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West Virginia, financial institutions spar over fossil fuel policies

Jackie Ratliff
Posted at 1:31 PM, Jul 28, 2022

Due to their fossil fuel policies, West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore said his office will prohibit the state from conducting new business with five financial institutions.

Moore listed BlackRock Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo & Co. as companies prohibited from signing new contracts with the state.

“As Treasurer, I have a duty to act in the best interests of the State’s Treasury and our people when choosing financial services for West Virginia,” Moore said. “Any institution with policies aimed at weakening our energy industries, tax base and job market has a clear conflict of interest in handling taxpayer dollars.”

Several companies listed have publicly said they are limiting their backing of coal clients.

“JPMorgan Chase will not provide lending, capital markets or advisory services to clients deriving the majority of their revenues from the extraction of coal,” JPMorgan Chase said in October 2021. “By the end of 2024, we will also phase out our remaining credit exposure to such clients.”

Coal jobs have seen a dramatic decrease in recent years. In 1985, the federal government estimated there were over 175,000 coal-related jobs in the US. By June 2022, that figure dropped to below 40,000.

Federal data shows the number of coal jobs in West Virginia declined by over 50% in the last decade. In 2011, there were 23,000 workers employed in the coal industry in West Virginia, making up 3% of the state’s workforce.

The coal industry now employs just over 1% of the state's workforce.

The US has largely moved from coal to natural gas and other power-generating methods. Until 2003, more than half of the United States’ electricity was generated by coal, according to federal data.

Moore’s announcement comes as the state’s Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin, said he would back some Biden administration proposals to invest in green energy, which could further reduce US dependence on coal.