Earlier this year, Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan blamed “woke” congressional Democrats for their “irrationally unhinged” support of large national and multinational banks as a group, including Citigroup and Wells Fargo, pulled financial backing from Arctic oil drilling over climate change concerns.

Now, Sullivan and his Republican colleagues Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young are claiming the banks’ exodus from Arctic oil is discriminating against Alaska Natives. 

The letter, sent earlier this week to the head of the Federal Reserve, the comptroller of the currency and the chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., points to the banks’ alleged kowtowing to “extreme activists” and warns the financial exodus from Arctic drilling will hurt not only the state and country’s economy and energy sector, but “particularly Alaska Native communities throughout the North Slope region where these projects would be developed.”

“We are deeply concerned by these banks’ policies, which unfairly single out the economies of Alaska Native communities in the Arctic, by discriminating against legal energy projects based not on credit worthiness, but purely political greenwashing,” the delegation’s letter read.

In January, North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower Jr. — whose borough gains most of its funding through taxes on area-based oil and gas infrastructure — wrote a letter published by the Wall Street Journal saying the banks’ decision harms Alaska Natives in the region who rely on the oil and gas industry for their livelihoods.

The congressional letter quoted Brower. 

“At best, these policies were enacted without due diligence or consultation with Alaska Native communities impacted by development in the Arctic. However, we fear it isn’t just negligence, but as Mayor Harry Brower put it, a ‘condescending, subtly racist attitude that too often has been the hallmark of the way Westerners deal with indigenous people,’” the letter goes on. “This attitude is made more hypocritical when one considers that the very activists colluding to enact these policies claim to care about environmental justice.”

Oil development in the Arctic is a contentious issue in the state and has been a source of fierce debate for decades.

While Brower speaks in favor of development, other Alaska Native groups from other areas, including the Interior-based Gwich’in Steering Committee, expressing serious concern that largescale oil operations will disrupt the land they rely on for subsistence.

Citigroup and Wells Fargo join other financial groups including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Swiss bank UBS in announcing plans to pull financial support for Arctic petroleum investments as part of larger climate change policy shifts. 

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter:  @FDNMpolitics. 

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