Goldman Sachs becomes first major U.S. bank to rule out funding for Arctic oil

Slides put out by the Bureau of Land Management at the Utqiaġvik scoping meeting for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, May 31st, 2018. The investment bank Goldman Sachs says it won’t finance oil ventures in the refuge, or elsewhere in the Arctic. (Photo by Ravenna Koenig/ Alaska’s Energy Desk.)

Groups trying to block oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge won a commitment from a Wall Street heavyweight this week.

The investment bank Goldman Sachs says it won’t finance ventures to explore or develop oil prospects in the refuge, or elsewhere in the Arctic.

Ben Cushing of the Sierra Club has been pressing financial institutions to adopt such environmental policies, and several European banks already have.

“Goldman Sachs, with their policy they just released, became the first major U.S. bank to rule out funding for Arctic oil, as well as for new coal-fired power projects,” he said.

Other companies that restrict financing for Arctic drilling are Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and HSBC.

“I don’t think they’re much more than symbolic,” said economist Nick Loris. He focuses on energy issues at the Heritage Foundation.

He says the bank policies aren’t going to prevent drilling in the refuge.

“If there is economic interest in oil and gas development in the state of Alaska, someone is going to finance them,” Loris said.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in an interview on Fox News that the state will have to re-evaluate its relationship with Goldman Sachs in light of the bank’s policy.

The Department of Interior is in the final phase of its environmental review and is expected to schedule an auction for drilling rights to the coastal plain of the refuge in early 2020.

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