From Think Progress

Opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline in Virginia are starting a divestment campaign, a tactic that has grown in popularity among climate and anti-pipeline activists in recent years, to persuade banks to end their financing of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Landowners and environmentalists opposed to the southwestern Virginia pipeline are calling on customers to move their money out of the top six U.S. banks behind the pipeline, led by Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The “Defund MVP” campaign joins a growing movement of communities, tribes, and, cities across North America — from the Keystone XL pipeline to the Dakota Access Pipeline — that are targeting the financing behind pipeline projects.

“Our analysis shows that Bank of America and Wells Fargo are signed up to funnel the most money into this polluting pipeline,” said Lorne Stockman, a senior research analyst at Oil Change International who co-authored a new report on how the Mountain Valley Pipeline would be financed. “These same banks are embroiled in a backlash over their funding for the Dakota Access Pipeline and major tar sands pipelines. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is another black eye.”

Another pipeline that would travel through Virginia, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, has drawn even greater attention from residents opposed to the project. Like the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would transport fracked gas from Pennsylvania and West Virginia to customers in Virginia and North Carolina.

Opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have not started an official divestment campaign against banks financing the pipeline project, but campaigners are studying the issue and looking at options, Oil Change International spokeswoman Kelly Trout said in an email.

A previous Oil Change International analysis showed the Mountain Valley Pipeline project would be responsible for close to 90 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, equivalent to 26 coal plants or 19 million vehicles on the road.

Environmentalists argue new pipelines like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline will prevent the United States from meeting its climate goals and will bake in natural gas dependency for another generation.

They contend that getting large institutions and individuals to divest from banks that are financing fossil fuel projects is an effective tactic for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In February, Seattle’s city council, for example, voted to sever the city’s ties with Wells Fargo over the bank’s funding of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In March, two members of the Los Angeles city council introduced a motion calling on the city to divest funds from Wells Fargo bank in protest of the bank’s financial support of Dakota Access. A coalition in Washington, D.C., is pushing the city government to cut ties with the bank over its investments in the pipeline.

EQM’s primary existing borrowing arrangement is a $750 million revolving credit facility — a type of loan — that the company established in February 2014 with commitments from 18 different banks. “The corporate funding of EQM is directly linked to the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, which strengthens the call for divestment,” Oil Change International’s Trout said.

In a statement emailed to ThinkProgress, EQM explained it has relationships and conducts business transactions with various banking entities, some of which support the company’s overall credit facility. “As discussed in the company’s quarterly and annual filings, the credit facility is available, should EQM choose to use it, to support any of EQT Midstream Partners’ several projects and programs,” EQM said.

A total of 18 banks finance EQM’s $750 million credit facility and 11 of those same banks, including subsidiaries, financed the recent bond offering. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PNC, SunTrust, and U.S. Bank are each funding EQM’s credit facility and each purchased significant amounts of EQM’s recently issued senior notes, according to Oil Change International.

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