By Austin Huguelet
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE — The reaction to Bank of the West cutting ties with dedicated fossil fuel companies reached the Capital City on Thursday as State Treasurer Mark Gordon announced his office would take its business elsewhere.
In a news release, Gordon said he would start by denying the bank’s applications to manage certain state investments it can draw on to make loans to customers.
Bank of the West has received $63 million in state funds through the time deposit program, the release said.
“The Bank of the West has said they will no longer fund coal, oil and natural gas projects – key components to the Wyoming economy and Wyoming way of life,” he said. “Well, under my watch, Wyoming investment dollars will not be placed with Bank of the West.”
Gordon also plans to work with other state agencies and local governments doing business with the bank on a “responsible review” of its eligibility to hold public funds before the State Board of Deposits meeting in October. The board is composed of the state’s top five elected officials, including Gordon, and has the power to revoke that eligibility.
He also offered his help to any agencies or governments looking to switch banks.
The announcement from Gordon, a Republican candidate for governor, comes on the heels of the company’s recent announcements on some of Wyoming’s linchpin industries.
On its website, the San Francisco-based subsidiary of the French group BNP Paribas says it will “no longer do business with companies whose main activity is exploring, producing, distributing, marketing or trading oil and gas from shale and/or tar sands” or “finance coal mines or coal-fired power plants that are not actively involved in the energy transition.”
The firm’s message essentially restated a commitment its parent company announced last year, but the backlash in Wyoming has taken off this week.
Sweetwater County commissioners discussed withdrawing their deposits at a meeting Tuesday, the Rock Springs Rocket-Miner reported.
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., ripped the move in a letter to CEO Nandita Bakhshi on Wednesday.
“This misguided and politically expedient decision is a direct attack on hardworking families in Wyoming and across the country that depend on fossil fuels for energy security, jobs and economic growth,” Barrasso wrote. “While it may be fashionable today in San Francisco to exclude states like Wyoming from your lending plans, it will do little to discourage us from pursuing our best future on our terms.”
Laramie County commissioners are also planning to meet on the future of the county’s $44 million account.
“I think it would be a huge pain in the neck for (County Treasurer) Trudy (Eisele) to make those changes, but I think we’ve got to consider it,” Commissioner Troy Thompson said Thursday. “That’s pretty much a direct attack on the state of Wyoming.”
The city of Cheyenne has a $20,000 certificate of deposit with Bank of the West, a tiny fraction of its investments. But Mayor Marian Orr said she supported Gordon’s move and wouldn’t hesitate to withdraw the small amount pending further action.
“To place coal, oil and gas in the same category as tobacco is shameful and ignorant,” she said. “Perhaps they don’t know how their lights get turned on.”
Bank of the West officials did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
But in a Facebook comment acknowledging a deluge of negative feedback, it wrote: “While we’ve taken a stance on fracking, tobacco and arctic drilling, we are neither anti-energy nor anti-oil and gas. We, along with those in these industries, are dedicated to accelerating energy transition through diversification and investment. Like them, we remain committed to the communities and companies we serve where energy, in all forms, is part of a way of life.”