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Treasurer Ellsworth Slams Biden Administration’s Climate Banking Push

Julie Ellsworth Idaho Treasurer
Courtesy of the Idaho State Treasurer's Office
Idaho State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth

Idaho Treasurer Julie Ellsworth has joined a group of other state treasurers in threatening to cut ties with banks if they stop lending money to fossil fuel producers.

Ellsworth and 13 other state treasurers signed on to the letter from West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore, which was sent to former Secy. of State John Kerry.

Kerry currently acts as President Joe Biden’s special envoy for climate.

In the letter, they accuse Kerry and the Biden administration of pressuring banks to “discriminate” against oil, gas and coal companies in favor of green energy industries.

“As a collective, we strongly oppose command-and-control economic policies that attempt to bend the free market to the political will of government officials,” the letter reads.

“It is simply antithetical to our nation’s position as a democracy and a capitalist economy for the Executive Branch to bully corporations into curtailing legal activities.”

The group of treasurers said they’ll reconsider investing billions of dollars of taxpayer money with those banks if they don’t lend to fossil fuel companies.

Kerry spoke at a United Nations conference in April announcing the banking alliance, saying the climate crisis is too big for any government alone to handle.

“There’s no budget of any country that can do what we need to do,” he said.

The Paris climate agreement, which the United States recently rejoined, calls on nations to reduce carbon emissions to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Several of America’s largest banks have set net-zero carbon emissions goals, including Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.

So far, Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley have joinedthe voluntary, U.N.-backed banking alliance.

Valerie Rockefeller, a descendent of oil baron John D. Rockefeller,told Politico the alliance doesn’t explicitly call for cutting financing to fossil fuel producers. Rockefeller said she’s using her family’s money to combat climate change.

It’s unclear why Ellsworth signed on to the letter. Idaho has among the lowest oil and gas production in the country and no coal mines,according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

She wasn’t available for comment Monday.

The letter from these state treasurers follows a similar letter to Kerry sent by all 12 Republican members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, including Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo.

“If the administration wants to ban or diminish fossil energy production to achieve environmental policy outcomes, it should not misuse financial regulators. Instead, it should come to Congress and seek to have the law amended,” the senators wrote.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!