US Ex-im Bank halts funding review for Vietnam coal plant

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Construction machinery at the ground breaking ceremony of the Thai Binh Two power plant project in northern Vietnam in this file photo, taken in March 2011

The U.S. Export-Import Bank voted to stop consideration of financing for a coal power plant in Vietnam, the first such decision since President Barack Obama vowed to cut federal support for the projects.

The lender said loans for U.S. exports to the Thai Binh Two power plant were rejected under policies in place before the president's pledge last month. Climate-change activists said the decision is an important signal in the global-warming fight.

"By denying taxpayer backed financing for this dirty coal project, the Export-Import Bank put the action in the President's Climate Action Plan," Doug Norlen, policy director of Pacific Environment, which is fighting these kinds of fossil-fuel projects, said today in an e-mail.

Until now, Obama's push to double exports of U.S. goods and services had undercut his goal of reducing the greenhouse gases linked to climate change, as the government-backed lender expanded financing that, by its own accounting, added to greenhouse-gas emissions.

Ex-Im financing for fossil-fuel projects in countries such as India and South Africa reached a record $9.6 billion in the 2012 fiscal year, almost double the 2011 total and five times the funding in the final year of the Bush administration, according to Ex-Im data compiled by Pacific Environment.

In addition to coal plants, the lender supports oil-field exploration, pipelines, refineries and gas-fired power plants.

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