Rainforest Action Network forces Wells Fargo Bank to stop funding mountaintop removal coal mining 2005-2006

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Time Period:  
14 July
Location and Goals
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
San Francisco, California
Pressure Wells Fargo Bank's to end its financial relationships and loans to companies that practice mountaintop removal coal mining.

Mountaintop removal coal mining is an extremely destructive form of surface coal mining. Companies practice mountaintop removal coal mining in several places around the world, including the central Appalachian region of the United States. Mountaintop removal coal mining only produces about seven percent of the world’s coal, but causes huge environmental destruction and human health costs.

Massey Energy was one of the companies that practiced mountaintop removal in the Appalachian region. In 2011 Massey was bought by competitor Alpha Natural Resources for $7.1 billion. Companies like Massey often needed to borrow money from banks such as Wells Fargo in order to cover their upfront costs for equipment and starting new mining projects. In 2005 Rainforest Action Network (RAN) started a campaign to pressure Wells Fargo Bank to stop lending money to companies such as Massey Energy that practice mountaintop removal coal mining.

On 14 July 2005, closely following a Wells Fargo press release about their “10 Point Environmental Commitments” that failed to address the bank’s investments in mountaintop removal, RAN protesters assembled in front of a Wells Fargo bank in San Francisco, California. The activists dressed in cowboy hats to mimic Wells Fargo’s western cowboy image, passed flyers out to passersby and held up a banner that read “Less PR, More Progress; Stop Funding Destruction!” in front of an ATM near the company’s headquarters. Online, RAN asked volunteers to call or email Wells Fargo’s CEO to ask him to stop investing in mountaintop removal companies.

In October 2005 between 100 and 200 people marched to Wells Fargo’s headquarters in San Francisco. RAN climbers dropped a banner off of the headquarters building’s rooftop garden that read, “Lootin’ and Pollutin’ Since 1852.”

After the action at the headquarters, RAN protesters in San Francisco and Santa Cruz, California held protests at bank branches in their cities. The protesters talked with customers and passersby and held signs and banners linking Wells Fargo to companies that practice mountaintop removal coal mining.

On 22 April 2006 activists held a protest outside a Wells Fargo building in Fort Worth, Texas. The protesters publically spoke about the bank’s investments, held banners, and “branded” Wells Fargo as a company that promoted the destruction of mountains and the environment. On 24 April 2006 protesters in Austin, Texas passed out leaflets to passersby and customers informing them about the environmental destruction that Wells Fargo funds.

On 26 April 2006 Ilyse Hogue and Scott Parkin, both campaigners with RAN, attended Wells Fargo’s annual shareholders’ meeting and read excerpts from a Vanity Fair article on mountaintop removal coal mining. Outside, protesters chanted, held signs, and wore bandanas that said “Wells Fargo: Lootin’ and Pollutin.’”

On 28 April 2006 protesters, mostly high school students, chanted and passed out flyers, stickers, and bandanas to passersby in Walnut Creek, California, telling customers and people on the street about Wells Fargo’s investments.

In late July 2006 Wells Fargo became one of the first banks to stop its relationship with the coal mining company Massey Energy.

To continue the pressure and ensure that Wells Fargo did end their relationship with Massey Energy, RAN rented a room in the hotel where the Wells Fargo CEO, Richard Kocacevich, was participating in a Wall Street investor’s conference in San Francisco on 18 September 2006. Protesters tried talk with him one-on-one with the Wells Fargo CEO but San Francisco police officers prevented the activists from coming close to Kocacevich. Outside the conference, RAN activists held an action with chanting, signs, and street theater.

Research Notes
“Banking on Dirty Energy.” Rainforest Action Network. http://ran.org/banking-dirty-energy

“Extreme Investments: US Banks and the Coal Industry.” Rainforest Action Network. 2013. http://ran.org/coal-finance-reportcard-2013

“Protesters Take Aim At Wells Fargo’s Annual Shareholder Meeting.” Fox Business. http://m.foxbusiness.com/quickPage.html?page=32811&content=70847597&pageNum=-1

“Rainforest Action Network Memorandum: Update on Rainforest Action Network’s Mountaintop Removal Bank Campaign.” 2014.

