Rep. Ocasio-Cortez: If Financial Institutions ‘Kick the Can,’ ‘Who Will Pay for Climate Change?’

Craig Bannister
By Craig Bannister | March 13, 2019 | 11:48 AM EDT

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) (Screenshot)

If financial institutions like Wells Fargo “conveniently kick the can,” instead of taking financial responsibility for financing oil pipelines, “Who will pay for climate change?” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) asked Tuesday night following her interrogation of Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted a Twitter post and video by CSPAN of her exchange with Sloan during a House Financial Services Committee hearing earlier in the day. “This, right here, is a problem,” Ocasio-Cortez said, introducing her commentary:

“This, right here, is a problem.

“Institutions can engage in unlimited financing of fossil fuels, building unstable pipelines + reaping profits, but when the bill comes to clean up oil spills & fix damages - they can conveniently kick the can. So, who will pay for climate change?”

The CSPAN tweet included Sloan’s response to Ocasio-Cortez’s question about why Wells Fargo shouldn’t have financial liability for financing the construction for pipelines that break:

.@RepAOC @AOC: "So, hypothetically, if there was a leak from the Dakota Access Pipeline, why shouldn't Wells Fargo pay for the cleanup of it, since it paid for the construction of the pipeline itself?" @WellsFargo CEO Timothy Sloan: "Because we don't operate the pipeline."

As reported Tuesday, CEO Sloan also explained to Ocasio-Cortez that Wells Fargo has a team of environmental experts - including former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees – who review all such projects before financing is approved:

"We provide financing to the company that's operating the pipeline. Our responsibility is to ensure that at the time we make that loan that that customer -- and we have a group of people in Wells Fargo, including an environmental oversight group headed by one of my colleagues who used to be at the EPA--"

Ocasio-Cortez interrupted him: "So, one question, why did Wells Fargo finance this pipeline when it was widely seen to be environmentally unstable?"

"Again, the reason that we were one of the 17 or 19 banks that financed that is because our team reviewed the environmental impact and we concluded that was a risk that we were willing to take," Sloan told Ocasio-Cortez.

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