Italy, HSBC Holdings Plc of the UK, SEB AB of Sweden, Credit Suisse Group AG of Switzerland and JPMorgan Chase. However, it is important to keep in mind that in addition to renewables many of these financial institutions also invest in dirty energy projects.
After big banks brought the economy to its knees during the 2008 Wall Street crash, many Americans rediscovered independent, locally owned and operated financial institutions, otherwise known as community banks. These old-fashioned neighborhood banks are a great way to go. Instead of investing in megaprojects like DAPL, community banks typically finance local projects that benefit the community they are located in.
Switching to a credit union is another option. Credit unions are democratically controlled by members, not shareholders. They are not-for-profit institutions funded mostly by voluntary member deposits. Credit unions can also finance community and residential renewable energy projects such as solar PV, solar hot water, geothermal energy and energy efficiency sealing and insulation.