About 10 environmental activists braved the rain on Saturday afternoon to protest in front of the PNC Bank on 40th and Walnut streets for financing companies engaged in mountaintop removal coal mining.
At the heart of the protest was School of Medicine professor David Nicklin and his daughter Megan Nicklin, who closed their accounts at PNC Bank.
The Saturday protest was one of 30 similar nationwide actions organized by the Earth Quakers Action Team, which has protested against PNC Bank’s environmentally harmful investments for the past five years. Two years ago, environmental activists at Penn protested the University's contract with PNC Bank, which allowed students to access their bank accounts from their PennCards. Despite opposition, Penn renewed its contract with PNC in 2013.
In short, the coal companies financed by PNC blast off the tops of mountains with explosives to extract coal buried below. These practices harm the surrounding Appalachia communities, polluting water sources and increasing the risk of health complications for community members.
“PNC claims to be a green bank, but it’s financing one of the worst things for climate change and for the people living in Appalachia,” said Earth Quaker Action Team board member Eileen Flanagan . “I’m a part of this campaign because I’m concerned about how climate change will affect my own children and because when I was in the Peace Corps in Africa and learned about the millions who are going to suffer from climate change, I realized I couldn't be silent anymore.”
While the Nicklins are not members of the Quaker Action Team, the team’s protest revolved around the Nicklins closing their accounts.
David Nicklin, who had been banking with PNC since his days as a Penn medical school student in the 1970s, decided to close his account after finding out about the bank’s environmentally harmful investments. “I’m pulling my money out of PNC because PNC is contributing to climate change while other banks are investing in solar panels and are working to reduce their carbon footprint,” Nicklin said. “It’s been some work for me to end my relationship with the bank after so many years, and it’s not an action I take casually or lightly.”
Nicklin hopes that his actions will communicate a message to both PNC Bank and the University administration that the Penn community and faculty are committed to environmentally sound practices and investments.
Megan Nicklin also decided to close her account at PNC after 10 years of being a client. “The bank’s energy and services are excellent, but it is financially benefiting from mountaintop removal while advertising itself as a green bank. That’s deception,” Nicklin said. “I'm only one person, but I am part of a bigger picture of people who are saying practices like these are not OK.”
While the Nicklins were closing their accounts inside, the protestors chanted “PNC, you can’t hide! We can see your greedy side!” and sang hymns outside the bank. Protestors also took turns giving speeches and reading facts about mountaintop removal mining’s environmental and health effects.
David and Megan Nicklin were met with applause when they came outside. “After 30 plus years of banking with PNC, I am now going to put my money in a bank that has awareness and responsiveness around climate change,” David Nicklin said.
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