Hecklers interrupt PNC annual meeting
PNC Financial Services Group's annual meeting was disrupted Tuesday by protesters who want the company to stop providing loans for mountaintop coal mining.
The activists from Earth Quaker Action Team interrupted PNC CEO James Rohr about a dozen times as he addressed shareholders at the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture. Rohr mostly ignored the hecklers and adjourned the meeting after 20 minutes.
“We let the PNC board know that we will publicly hold them individually accountable for their votes to continue financing companies that practice mountaintop removal coal mining,” said Walter Hjelt Sullivan, program director for the Earth Quaker Action Team.
Bank spokesman Fred Solomon said the meeting did not end prematurely or in response to the heckling. PNC's last two annual shareholders meetings lasted roughly 45 minutes, including questions from the floor.
The shareholders meeting was Rohr's last as CEO. He was succeeded Tuesday by President William Demchak. Rohr became executive chairman.
It's not the first time that the Philadelphia-based environmental group protested the company's annual meeting over mountain mining. The group, which also protested PNC's annual meetings last year and in 2011, said PNC customers have withdrawn about $3.2 million from the bank since February 2012 to protest the bank's practices.
Mountaintop removal is considered an efficient but destructive form of surface mining. It involves blasting apart the tops of mountain ridges to expose coal seams and extract virtually 100 percent of the coal but also lets the resulting rocks and debris tumble into streams. Activists said the practice pollutes surrounding waterways and endangers communities.
PNC is one of the most active, major U.S. banks financially supporting companies engaged in mountaintop mining. According to a year-end report by the Sierra Club and the Rainforest Action Network, PNC provided financing in the last three years to mountaintop coal mining companies such as Consol Energy Inc., Alpha Natural Resources LLC, Patriot Coal Corp. and Arch Coal Inc.
The report graded the nation's largest banks, including PNC, for their amount of lending to mountaintop miners and underwriting of their bonds. PNC received a C-, as did Bank of America. Goldman Sachs got an F, and JPMorgan Chase a D+.
The mining method of removing a mountaintop to mine the coal accounts for about 10 percent of U.S. coal production, the National Mining Association said.
“It's more on the decline today, in terms of tonnage,” association spokesman Luke Popovich said. Mountaintop removal employs about 14,000, down from about 17,000 three years ago, he said.
Many of the hecklers challenged PNC directors to take a stand against bank lending to mountaintop mining companies.
Protesters unfurled a banner on the sidewalk after the meeting which altered the bank slogan, “PNC Leading the Way,” to read instead: “PNC poisoning the waterway.”
Separately, a shareholder proposal from Boston Common Asset Management over environmental concerns was defeated. It had asked the board to assess greenhouse gas emissions resulting from PNC's loans and investments.
Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached a 412-320-7854 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Black Friday chaos dwindles thanks to earlier deals, online sales
- As historic breakup nears, Alcoa works to redefine its ‘advantage’
- Asian bug threatens oranges in Florida
- Older workers try to cut back on hours at job
- Batteries key to alternative energy’s success
- Travelers contend with increase in ground delays
- Make green home upgrades pay off
- Paying pals digitally catches on
- Program lets public service workers be forgiven for student debt
- Nimble Regal ready for winter with all-wheel drive
- Yahoo investors losing patience with ‘star’ CEO Marissa Mayer