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Faith-based investors applauded the decision by PNC Financial Services to stop financing coal company mountaintop removal operations in Appalachia.
The recent announcement by the Pittsburgh-based bank comes after a multi-year effort by members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) to convince bank officials that financing such environmentally damaging operations poses significant financial risks and hastens climate change.
Mountaintop removal mining involves dynamiting the tops of mountains to expose rich coal seams hundreds of feet below ground. The resulting debris is then pushed into adjacent valleys, often blocking important headwater streams.
Lauren Compere, managing director of Boston Common Asset Management, an ICCR partner which led the PNC effort, said conversations with bank officials took place over a four-year period and focused on the role banks can play in transitioning to a low-carbon economy. “When looking at our portfolio, coal mining is one of the red flags. One of the things we talk about with companies more generally is how are we supporting the transition to more sustainable energy sources,” explained Compere, a member of ICCR’s board of directors.
The ICCR effort has focused on the importance of managing risk because financing the coal industry is seen as risky, explained Oblate Father Seamus Finn, Chief of Faith Consistent Investing for the OIP Investment Trust, and ICCR Board Chair, who has been actively engaged with major banks on a variety of issues.
ICCR’s engagement on mountaintop removal mining is part of a broader effort by 80 international institutional investors managing $540 billion in assets to urge 63 banks to disclose their policies and practices related to climate change.