(Bloomberg) -- A group of US regional banks is ratcheting up lending to oil, gas and coal clients, grabbing market share as bigger European rivals back away.

The list of banks includes Citizens Financial Group Inc., BOK Financial Corp. and Truist Securities Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The companies have climbed between 13 and 40 steps up the league table for fossil-fuel lenders since the end of 2021, placing them among the world’s top 35 banks by number of deals. Fifth Third Securities Inc. and US Bancorp, already in the top 30, both ascended 10 steps in the same period.

Since the start of 2022, the combined number of fossil-fuel loans provided by Citizens Financial, BOK Financial, Truist Securities, Fifth Third and US Bancorp rose more than 70% on an average annualized basis, compared with the preceding six years, the Bloomberg data show. 

Spokespeople for Truist, Fifth Third and US Bancorp declined to comment. 

Rory Sheehan, a spokesperson for Citizens Financial, said the bank supports initiatives enabling the transition toward a lower-carbon future. He also said the bank recognizes the role of the oil and gas industry. 

The development offers a glimpse of how the US banking landscape is being altered against a backdrop of stricter climate regulations across the Atlantic. US regional lenders — shaken by the crisis that followed Silicon Valley Bank’s meltdown — are participating in more fossil-fuel loans as banks in Europe begin to pull away for fear of getting caught on the wrong side of environmental, social and governance regulations and climate litigation. 

Of the five US regional lenders analyzed by Bloomberg, only Fifth Third discloses the emissions associated with its lending and investment, according to the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials. PCAF, which is the global standard-setter for carbon accounting in the finance industry, says that a total of 176 banks and investment managers currently report such figures. 

“Someone betting heavily that the demand for fossil fuels will keep on rising significantly is clearly taking a view that is at odds with existing forecasts,” said Jean Boissinot, head of the secretariat for the Network for Greening the Financial System, which is hosted at the Banque de France and includes officials from the world’s central banks. “I would like to be very sure that they understand the implications of this kind of bet.”

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BNP Paribas SA, the European Union’s biggest bank, and ING Groep NV, the largest lender in the Netherlands, are among banks that are in the process of expanding restrictions on fossil-fuel clients. The companies, which are both currently fighting lawsuits brought by climate nonprofits, dropped about 10 places in the ranking of oil, gas and coal lenders over the past two years.

Wall Street’s largest banks, meanwhile, remain among the absolute biggest lenders to the fossil-fuel industry. Last year, such loans were dominated by Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., according to Bloomberg data.

Some of the US regional banks stepping up oil, gas and coal lending are based in states that have either passed or are reviewing anti-ESG laws. In Oklahoma, which enforced its Energy Discrimination Elimination Act in late 2022, local bank BOK Financial recently soared up the league table to become one of the world’s 30 busiest dealmakers in fossil fuels. 

Marisol Salazar, senior vice president and manager for energy banking at BOK Financial, says the bank is now seeing “much more opportunities” in the fossil-fuel industry.

“We’re not just picking up customers,” she said. “We’re also picking up talent, we’re picking up engineers, we’re picking up investment bankers, we’re picking up experienced relationship managers.”

For fossil-fuel borrowers, the development means they can continue to gain access to credit at prices that remain competitive. It’s a development that challenges some assumptions around divestment policies, amid evidence that fossil-fuel companies are finding alternative sources of finance.

“For the smaller credits, there might be a little bit more aggressiveness in terms of pricing,” Salazar said. “But overall you’re going to see pretty common terms.”

From its base in Ohio, whose senate also has passed anti-ESG legislation, Fifth Third was recently among three banks that replaced Barclays Plc on a $325 million loan to ProFrac Holdings, a fracking company. That’s as the UK bank places curbs on high-carbon clients as part of its climate policy.

It’s not just smaller banks that are doing more fossil-fuel loans. Jason Kerr, a partner in the energy group at law firm White & Case, says he’s seeing commodities traders move in as some bigger banks pull back.

In Africa, where Kerr’s work is focused, the scale of the shift is “dramatic,” he said. 

“Big international oil traders are going from fairly unsophisticated financing to quite complicated funding arrangements,” Kerr said. “They used to come into the market on a basic prepay for oil, but they’re increasingly becoming like conventional banks.”

There’s also evidence that banks are in some cases being replaced by private credit managers eager to get a foothold in fossil-fuel deals.

Read More: Banks Shying Away From Fossil Fuel Spur Private Credit Deals

The value of private credit deals in the oil and gas industry topped $9 billion in the 24 months through 2023, up from $450 million arranged in the preceding two years, according to data provided by Preqin, an analytics company that tracks the alternative investment industry. 

The upshot is that even if banks pull away from the fossil-fuel industry, “replacements come along and the financings continue,” Kerr said. 

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History of Oil Prices ($/Barrel)

--With assistance from Tyler Kazio.

(Updates with PCAF data in seventh paragraph.)

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