PNC Pulls Out of a Dirty Energy and Emissions Practice

Less than one month ago I wrote about PNC Bank’s dirty energy and emissions footprint, which includes funding the hugely destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. Since then PNC has continued to feel the heat from nonprofits like the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which sought to raise public awareness of this bank’s investment in a dirty activity and persuade PNC to pull out of mountaintop removal. Now RAN reports that PNC has responded: this week the bank announced it will no longer fund mountaintop removal or the major companies that practice this form of coal mining.

This victory is one more example of how a well-organized public pressure campaign can persuade major companies to act more responsibly. PNC is the seventh bank in the US to create a policy against mountaintop removal in response to public pressure from the Rainforest Action Network and other organizations. Mountaintop removal companies are finding it more and more difficult to find financial backing for this practice tied to destructive energy and emissions. And though groups like RAN say there’s still a long way to go in the fight to end all mountaintop removal mining in this country, groups that have been fighting the practice for years are celebrating.

Meanwhile one of the leading mountaintop removal companies, Massey Energy, is running into hard times. Late last month Massey posted a $41.4 million loss, and observes are speculating the company may soon be bought out by Cliff Natural Resources. Bad publicity association with dirty energy and emissions has contributed to Massey’s ill fortunes: not only is the company one of the biggest practitioners of mountaintop removal, it also owns the Upper Big Branch mine where twenty-nine coal miners died in an underground explosion last spring.

Massey’s infamous CEO, Don Blankenship, hasn’t helped matters either. Blankenship’s remarks related to mountaintop removal and the Upper Big Branch disaster have been a public relations nightmare. While other companies at least try to improve their green image, the Massey CEO has become known for openly ridiculing environmental concerns and showing little sympathy for communities impacted by his company’s coal mines. Blankenship’s lack of sensitivity has contributed to Massey’s image being closely associated with dirty energy and emissions.

As a whole, major US companies seem to be moving steadily away from the mountaintop removal coal mining, with PNC’s new policy just the latest sign of the trend. Outliers like Massey that continue to support mountaintop removal are finding themselves trying to defend a practice that’s clearly fallen out of public favor. An energy and emissions activity as harmful as blowing off the tops of mountains cannot possible be endorsed by any company that wants its green credentials to be taken seriously. With PNC (at least for now) checked off the list, which company will be next to cut their connection to mountaintop removal for good?

Photo credit: Wikipedia