Photo by Charlie Deitch
Members of the Earth Quaker Action Team protesting PNC Bank in July
Members of the Earth Quaker Action Team
will protest in Pittsburgh on Saturday as part of a 12-state action against PNC Bank’s support of mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR).
MTR is a form of strip-mining practiced in West Virginia and elsewhere. The process lops off the tops of mountains to get the coal beneath; dislodged rock is frequently dumped into nearby valleys. Environmentalists say the process harms wildlife, drinking water and community health.
EQAT has been protesting the practice and PNC Bank
for years. An action in July
saw more than 200 protesters locked out of several PNC branches, including the bank’s downtown headquarters. Tomorrow’s action will be at11 a.m. at the bank’s Squirrel Hill branch at 5810 Forbes Avenue.
EQAT’s Eileen Flanagan tells City Paper
that members will attempt to enter the bank where several members plan to close out there PNC accounts in protest. She says expanding its protest to 30 actions in 12 states and the District of Columbia is an effort to “expand, just as PNC is expanding.”
“We were foundedin Pennsylvania, just like PNC,” Flanagan says. “They are expanding their footprint and moving into other states, and you know what, we’re going to be right there with them.
“There may not be Appalachian Mountains in Florida, but PNC is there and we will be to challenging them on their bad climate policies.”
EQAT has long taken issue with what it calls PNC’s hypocritical stance on the environment. PNC has long publicized its environmental agenda, touting the green-building principles being used in the Tower at PNC Plaza project currently underway Downtown. And in 2010, the company announced that it would no longer provide financing to "to individual MTR projects" nor to "coal producers whose primary extraction method is MTR."
But environmentalists say little has changed, in part because there are no coal producers who use MTR as their principal extraction method. The environmental group Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which issues an annual report card on banks' energy policies, found that in 2013, PNC provided $211 million to companies engaged in MTR, and that PNC ranked seventh among 12 banks for financing firms that used MTR. (The financing was for companies that engage in MTR, but not necessarily for specific projects, which PNC's policy forbids.) That's far less than the $687 million in financing PNC provided in 2012, when it ranked third among lenders supporting MTR businesses, but RAN attributes the drop to a decline in coal demand and other business factors.
“PNC claims to be a green bank. They claim to care about communities, including the people of Appalachia. We are asking them to live up to their own PR by becoming a leader on this issue rather than a follower,” said EQAT founder Ingrid Lakey in a press release announcing the actions. “They need to cease all financing of companies engaged in mountaintop removal coal mining. In the meantime, we are taking leadership ourselves and recruiting new people to do the same.”