THE LIGHTBULB

The world's biggest lender to fossil fuel projects just took a baby step toward curbing that investment. 

Yet for climate activists, JPMorgan Chase's new restrictions on loans to coal mining, coal power and Arctic oil and gas drilling are welcome — but still not enough, Steven Mufson and I reported Monday evening

“It seems like weak beer to me, basically just copying Goldman,” climate activist Bill McKibben said, comparing the pledges to those recently made by Goldman Sachs. “But it shows that even the biggest bank on Earth feels citizen pressure, so we will keep supplying that!” 

JPMorgan, he added, will “retain the title of the doomsday bank.”

JPMorgan said on Monday it would effectively stop offering loans to new coal-fired power plants or refinancing to existing ones. It will also no longer provide money or advice to firms making most of their revenue from coal. Existing loans would be phased out by 2024. The bank also said it will no longer finance oil and gas developments in the Arctic. 

But the new environmental goals came with a bunch of caveats. 

The bank can still do business with big coal-mining companies that have other major revenue streams. “That’s a big loophole,” said Jason Disterhoft, a campaigner at the Rainforest Action Network. 

And JPMorgan will still provide loans to oil and gas projects in the Lower 48 states and other parts of the world. “Oil and gas activity in the Arctic is so slim anyway that lending for such activity is essentially meaningless,” said Pavel Molchanov, senior energy analyst at the investment firm Raymond James.

The bank has increasingly become a target of activists, who have denounced it for providing $196 billion in financing for coal, oil, natural gas and pipeline projects from 2016 through 2018, following the Paris climate accord. The bank has also come under criticism because its board includes former ExxonMobil chief executive Lee R. Raymond, who has a long record of dismissing concerns about climate change.

Climate activists have staged protests at JPMorgan branches in recent months over the bank’s outsize role in underwriting the oil, gas and coal industries.

As one example, Monica Nelson, a student at the University of California at San Diego, earlier this month helped organize a protest at the campus’s Chase branch where activists held up a banner reading “CHASE THEM OUT.” “We would like the university not to give them the next five-year lease,” she said.

Since President Trump’s election in 2016, environmental groups have turned their attention to Wall Street banks, insurance firms and other private-sector players as their increasingly urgent calls to address climate change have largely fallen on deaf ears in the White House and the GOP-controlled Senate.

Climate activists “have been looking for other ways to stop the growth of the fossil fuel industry,” said Ben Cushing, a climate campaigner at the Sierra Club. “Getting major Wall Street firms to take climate change seriously is important no matter what party is in power.”

Read more here:

Climate and Environment
The bank said it would restrict lending to coal plants and Arctic oil and gas, but it left open other fossil fuel projects.
Steven Mufson and Dino Grandoni

POWER PLAYS

— Here they go again in Oregon: For the second time in eight months, Oregon Senate Republicans fled the state Capitol to dodge a vote on a bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions. “It was the same tactic Republican lawmakers employed in June, when they fled to Idaho to avoid a vote on an earlier version of the same cap-and-trade bill, prompting Oregon’s governor to call in state troopers to track them down and return them to the statehouse,” The Post’s Reis Thebault reports. That bill died, but similar climate legislation has been on Democrats’ agenda for this year. 

  • What to know about this bill: The measure would cap the greenhouse gas emissions and make the limit stricter over time. It would also require transportation, industrial and utility sector polluters to acquire credits to cover their emissions, per The Oregonian.
  • Gov. Kate Brown (D) accused Republicans of a “taxpayer-funded vacation”: “Republicans signed up for this. If they don’t like a bill, then they need to show up and change it, or show up and vote no,” Brown said in a statement.
  • What Republicans said: Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. criticized the Senate President Peter Courtney for joining a committee in order to cast a vote to advance the bill. “Senator Courtney’s actions leave no other option for Senate Republicans but to boycott and deny quorum because cap and trade is on the way to the Senate floor," Baertschiger said in a statement. Oregon Senate Republican spokesperson Kate Gillem said the cap-and-trade issue overall had become too divisive for lawmakers to handle.

