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Investigation reveals major bank took advantage of loopholes in its policy to profit off new dirty energy projects: 'Highly problematic'

At the time, the bank's climate policy prohibited financing projects that involved gas and oil extraction from fracking.

At the time, the bank's climate policy prohibited financing projects that involved gas and oil extraction from fracking.

Photo Credit: iStock

A major bank has invested millions in projects in the Gulf that will harm the environment. According to a report co-published by Grist and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, it even went against its own policies.

What's happening?

Santander used loopholes in its climate policy and then watered it down to fund liquefied natural gas terminals. Liquefied natural gas, or LNG, is cooled to -259 degrees Fahrenheit and turned into a liquid form to ship and store. Before the gas is cooled, it is retrieved from fracking sites. 

In 2023, Santander and other banks raised $28 billion for LNG terminals on the coastlines of Louisiana and Texas. At the time, the bank's climate policy prohibited financing projects that involved gas and oil extraction from fracking. Since the projects didn't directly involve fracking, it created a loophole, but the LNG was obtained from fracking, per Grist and the Bureau. 

Then, in early 2024, Santander updated its climate policy to consider fracking projects. 

Quentin Aubineau, a policy analyst at BankTrack, a campaign group, said in the report that Santander's policy is "highly problematic." While the policy doesn't allow for gas extraction, new LNG terminals must extract more gas to be economically viable.

Why is Santander's funding of LNG projects concerning?

The fracking sites where the gas to make LNG is extracted are hazardous for communities. Chemicals from fracking sites can contaminate agriculture and can lead to economic losses because of decreased crop production. Eating contaminated crops can also lead to health issues, as they can also include heavy metals like mercury, per FracTracker Alliance. 

Roishetta Ozane, who is the fossil finance coordinator for the Texas Campaign for the Environment, told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that her son has had increased seizures because of the water pollution in her area. She said he fishes, but he can't eat the fish. 

"Because I'm afraid if he gets too much mercury in his system, too much of the other pollution in the water, that is going to further exacerbate his seizures."

Not only can fracking pollute the water, but it also uses so much water that it can drain the community's water supply, as is the case with the Plaquemines LNG project in Louisiana, which Santander helped finance with $7.8 billion, per Grist and the Bureau. The project is on track to become one of "the largest fracked gas export terminals in the U.S.," according to the outlet, and it has already drained millions of gallons of the community's water supply.

Five terminals are already operating, seven have been approved, and four more are being built. If all of the Gulf Coast's projects are completed, their annual Earth-heating carbon pollution will be more than Russia's, the report said.

What's being done about banks funding LNG projects?

In January 2024, the U.S. administration announced a pause on all LNG exports to allow for an analysis of their environmental impact. 

Unfortunately, fracking operations have picked up because of Russia invading Ukraine and the U.S. wanting to be an alternative energy supply, per Grist and the Bureau. 

Aubineau believes commercial banks should stop financing new oil and gas exploration and production. He said in the report they should remove it from their policy and stop funding companies that support increased production.

You can also act by changing the ways you hold companies accountable. For example, you can support companies and banks with eco-friendly policies, such as HSBC, and do business with sustainable banks instead of those that finance dirty energy projects. 

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