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A bank committed to shifting away from fossil fuel deals? Kentucky might 'boycott' you back

Fossil fuels
Martin Meissner/AP
FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2019 file photo, an electric car is charged at the Essen Motor Show fair for tuning and motorsports in Essen, Germany. Scientists say countries need to stop burning fossil fuels by 2050 at the latest to ensure global temperatures don't rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) this century. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

Financial institutions moving away from dealings with fossil fuel companies could be punished by the state of Kentucky under a bill now on its way to the state Senate.

As written, the bill seeks to single out financial institutions it says are "boycotting" fossil fuel-based industries. The culprit behind that shift, according to bill sponsor Senator Robby Mills, is "progressive ideology."

"Major banks and investment firms are denying lending to and investments in fossil fuel companies in an effort to promote green investments and political agendas."
Kentucky Sen. Robby Mills

If passed Mills' measure would permit the state treasurer to compile a list of financial firms that are steering away from fossil fuel business. Those companies would be then be informed that Kentucky state government may divest in them — if they don't clarify their actions or reverse course on supporting fossil fuels.

Kentucky Banking Association President Ballard Cassidy described the practice as "blacklisting" and argued the result would be government intrusion into private business.

"Here in Senate Bill 205 we have the government dictating to private businesses who they can and cannot do business with by the mandatory choking off of their access to capital," he countered.

In this case, it "treats us as the villain," Cassidy said, warning that tomorrow the government could aim its sights at any other companies that are making private business decisions state lawmakers oppose.

Conspicuously absent from the conversation was any mention of the driving force behind the move away from fossil-fuel business — climate change.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.