Environment

JPMorgan Chase Pledges $2 Million to Fight Racism—Yet Bankrolls Energy Projects That Hurt Minorities

Race is the most significant predictor of a person living near pollution.

The corporate sign in front of the JP Morgan Chase & Co office building on Park Avenue in New York City.
Photo Credit: Felix Lipov/Shutterstock

In light of the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, JPMorgan Chase & Co announced that it would be contributing up to $2 million to fight racism and support human rights.

We commend the bank for taking this public stand, but if they really want to be sincere, they should stop funding extreme fossil fuel projects like tar sands that continue to negatively impact Indigenous communities and communities of color across North America.

Race is the most significant predictor of a person living near pollution. The term “environmental racism” emerged in the 1970s and 1980s to address the fact that communities of color bear a significantly disproportionate health burden from toxic contamination as a result of pollution in and around their neighborhoods. This environmental injustice is still pervasive today, where African American, Latino, Indigenous and low-income communities are far more likely to be subjected to the risks associated with living next to highly polluting facilities like refineries and fossil fuel extraction sites.

Just this week, as floodwaters overwhelm refineries and oil facilities in the hub of America's energy infrastructure around Houston, it is lower income and communities of color who for years will bear the brunt of dangerous pollution as their homes and breathing air is the first to be contaminated.

JPMorgan Chase may appear to be standing for human rights, but the fact is, they’re bankrolling environmental racism on a major scale. Chase is the #1 Wall Street funder of tar sands oil, one of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels. In stark contrast to its recent $2 million act of charity, over the past 3 years alone, JPMorgan Chase has poured over $3 billion into tar sands production and expansion. The extraction process of tar sands is so environmentally hazardous that it has been called “slow industrial genocide” by the Indigenous Environmental Network.

From the devastating practice of tar sands mining itself, to the all too frequent oil spills into critical waterways, to the pollution-producing oil refining process, communities of color along the entire route are deeply impacted.

We see a clear pattern of environmental racism in places like Richmond, California, slated to be one of the destinations for the tar sands from Kinder Morgan’s Canadian pipeline. Seventy percent of the citizens of Richmond are people of color. According to Scientific American, the “people of Richmond live within a ring of five major oil refineries, three chemical companies, eight Superfund sites, dozens of other toxic waste sites, highways, two rail yards, ports and marine terminals where tankers dock.”

Out of the largest six banks in the U.S., only JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are backing Kinder Morgan’s highly controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline, which is planned to take tar sands crude from Alberta to the port of Burnaby in British Columbia. This pipeline would lock us into years or even decades of more tar sands extraction by tripling the capacity of an existing pipeline to 890,000 barrels a day.

The Trans Mountain Pipeline will potentially create just as many human rights violations as the Dakota Access pipeline, particularly with regard to the lack of Free and Prior Informed Consent from Indigenous peoples. The ongoing resistance to this project has been called the "Standing Rock of the North."

At a time when the oil and gas supermajors are fleeing the tar sands, JPMorgan Chase continues to finance this disastrous industry sector by playing a leading role on Cenovus’s multi-billion dollar acquisition of ConocoPhillips’s tar sands assets.

If JPMorgan Chase is serious about fighting racism and supporting human rights, it must take responsibility for the real world impacts of its existing investments and stop financing the widespread human suffering caused by tar sands production.  

Patrick McCully is the Climate & Energy Program Director at Rainforest Action Network.

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