RAWLINS, Wyo. — The city of Rawlins has decided to keep municipal funds at Bank of the West after the bank announced it would no longer do business with companies that it perceives as detrimental to the environment.
The Rawlins Times reports the city council voted 5-1 last week to keep an estimated $9 million at the bank.
Mayor Robert Grauberger had suggested the city move its municipal funds after the San Francisco-based bank’s decision in August to divest from certain fossil fuel investments.
That move provoked threats of retaliation in states such as Wyoming that get much of their revenue from coal, oil and natural gas extraction.
Last month, the city of Rock Springs decided to take its municipal funds out of Bank of the West.
Grauberger was the lone proponent of switching city funds in the Rawlins vote on Tuesday.
Nate Davidson, a branch manager for the bank, told the council before its vote that the company’s statements had been misinterpreted by media outlets. Davidson said the bank and its parent company, BNP Paribas, don’t oppose the fossil fuels industry but are advocating for its transition to renewables to reduce carbon emissions.
“I believe there is a very stark difference between opposition and choosing to support other things instead,” Davidson said.
Commissioner Steve Sanger said the company isn’t doing anything different and is good about investing municipal funds.
Bank of the West had said it would no longer finance oil and gas exploration or production projects in the Arctic, or coal mines or coal-fired power plants not actively involved in an energy transition. The company also is cutting ties to tobacco-related businesses.
Several banks, largely in Europe, have taken a similar environmental stand.
Bank of the West has branches in every city and several towns in Wyoming, the top coal-producing state in the country. Fossil fuel extraction provides about 70 percent of state revenue.
Several top Wyoming officials, including Gov. Matt Mead, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and state Treasurer Mark Gordon, protested the bank’s announcement.