As national banks have stepped away from financing the strip mining practice called mountaintop removal mining, regional lending institutions have come on board. According to surveys, PNC Bank has become the biggest US lender to mountaintop mining companies. In 2010, PNC announced it would modify its lending policy. But Quaker activists think the new policy hasn't changed much and just ended a 200- mile- long walk across Pennsylvania to deliver a message to PNC officials.
Zachary Hershman wields a megaphone to kick up the protesters who've crowded in front of PNC's headquarters. He's a member of Earth Quakers Action Team, activists from the religious group who say they want to shine a light on PNC's investment practices. The bank claims to have limited its loans to mountaintop mining companies. But Hershman and the crowd arenít buying it.
It's greenwashing. It's misrepresentation. It's criminal," said Hershman.
In 2010, PNC announced it wouldn't finance any company that gets most of its coal from mountaintop mining or fund any single mountaintop removal project. Earth Quakers Action Team says the bank's refused to document these changes, and it doesnít trust that PNC has actually divested from mountaintop removal.
George Lakey is a 74- year- old founder of the environmental group and a professor at Swarthmore College. He walked from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to attend today's rally to ask PNC to stop funding mountaintop mining all together.
Both on the count of jobs and health, it's hurting Appalachian people but in fact because of climate change it's hurting Pennsylvanians as much as anybody," explained Lakey.
The group along with the Sierra Club wants PNC to change its funding policy by the end of May. If the bank doesn't agree, the Quakers say account holders have pledged to withdraw at least $2 million dollars of their money from PNC branches. The group also plans to keep up nonviolent protests. PNC refused to comment on this story.