Indigenous and Frontline Community Representatives Tell JPMorgan Chase to Stop Financing of Extreme Fossil Fuels

Which companies a big bank chooses to invest its money in can seem abstract, but for me these issues are personal. As my community continues the long recovery after Hurricane Harvey, I know that JPMorgan Chase is top funder of extreme fossil fuel development, which is driving climate change. Chase’s investments in the tar sands in Canada, deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, or fracked gas here in Texas are contributing to the pollution of our land, air, and water. These investments are also contributing to more hurricanes and other climate disasters.

That’s why, just last week, I closed my own Chase account so I can move my money to a more ethical bank and not support a bank that profits from climate destruction. I live in the most diverse city in the United States, but it is also deportation central, with families being separated by unjust immigration laws. It saddened me to learn that JPMorgan was also banking on privately operated immigrant detention centers, something I have been fighting for over a decade.

Much of the environmental justice work that I have done has been in immigrant communities and I have witnessed the disproportionate impacts these communities face. I also know that many of them have migrated to the U.S. because of natural disasters, economic disruptions to their lifeways, and violence. The people who contribute least to a warming planet suffer first and often the most. These are very important issues for me and I had to think very hard about how my money was being used and invested by the bank I use, even if it wasn't a lot. There is no justification for profiting off of another's misfortune and misery. It is unconscionable to invest in projects that threaten the stability of our climate on the only habitable planet we have been blessed with.

This week, I joined a delegation of Indigenous and frontline communities from around the world at JPMorgan Chase’s annual shareholders meeting in Plano, Texas to urge them to stop their funding of destructive fossil fuel projects that threaten our climate and destroy Indigenous peoples’ way of life, and to stop investing in the criminalization of the immigrant community and the separation of families.

This delegation included representatives from Indigenous Environmental Network, Honor the Earth, Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace USA, Louisiana Rise, Indigenous Youth Council, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), Eyes of a Dreamer, Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, the Sápara Nation in the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, the Society of Native Nations and many others.

We rallied outside the meeting to denounce Chase’s funding of all these destructive industries and several members of our delegation entered the meeting to ask Chase’s top executives about these practices.

Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux and Indigenous Environmental Network, discussed Chase’s funding of the company behind the the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and the threats the pipeline poses to her community. “I’m fighting Chase bank because they fund Keystone XL pipeline and they’re the biggest US bank that funds tar sands,” she said. “And should the Keystone XL pipeline break along the Cheyenne River, it will reach the water intake of my people on my reservation within 33 minutes. We can’t afford this.”

Chase’s Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon was dismissive of Joye’s comments, but we will not be silent. Joye’s story will be heard.

According to the Banking on Climate Change report, which the Sierra Club and partner organizations recently released, Chase is the biggest Wall Street funder of tar sands and extreme fossil fuels overall. From 2015 to 2017, Chase invested more than $26 billion into extreme fossil fuels and nearly $11 billion into tar sands alone. In fact, Chase actually increased their funding of extreme fossil fuels by $4 billion from 2016 to 2017, including a quadrupling of its financing for tar sands last year. These investments in the dirtiest fuels on the planet are reckless and unacceptable. At the shareholder meeting, Jamie Dimon claimed that we still need fossil fuels, to run our cars and air conditioning. But we don’t need more fossil fuels -- what we need is a commitment from the investment world to bank on hope and prosperity for all our relations.

Jessica Lorena Rangel, the founder of local immigrant rights group Eyes of a Dreamer, also spoke powerfully about the impacts of Chase’s funding of fossil fuel projects as well as private prisons and immigrant detention centers. “Communities affected by bad decisions by [JPMorgan Chase] are the same communities that are left behind when these projects go wrong,” she said. “The Latino community stands in solidarity with the other affected communities. Our people, including undocumented people, deserve a future with zero fossils in which we are treated well and we can live without fear.”

Dimon tried to tout his support for immigrant communities and said that he would “obviously never in any way, shape or form condone the mistreatment of any prisoner anywhere,” but Chase’s investment in private prisons and immigrant detention centers -- and these facilities’ treatment of immigrants, non-violent offenders, and the LGBT communities -- speaks for itself. No one should profit from such an industry and it is inexcusable and unjust.

I know my money alone won’t make a big difference to Chase’s bottom line, but if we continue to speak out, together our voices can create enough public pressure to force them to change their practices.