Alaska agency plans to suspend investment in banks that don’t support Arctic oil and gas projects

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An Alaskan agency is taking steps to remove about $24 million in investments issued by financial institutions that have said they will not fund oil and gas projects in the Arctic.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority is considering a rule change that will prevent its fund managers from buying securities, such as bonds, from banks whose policies prohibit “engagement in oil and gas development” in the region, according to the proposed resolution.

The Arctic includes the North Slope region of Alaska, home to the giant Prudhoe Bay oilfield and other major oil and gas prospects.

The resolution would prevent the state agency from buying securities in banks such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, according to the proposal. Amid growing concerns about climate change, these banks and other major banks have said they will stop supporting new oil and gas projects in the Arctic.

The resolution is on the table for consideration at the agency’s board meeting on Thursday.

The quasi-independent state agency provides funding and support for projects in Alaska.

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He holds $23.9 million in securities that would be affected, according to a Dec. 1 memorandum.

The money is an “insignificant” part of a $400 million fund that is conservatively invested, mostly in U.S. government securities, Alan Weitzner, the agency’s executive director, said in an interview Friday.

If the council approves the measure, the affected assets can be sold and reinvested elsewhere, he said.

The agency hopes its actions will raise awareness of policies it says are hurting Alaskan communities, such as those in Alaska’s North Slope, which have benefited from oil and gas development and related jobs and income, a said Weitzner.

“It is not right to adopt radical anti-development policies without considering the benefits for indigenous and rural communities,” he said. “We’re really trying to raise awareness.”

In the final days of the Trump administration early last year, the agency acquired seven 10-year leases for oil exploration and drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The agency is suing the Biden administration, after the administration suspended those leases to conduct an environmental review.

Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, representing 14 Gwich’in communities in Alaska and Canada who oppose oil and gas activity in the Arctic refuge, said she and others have met with officials from some of the banks, encouraging them to adopt the policies.

She said the banks listen to the tribes and their people, unlike the state agency.

“It’s sad that they’re using money as a tool to try to punish people who listen to our voice,” Demientieff said.

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