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Texas bans 10 banks, 348 investment funds over fossil fuel policies

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Texas bans 10 banks, 348 investment funds over fossil fuel policies

Texas is banning 10 large banks and 348 investment funds for allegedly boycotting fossil fuel-based energy companies critical to the state's economy, a move critics said could cost taxpayers in the Lone Star State hundreds of millions annually in higher interest costs.

The state's blacklist released Aug. 24 follows West Virginia's decision in July to ban five banks for the same reason. Such actions come as some Republican-led states are cracking down on corporate social and environmental policies the states perceive to be politically driven.

Banks that Texas put on notice earlier this year went to great lengths to show that they are, in fact, investing tens of millions in the fossil fuel industry, but some failed to convince the state. Texas and West Virginia have now banned BlackRock Inc., the world's largest asset manager, from doing business with the state.

Texas' exclusion list of so-called Annex I companies also includes BNP Paribas SA, Credit Suisse AG, Danske Bank A/S, Jupiter Fund Management PLC, Nordea Bank Abp, Schroders PLC, Svenska Handelsbanken AB (publ), Swedbank AB (publ) and UBS Group AG. The 348 investment funds belong to banks in the U.S. and Europe.

Large pension funds such as the Teacher Retirement System of Texas will now be required to divest from companies and funds on the list, as will a multibillion-dollar public school fund.

"A vibrant Texas oil and gas industry is a stabilizing force in today's economic and geopolitical environment," Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said in a statement. "My greatest concern is the false narrative that has been created by the environmental crusaders in Washington, D.C., and Wall Street that our economy can completely transition away from fossil fuels, when, in fact, they will be part of our everyday life into the foreseeable future."

The Texas crackdown came on the heels of Florida's Aug. 23 decision to bar the state's $186 billion pension fund from considering environmental, social or governance factors in investment decisions. Other Republican-led states are expected to follow suit.

Loan costs soared

Steve Rothstein, managing director of the Ceres Accelerator for Sustainable Capital Markets, said such state efforts are escalating in part because of the groundswell of investors demanding change. For example, in 2021 ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, investors managing $52 trillion in assets urged nations to phase out coal, and many institutional investors have pledged to gradually reduce their carbon footprints.

"The market is speaking, and there are some states that want to put their thumb on the market," Rothstein said in an interview. "Texas taxpayers, unfortunately, will have a burden of hundreds of billions of dollars based on this decision."

A July study from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School estimated that municipalities and other public entities in Texas paid between $303 million and $532 million more in interest on the $32 billion they borrowed during the first eight months after the anti-ESG laws Texas enacted in 2021 took effect and some large banks had to cease bond underwriting.

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