SWEETWATER COUNTY– The Sweetwater County Commissioners spoke strongly about their opposition to the decision recently made by Bank of the West, BNP Paribas to no longer fund certain projects for oil, gas, and coal.
Specifically, companies heavily involved extracting oil and gas from shale and tar sands and coal, as well as choosing not to finance coal mines or coal-fired power plants not involved in the energy transition.
Bank of the West’s Statement
Bank of the West released a statement saying,“We 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.”
They added, “As a long-term partner of the energy industry, we are proud to work with companies in oil, coal and gas that are actively involved in the energy transition and committed to building a more sustainable energy future.”
People can read more about Bank of the West’s statement here.
“They Declared War on Us”
The county commissioners believe this is an attack on not only Sweetwater County’s way of life, by Wyoming’s as a whole. They unanimously recommend that the county terminate ties with Bank of the West.
“They declared war on us, on our way of life, and what we do,” Commissioner John Kolb said.
He added that he does not want to do business with people, organizations, and businesses that do not support the county and the county residents.
“This bank goes against the very actions that support us,” Kolb said.
The commissioners noted that Bank of the West’s stance does not reflect on the local branches.
Sweetwater County has over $28 Million with Bank of the West
According to Sweetwater County Treasurer Robb Slaughter, the county currently has $15.8 million in general funds with Bank of the West, $1.4 million in insurance funds, and $11 million through one of Bank of the West’s subsidiary branches.
Commissioner Wally Johnson recommends that Sweetwater County pulls its money out of Bank of the West and put it into a bank that supports the county’s economy. He stressed that 80 percent of the county’s economy comes from minerals.
Severing Ties is not as Simple as it Seems
Slaughter said he agrees with the County Commission’s recommendation, but that it is “not as simple as severing ties with them”.
The reason the county has so much money in Bank of the West is because Bank of the West is willing to collateralize funds.
“I don’t know if other banks even have the ability to collateralize to the level needed,” Slaughter explained. However, Slaughter said he has already been working with other banks and will continue to do so.
The commissioners and Slaughter agreed that it is important to react to this statement, but not to overreact. They want to make sure that they take the process of severing ties with Bank of the West slowly and wait for the recommendations to ensure it is done right.
The county fully intends to remove funds from Bank of the West and hope to take action within the next one to two meetings.