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Like Blowing Up the Alps: Is Swiss Bank UBS the Last Financier of Massey's Big Coal Mayhem?

06/07/2010 06:43 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Jeff Biggers Author of "Damnatio Memoriae: A Play, Una Commedia," www.jeffbiggers.com

And then there was one.

Swiss banking giant UBS is now reportedly Massey Energy's last primary financier.

Go figure. If any lending institution might understand the human rights and environmental factors in preserving mountains and mountain heritage, Zurich-based UBS should hold a special place. Not like anyone would ever consider strip-mining the beloved Alps; like Appalachia, mountains stretch across 60% of Switzerland's boundaries. In fact, coal accounts for less than 1% of Switzerland's energy consumption.

So, why is the Swiss bank financing Massey's devastating and violation-ridden mountaintop removal operations that are literally blowing up the Alps in Appalachia--not to mention Massey's recent underground coal mining disaster?

Despite its self-proclaimed commitment to environmental protection, "one of the most pressing issues facing our world today," UBS recently received an "F" rank on Rainforest Action Network's Report Card on Banks and Mountaintop Removal.

Examining the lending operations of nine banks, RAN found:

Since January 2008, the nine banks examined in this report card have provided more than $3.9 billion in loans and bond underwriting to companies practicing mountaintop removal
coal mining.

In one of the most effective campaigns in the country, RAN and its national allies have prodded lending institutions like Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase to end their financing of mountaintop removal operations in Appalachia.

No one has done more to draw attention to role of banks, such as JP Morgan Chase, than
Rev. Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping.

Through a series of public demonstrations, Rev. Billy and his choir literally brought the muddy devastation of Appalachia to Chase offices in Manhattan:

And here's a clip of a choir member discussing her account with a Chase banking official:

UBS is no stranger to controversial strip-mining operations--or American banking scandals for that matter. International human rights groups criticized the lending institution a few years ago for its financial backing of the proposed Phulbari strip mine in Bangladesh. Due to outside pressure, that horrific mining operation was eventually tabled.

It's time for the Swiss mountaineers to end their bankrolling of the destruction of the Appalachian mountains.

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