by Casey Cappello
The Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting is planning to withdraw $1.9 million from its PNC Bank account because the bank is one of the nation’s two largest financers of mountaintop removal, according to recently released reports from the Rainforest Action Network.
Mountaintop removal is a form of coal mining that involves mining the summit ridge of a mountain. The technology has serious environmental impacts, including the loss of biodiversity, toxic byproducts being reintroduced into the environment, and human health problems from contact with affected streams and exposure to airborne toxins and dust.
Kathy Miller, clerk of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee, spoke at a press conference on Wednesday as a representative of the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting. The press conference was organized by the Earth Quaker Action Team, a group of environmentally conscious Quakers. The group is encouraging Quakers and non-Quakers alike to remove funds from PNC.
“The Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting has always been concerned with environmental issues,” Miller said. “The Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting has not set a definite date to move its funds, but we have decided that we cannot continue banking with PNC due to their financing practices.”
Miller explained that the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting is working together with the Earth Quaker Action Team to stop PNC from financing mountaintop removal.
“The banking practices of our bank need to reflect our values,” she said. “Right now, PNC Bank does not reflect our values.”
Chris Nicholson, grandson of PNC Bank’s co-founder, John E. Carter, was present at the press conference. Carter was a founding member of Providence Bank, the bank that eventually merged with PNC Bank. Nicholson, like his grandfather, is a Quaker and he is considering selling his shares in the company because of their practices.
Because of the history of PNC and its association with Quakers, a great number of Quaker organizations and individuals bank with PNC. The Earth Quaker Action Team is coordinating the Quaker community and non-Quaker community to withdraw funds from PNC.
“There is no specific goal of the Earth Quaker Action Team,” said Walter Sullivan, a team member. “We are in this until PNC changes their policy.”
“Many individuals and organizations banking with PNC do not realize that PNC is involved with such practices,” he said. “We are working to publicize, recruit and organize people to withdraw funds from PNC.”
The campaign of the Earth Quaker Action Team was announced on Wednesday, and it is giving PNC 90 days to change its policies. Team members have not removed any funds from PNC yet because they are waiting for the 90 days to expire.
“If just a few people move their money, it won’t have any effect,” Sullivan said. “But if thousands of people move their money all at once, we have the power to change the policies of the banks that control our economy, and we can build an economy that is founded on collective sustainability.”
According to Miller, the decision to remove funds from PNC was not easily reached.
“It’s hard because you don’t really know what your bank is financing in,” Miller said. ”When we found this out about PNC, it had a monumental effect on the Chestnut Hill Friends.”
Miller suggested that there are environmentally friendly ways to harvest energy on mountaintops without blowing them up.
“Wind turbines can produce just as much energy as coal can without the negative environmental impacts, and they still create American jobs,” she said.
The Earth Quaker Action Team is planning to walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh next month. The walk will visit Quaker meetings and demonstrate at PNC banks. It will end at PNC headquarters in Pittsburgh.
“We hope because of the Quaker history and the Green Banking label PNC has given itself, that they will actually change their investing practices,” Miller said.