“Wall Street Backs Away From Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining.” Rainforest Action Network. http://ran.org/wall-street-backs-away-mountaintop-removal-coal-mining-0

“Wells Fargo-Lootin’ and Pollutin’ San Francisco Banner Drop-KTVU.” Video. OurMedia. http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/S-F-s-Wells-Fargo-target-of-antibank-protest-2327008.php

Cherkis, Jason. “Ninety-Nine Percent Power: Activists Ready to Crash Wells Fargo, General Electric Shareholder Meetings.” Huffington Post. 23 April 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/23/ninety-nine-percent-power_n_1446605.html

Collins, Ben. “Extreme Coal—No Longer Business as Usual.” Rainforest Action Network. 17 April 2014. http://understory.ran.org/2014/04/17/2014-coal-finance-report-card-extreme-investments-extreme-consequences/

Haswell, Sam and Brianna Cayo Cotter. “Activists Demand Corporate Responsibility at San Francisco Investors Conference.” Common Dreams. 21 September 2006. http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/news2006/0921-04.htm

Kane, Will and Vivian Ho. “SF’s Wells Fargo target of antibank protest.” 12 October 2011. San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/S-F-s-Wells-Fargo-target-of-antibank-protest-2327008.php

Olson, Brant. “Wells Fargo Shareholder Meeting 2006.” 25 April 2006. Video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M20skLQpYjg

Parkin, Scott. “Inside the Wells Fargo Shareholder’s Meeting.” Rainforest Action Network. 26 April 2006. http://understory.ran.org/2006/04/26/inside-the-wells-fargo-shareholders-meeting/

Parkin, Scott. “Join the Dirty Banks ‘Tour of Shame’ at Powershift.” Rainforest Action Network. 6 April 2011. http://understory.ran.org/2011/04/06/join-the-dirty-banks-%E2%80%9Ctour-of-shame%E2%80%9D-at-powershift/

Parkin, Scott. “New Video on Appalachia and Wells Fargo.” Rainforest Action Network. 20 November 2006. http://understory.ran.org/2006/11/20/new-video-on-appalachia-and-wells-fargo/

Parkin, Scott. “Wells Fargo HQ Swarmed by Posse of Environmentalists.” Rainforest Action Network. 18 July 2006. http://understory.ran.org/2006/07/18/wells-fargo-hq-swarmed-by-posse-of-environmentalists/

Parkin, Scott. “Wells Fargo Round Up In Austin Texas.” Rainforest Action Network. 26 April 2006. http://understory.ran.org/2006/04/26/wells-fargo-round-up-in-austin-texas/

Parkin, Scott. “Wells Fargo Round Up In Fort Worth, Texas.” Rainforest Action Network. 26 April 2006.” http://understory.ran.org/2006/04/26/wells-fargo-round-up-in-fort-worth-texas/

Parkin, Scott. “Wells Fargo Round Up in Walnut Creek, CA.” Rainforest Action Network. 28 April 2006. http://understory.ran.org/2006/04/28/wells-fargo-round-up-in-walnut-creekca/

Parkin, Scott. “Whose Time (and Money) is Wells Fargo Wasting?” Rainforest Action Network. 18 September 2006. http://understory.ran.org/2006/09/18/whose-time-and-money-is-wells-fargo-wasting/

Rico, Stephanie. “Slow Money & the Rainforest Action Network.” 18 October 2011. Wells Fargo Environmental Forum. http://blogs.wellsfargo.com/environment/2011/10/slow-money-the-rainforest-action-network/

Starbuck, Amanda. “Breakthrough: JPMorgan Chase Dropping Mountain Destruction.” Rainforest Action Network. 13 April 2014. http://understory.ran.org/2014/04/13/breakthrough-jpmorgan-chase-dropping-mountain-destruction/

Zeller, Tom. “Lenders Step Away From Environmental Risks.” The New York Times. 31 August 2010.

Whitaker, Todd. “Wells Fargo:Lootin and Pollutin in Coal Country.” Rainforest Action Network. Video. 13 November 2006. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-AURSRRS-c

Additional Notes: 
Volunteer groups in San Francisco and Santa Cruz did actions at local bank branches in late July 2005.

Volunteer groups in Fort Worth and Austin, Texas and Walnut Creek, California did actions at local bank branches in late April 2006.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Ryan Leitner 30/04/2014