Environment & Energy
5:25 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

Youth Climate Activists Hold Power Shift Summit

Power Shift protesters rally Monday. A CONSOL Energy barge of coal can be seen on the Allegheny River behind them. Signs attached to CONSOL’s barge read “Welcome to Coal Country” and “Support American Energy, Support American Jobs.”
Credit Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

More than 1,000 protesters marched from the North Side to downtown Monday for the 2013 Power Shift summit.

Power Shift is an online community for youth climate activists who are calling for a “green economy” and a stop to mountaintop removal mining.

The protesters called for PNC Bank to stop financing mountaintop mining, which involves exposing and taking out upper seams of coal, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

With mountaintop mining, the lower layers of coal are excavated, the remains are placed in piles, and the site is re-graded and re-vegetated.

The rally was held at Allegheny Landing and featured speakers from the Energy Action Coalition and Green For All, as well as musical acts Jasiri X, and the Earth Guardians, a group of teenage brothers and activists from Boulder, Colo.

Teri Blanton, the leader of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC), said mountaintop mining ruined her hometown of Harlan County.

“Mountaintop removal not only destroys the mountains and the diverse forest and everything that lives there, but it also destroys the communities below it, and the COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder) rate in our area is off the charts,” Blanton said.

There are currently no mountaintop mining sites in Pennsylvania. Most of them are located in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee, but PNC has been accused of financing this form of coal mining.

The protestors marched to PNC headquarters Monday and performed a sit-in until they were kicked out.

“We got threw out of PNC Bank this morning … but before we got threw out, I told them what I thought about them,” Blanton said. “And then EQAT is working all over every PNC Bank across Pittsburgh today.”

The Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) protested PNC’s financing of mountaintop removal earlier in the year by protesting at the shareholders meeting. They held sit-ins Monday at more than 10 banks and held a rally in Market Square.

PNC’s 2013 corporate responsibility report states: “PNC does not extend credit to individual MTR mining projects or to a coal producer that receives a majority of its production from MTR mining.”

CONSOL Energy held a floating counter protest by parking a barge of coal on the Allegheny River directly behind the Power Shift rally.

Signs attached to CONSOL’s barge read “Welcome to Coal Country” and “Support American Energy, Support American Jobs.”

Boilermakers Union Local 154 also held a counter protest in support of clean coal usage.

Correction: An earlier version of this article reported that more than 100 protesters marched from the North Side to downtown Monday for the 2013 Power Shift summit. More than 1,000 participated. The article has been updated.