Saturday, April 15, 2017
(Photo Credits: Chris Tandy)
Leesburg, VA–Residents of Loudoun and members of local climate justice group 350 Loudoun gathered outside Wells Fargo on Catoctin Circle in Leesburg on Saturday morning to protest the bank’s funding of the Keystone XL pipeline. The protest aimed to pressure the bank to divest from the pipeline by calling on customers who care about the issue to close their accounts.
“I’m protesting at Wells Fargo today because they are funding the Keystone XL–which would be an environmental disaster for the planet,” said Amanda Tandy, co-chair of 350 Loudoun. “They claim that it would create jobs, but they would be short-term. This is not a good investment and Wells Fargo customers should vote with their dollars to protect our planet.”
“I believe creating new pipelines will only slow our move to renewable energy” said Samuel Hamblin, a Loudoun high school student who entered the bank and read a letter to management.
The protest was part of a national week of action coordinated by the Rainforest Action Network. Called the “#DefundKXL Week of Action,” these nationwide actions are meant to pressure big banks such as Wells Fargo to take their money away from the Keystone XL pipeline project.
(Action map for the #DefundKXL Week of Action)
“I am against Wells Fargo and any bank that supports or invests in corporations that poison and rape our planet,” said Connie Cota. “Everyone needs to work together for a livable future for generations to come.”
Other banks targeted by the campaign include JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, and TD Bank.
If built, the 1,179-mile long pipeline would bring 830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil a day from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska, where it would link to an existing pipeline on-route to the Gulf Coast for export. The project stands to endanger precious ecosystems, vital aquifers, and Indigenous and sacred lands. It would also exacerbate climate change at a time when a just transition off fossil fuels is critical for the health and well-being of life on Earth.
“Sunlight really is the best disinfectant,” said Courtney Soria. “My daughter deserves to drink water that is safe, play barefoot in the dirt without getting poisoned. If I don’t stand up for her, who will? Most people probably have no idea their bank actually sponsors the degradation of the environment–we must be their sunlight and show them.”
“Here in Virginia, we’re fighting the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley fracked gas pipelines, said Lee Stewart. “We stand in solidarity with people all around the country who are fighting an onslaught of other pipeline projects at a time when a just transition off fossil fuels is not only possible, but absolutely necessary.”
Wells Fargo isn’t a stranger to national ire. In addition to the Keystone XL pipeline, the bank is also under fire for funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, another high profile pipeline that gained national attention when indigenous Water Protectors in North Dakota created a spiritual encampment to block its construction. Additionally, the bank has been called out for holding shares in GEO Group, which operates private prisons and immigration detention centers around the country.
On top of funding harmful projects and institutions, a sales scandal has embroiled Wells Fargo. Last year, the bank fired 5000 employees for opening over 2 million fake accounts for customers without their permission. The bank was fined $185 million dollars for this scandal, and this year, revoked $180 million for its former CEO John Stumpf and executive Carrie Tolstedt.
The bank recently reported that consumers opened 35% fewer checking accounts in March than they did in the same time last year, and that credit card applications fell 42% during the first quarter. All of this represents the bank’s seventh straight month of declines.