The Earth Quaker Action Team, which has been engaging in acts of civil disobedience against PNC Bank, has stepped up its campaign. The group wants officials there to stop financing companies engaged in mountaintop coal mining.
Earlier today, the group launched a website (www.GreenPNC.org) and gathered 50 people to kick off a "Green Your Money" initiative. The goal is to encourage PNC customers to close their accounts if the company does not agree to stop the financing by May 31 — 90 days from now.
After that, said Earth Quaker program director Walter Hjelt Sullivan, the bank can expect to see "a stream of withdrawals" and "a continuous effort to publicize this and educate people."
The Quaker group has targeted the bank in part because they feel its financing decisions go against the traditions of its Quaker roots.
Kathy Miller, peace activist and member of Chestnut Hill Quaker Meeting announced today that her congregation has formally decided to remove $1.9 million, which they have raised to build a new meetinghouse, from their current PNC accounts.
"We are deeply concerned about this major destruction of the environment, and think it is important that the financial business and transactions of the Meeting are conducted in accordance with Quaker values and testimonies," she Miller, according to a press release about the event.
Sullivan said the action has not gained as much momentum as the group might like because to many people in this region, mountaintop mining is invisible, something happening mostly several states away.
"But PNC Bank is here," he said. "And the coal comes back to us to generate our power."
He said that a tracking website, www.ILoveMountains.org, shows connections between specific mountaintop mines and Pennsylvania power plants.
Also at today's event, Chris Nicholson spoke of his Quaker grandfather, co-founder of Provident National Bank, which later became PNC Financial Services. "He was a scientist, botanist, and astronomer, and an active Quaker. He had a strong interest in environmental issues and I am sure that he would object now to PNC money being used for destructive mining practices," Nicholson said, according to the press release.
Swarthmore professor George Lakey announced plans for a 200-mile, 16-day walk from Philadelphia to PNC National Headquarters in Pittsburgh (skipping the portion of the trip that is mostly mountains), with stops at Quaker meetings, other congregations and PNC bank branches along the way.
After today's event at the Friends Center, the group walked to the bank's regional headquarters at 16th and Market and posted a petition on the door.
People signing it pledged to withdraw their money or, if they didn't have PNC accounts, to support the movement.