— SCOTUS seems set to back Atlantic Coast pipeline: During oral arguments, the justices appeared to question the lower court ruling that blocked the route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline under a section of the Appalachian Trail. “Conservative justices and even some of the court’s liberals seemed uneasy with the proposition that no federal agency could approve a right of way on federal land when the 2,200-mile trail traverses it,” The Post’s Robert Barnes reports.

  • What they said: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. told Michael K. Kellogg, a lawyer representing environmentalists, that that would establish an “impermeable barrier to any pipeline from the area where the natural gas, those resources are located and to the area east of it where there’s more of a need for them.”
  • What’s next: “Work in Virginia has been halted for more than a year as the builders contend with a host of setbacks handed down by federal courts. But none is more crucial than the question being considered by the Supreme Court: whether the U.S. Forest Service has authority to grant the pipeline right of way under the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest,” Barnes writes. Unless the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit’s decision is reversed, Justice Department lawyer Anthony A. Yang said “the whole enterprise is done. We’re done. They have to start over.”

— EPA union chapter endorses Sanders: The American Federation of Government Employees Local 704 — the federal workers’ union chapter representing hundreds of Environmental Protection Agency employees in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin —  is throwing its support behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). 

  • To quote: “Bernie unequivocally supports federal unions in their efforts to fight Trump’s union-busting regime,” the group said in a statement. “… As President, Sanders will allow EPA workers to return to serving our mission and will treat climate change with the urgency our scientists know is needed to save our country and our planet.”
  • It's a first: It's the union chapter's first endorsement ever, according to Politico's Alex Guillén. Sanders won the group's poll with 44 percent.
  • Beyond the 2020 election, the national chapter has been pushing a “Workers’ Bill of Rights” in the Trump era too: “An AFGE petition complains about Trump policies that ‘run counter to science’ and ‘the Administration’s all-out assault on workers at the EPA,’ ” The Post's Joe Davidson writes. The agency has dismissed the criticism, saying in a statement “we value the input of our career scientists.”

— Trump’s eldest son was granted a permit to hunt a bear in Alaska: The Alaska Department of Fish and Game said Donald Trump Jr. was granted a permit to hunt and kill a grizzly bear in Western Alaska later this year, the Associated Press reports.

  • The details: Trump Jr. did not receive one of the limited “dignitary” licenses the governor can dole out. “He instead applied for one of 27 licenses designated for out-of-state hunters in the area. Only two other hunters applied,” per the report. ”…He will target a grizzly, the same species as Alaska brown bears. Bears along the southern Alaska coastline, referred to as brown bears, have access to abundant salmon and rich vegetation. That allows them to grow larger and live in higher densities, according to the department.” 

— Scientists gathering over microplastic pollution: A group of five dozen microplastic researchers from government agencies, major universities, environmental groups, tribes and other groups across the western United States are meeting in Washington state to discuss how such tiny plastics are polluting the world’s oceans. “Research into their potential impact on everything from tiny single-celled organisms to larger mammals like sea otters is just getting underway,” the Associated Press reports.

  • What’s next: Stacey Harper, an associate professor at Oregon State University who helped put the conference together, said the scientists want to “prioritize who it is that we’re concerned about protecting: what organisms, what endangered species, what regions. And that will help us hone in ... and determine the data we need to do a risk assessment.” 
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DAYBOOK

Today

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds hearings on the president’s proposed FY 2021 budget request for the Forest Service.

Coming Up

  • The House Natural Resources Committee holds a legislative hearing on Wednesday.
  • The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry holds a hearing on “Promoting Rural Economies and Healthy Forests” on Wednesday.
  • The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment holds a hearing on “Proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2020” on Thursday.

EXTRA MILEAGE

— ‘It’s a big first’: A pair of cheetah cubs were born at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio after an in vitro fertilization procedure. Scientists are calling it a “huge scientific breakthrough,” The Post's Dana Hedgpeth reports