Bank of the West, which has about two dozen branches in Wyoming, is suspending business with many fossil fuel developers, the company announced recently.
The San Francisco-based firm will continue to work with oil, coal and gas companies, but only if they show an active commitment to transitioning to greener energy, according to a company statement. Those engaged in drilling shale oil or gas, mining coal or burning coal in power plants are out of luck.
Sen. John Barrasso slammed the bank for being anti-fossil fuel in a Wednesday letter to CEO Nandita Bakhshi.
“Simply put, fossil fuels are essential to the livelihood of people in my home state, including those served by the dedicated employees at your 23 Wyoming branches,” he said. “It is a serious mistake to pick winners and losers in energy markets, especially to the detriment of your own customers.”
The decision is not likely to throw a wrench in Wyoming’s bustling oil and gas industry. Oil and gas development in the Cowboy State is largely funded by private equity groups as opposed to traditional banks. Financial institutions that are involved in the exploration and production side of the industry in Wyoming are more likely to be large banks in Texas or small locals banks, said Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming.
It is unclear whether the bank’s direction would affect the wide fossil fuel service sector, anchored in central Wyoming.
“We remain committed to the communities we serve where energy – in all forms – is part of the way of life,” said Joe Rauch, vice president of public affairs for Bank of the West, in response to that question.
“We believe being focused on economic development, today and in the future, means taking action to assist those companies across the energy sector in their efforts to accelerate energy transition and diversification,” he said. “Our existing policies, in place for years, match these industry efforts.”
Bank of the West has about two dozen locations in the Cowboy State, including two in Casper.
A local bank manager deferred comment to the company’s corporate office in San Francisco.