by Pete Mazzaccaro
Two local residents joined members of the Earth Quaker Action Team last week for a small demonstration of environmental solidarity before they closed their accounts at the local PNC Bank branch, 8340 Germantown Ave.
Sharon Mullally of Mt. Airy and Laurie Barron of Erdenheim joined about a dozen other supporters of the Quaker activists in distributing flyers before each woman closed her account with the bank. Both said they were closing their accounts because of PNC’s involvement in the financing of mountaintop removal mining practices.
“I’ve been banking with PNC since 1991,” Mullally said. “But I just can’t let my money be used to support mountaintop removal.”
Mullally said she had researched the effects of mountaintop removal and its impact on nearby communities. She pointed to pollution and the fact that mountaintop removal processes were done with heavy machines that also took jobs away from the local population.
“I’m not saying mining is a great way to live, but mining can offer jobs, which mountaintop removal doesn’t,” she said.
Barron was going to close two accounts and said she was doing so for the same reasons.
“My conscience will not allow me to continue to support the desecration of the environment,” she said. “I’ve been banking with PNC for 40 years, and it’s not convenient for me to switch banks, but I have to.”
Both Mullally and Barron said they have never had a problem with PNC staff or customer serviceat the branch. Both said they were switching their accounts to Valley Green Bank and were satisfied that the local bank would not invest in anything like mountaintop removal.
Walter Sullivan, program manager for the Earth Quaker Action Team, said his organization has targeted PNC, not because they dislike the bank, but because it is a bank with a Quaker history and one, he believes, that really would rather be investing in something else.
“We think PNC should not be involved in the practice of mountaintop removal and we think they really don’t want to be,” he said.
Sullivan, a Mt. Airy resident, said his organization has been holding similar protests against PNCs support of mountaintop removal mining for the last two years. And it has had an impact. The bank changed its policy in late 2010 with a promise to not make loans to any organization that used mountaintop removal as its primary means of mining and would also not lend to individual mountaintop removal projects.
Sullivan said it was a nice change, but argued that the effect was minimal.
“They weren’t investing in those companies to begin with, so (the policy change) had no teeth,” he said.
Sullivan said members of his organization would enter the bank and distribute information to employees of the bank about their organization and encourage them to learn more.
“We’re all for the employees, and we’re all for mountains,” he said. “We will invite them to learn more about what we’re doing.”