DIVEST! Protests want Chase Bank OUT of tar sands financing
On Monday, 26 activists were arrested in Seattle when they occupied 13 branches of JPMorgan Chase bank. Their complaint? They want Chase to stop lending money to TransCanada, the builder of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Although President Barack Obama nixed the northern leg of the pipeline before he left office, his successor reversed that decision this year and invited TransCanada to reapply for a permit to construct the thousand-mile-long pipeline.
If built, the line would provide capability to deliver 830,000 barrels a day of petroleum from the Alberta tar sands operations to oil refineries in Gulf Coast Texas. About 400,000 barrels a day are already being transported on existing pipelines, including Keystone XL’s southern leg from Oklahoma.
At several branches, the protesters chained or otherwise attached themselves to doors to disrupt business and make it more difficult for police to remove them. There was no violence.
As with many of the protests against Keystone XL in the past eight years, indigenous people took a leading role in the Seattle action. Along the pipeline route, in Canada and the United States, Native protesters—who call it the “black snake”—have been prominent in the opposition, sometimes alone and sometimes in coalition with environmental activists and land-owners. The group Mazaska Talks, and the 121 Indian and First Nations that have signed the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, and the Seattle chapter of the international climate organization 350.org joined to coordinate the bank protests.
In addition to Keystone XL, other tar sands pipelines are opposed as well. One of these is the Kinder Morgan expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline system that would transport tar sands petroleum from Alberta to British Columbia where it can be exported. Enbridge’s Line 3 and TransCanada’s Energy East pipelines are also at issue.
The action took on a different flavor at each branch, according to The Seattle Times. Indians performed a round dance at the downtown Second Avenue branch:
The bank became an impromptu longhouse of sorts as Native American leaders told stories and shared teaching, prayers and songs for demonstrators and their allies. […]
“All you other banks in Seattle, you are next,” Ray Kingfisher, a Northern Cheyenne tribal elder who helped lead the action at Chase’s Second Avenue branch, told the Times. “This is just a start.”
Chase is a target of activists as the largest and best known of the banks from which pipeline builders can be expected to seek loans for their projects. The protesters hope that their “name and shame” demonstrations will persuade potential lenders that the public-relations fallout for backing transportation of what environmentalists call the “carbon bomb” of the tar sands outweighs any financial benefit the banks get by backing these projects.
Two weeks ago, 350.Seattle sent a letter to Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, stating, among other things:
As one of the two lead banks arranging the $5bn revolving credit for TransCanada in December, Chase is essential to the construction of Keystone XL. As you may recall from the first fight over KXL, former NASA climatologist Jim Hansen said in 2011 that if the tar sands are exploited, it’s “game over” for the climate. As you may also know, Rosebud Sioux Chairman Cyril Scott said in 2014 that the tribe would consider the pipeline an “act of war.”
We know that loaning to such projects is normal business practice. We also know that if we continue with currently normal business practice, we are in the last decade or two of a reasonably stable planet. This is not a controversial truth.
The protests may remind some observers of the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline opposed by members of the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux bands in North Dakota over the past year. But there’s a difference this time. As James Trimarco reports:
[T]his new campaign differs from that one in at least one important way, according to Alec Connon, an organizer with 350 Seattle. The loans haven’t been made yet.
“When the divestment movement around DAPL kicked into gear, all of the loans were already in place … and people calling for divestment were calling for banks to rescind those loans,” Connon said. “Here we’re saying ‘Don’t give the loans in the first place.’”
One potential bit of assistance in fighting the pipelines comes from an unlikely source. Although many tar sands operations remain cash cows, as oil prices have fallen, numerous leading companies have chosen not to expand in Alberta, seeing this as a bad investment in the current market. Royal Dutch Shell has sold its tar sands reserves. ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Norway’s Statoil have written down their reserves. And Koch Industries has bailed on its $800 million Muskwa project in the northern reaches of the province.
(Originally appeared at DailyKos. Image CC by Kris Krug.)