Lexington Protest Shames PNC’s Mountaintop Removal Financing

By Rainforest Action Network
Photo by Rachel Sarah Blanton

Concerned citizens rallied in downtown Lexington today to express their anger at PNC Bank for financing mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. PNC is now the biggest US financier of MTR. Local activists were joined by members of the group Mountain Justice and residents from mountaintop communities, who spoke out about the direct impact that this destructive form of mining has on their community, health and environment.

“Several banks have realized that they shouldn’t be involved with companies that are causing the total annihilation of a culture by their use of MTR. It’s unfortunate that PNC, like Massey, is putting profits over people and over God’s creation,” said Mickey McCoy, a Martin County resident whose community was affected by a coal sludge spill in 2000.

Photo by Rachel Sarah Blanton

Also present at the protest were a colorful street-theater troupe of ‘clowns,’ who acted out a performance of a coal company blasting the top off a mountain, then extracting a bag of money and passing it between U.S. Banks like a hot potato, to symbolize PNC Bank doing business with companies that other banks have moved away from.

The protesters paid a visit to the PNC branch at Main and Deweese streets and released a banner inside attached to some helium balloons, which said “PNC + Your Money = Toxic Tap Water.” Activists also passed out literature about the issue to bank customers and employees and delivered a letter to the bank branch manager asking that PNC end their financing of mountaintop removal.

Check out a video of the clowns at PNC

“PNC Bank was a recipient of bailout funds, so their investments in MTR represent my tax dollars. I am vehemently opposed to the destruction of the mountains, forests and communities of Appalachia, and I’m concerned by the impacts of strip mining on water quality in central Kentucky,” said Martin Mudd, a Lexington resident and activist with Kentucky Mountain Justice.

Since January 2008, PNC has become the number one U.S. financier of mountaintop removal coal mining. The bank has provided more than $500 million in loans and bonds to six companies practicing mountaintop removal: Massey Energy, Patriot Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, International Coal Group, Arch Coal and Consol Energy (Source: Bloomberg). These six companies are collectively responsible for almost half of all mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.

Photo by Rachel Sarah Blanton

“The idea of corporate responsibility has come up repeatedly in recent weeks following the coal mine and oil disasters. That responsibility extends beyond profits to the health and wellbeing of our communities. Some banks, such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo have made commitments to reduce and even end their funding of the dirtiest coal mining practices. By continuing to finance mountaintop removal coal mining PNC is throwing that responsibility aside,” said Amanda Starbuck of Rainforest Action Network, who is campaigning for banks to end their investments in the sector and shift their support to clean, renewable energy and green job creation.

PNC recently ranked bottom in a score-card report on MTR financing by Rainforest Action network and the Sierra Club. The bank earned an “F” for its total failure to take environmental risks into account in its lending practices.

A copy of the report card and supporting data can be found here: www.ran.org/reportcard

Photo by Rachel Sarah Blanton

Mountaintop removal mining is a devastating form of mining where companies blow the tops off mountains to reach a thin seam of coal and then dump the waste rock into valleys below. This destructive practice has buried nearly 2,000 miles of streams and threatens to destroy 1.4 million acres of land by 2020. The mining destroys Appalachian communities, the health of coalfield residents and any hope for positive economic growth.