Charlotte banner tells Bank of America: stop funding coal!

Written by Becky Tarbotton

Topics: Coal, Finance

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At six am this morning (EDT) four intrepid RAN-ites scaled a crane outside Bank of America’s headquarters in Charlotte North Carolina and dropped a banner announcing: “Bank of America: Funding Coal, Killing Communities”.

In full view of all their employees, the banner sent a powerful message to America’s largest bank that being one of the top financiers of coal and climate change is unacceptable business. Charlotte hasn’t seen civil disobedience since the Vietnam war, so the event shut down the city center for a while – but the disruption was nothing compared to what residents of the coalfields are experiencing every day. This action happened on the same day as a public hearing for Duke Energy in Raleigh is expected to draw serious opposition to a planned coal-fired power plant and just days before hearings for the Stream Buffer Zone rule in Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee. Big Coal is having a rough week, and it’s our job to make sure that the money behind them feels the pressure too. We think we succeeded. More info here.

UPDATE: check out the video after the break.

77 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. liz says:

    nice post Ryan & nice job everyone who was part of the action! I wish I could have been there!
    I know that everyone who took part did so because of their belief in justice and basic human rights. I challenge those naysayers to get over the idea that there must be a sacrifice zone (such as Appalachia, or Navajo lands) where human and environmental health and well-being are sacrificed so that others can live “better” lives. And if you can get over this I challenge you to join us in work to build a better world.

  2. Nanette says:

    Thank you John Watterberg. There are still hundreds of us who live in the shadows of these huge sludge dams that hold billions of gallons of waste. Bless you for caring and daring to do what you did. People who have never had to live under these conditions cannot ever know the worry, suffering and pain that comes from producing the electricity that the nation takes for granted.

    My husband is a disabled underground miner, but he has always said that he would rather go back underground and risk his own life any day than work the MTR sites and risk whole neighborhoods. You see they don’t care who is in harm’s way, whether it they harm babies or the elderly… all are in harm’s way with MTR. The elementary school that sits at the foot of the sludge dam and coal silo is proof of that. It is time for people who live comfortable lives, who never think of the people who have sacrificed so much to take notice of what is happening, if that means crying about being inconvenienced by sitting for a couple of hours in traffic, well ain’t that some bull puckey!

    Blessed Be John Watterberg!

  3. Luke says:

    Thanks for the post, John, and for your brave work yesterday. You’re an inspiration to us all.

  4. Sara says:

    Way to go!!! I spent some time in WV and saw firsthand what MTR is doing to the community. Noone in their right mind should be supporting the destruction of our beautiful mountains. To those who responded negatively…open your eyes and go visit a MTR site. I am sure you will quickly change your opinion!

  5. Didier says:

    “Dieder and Laura: If you think that civil rights, women’s suffrage, or any social progress has occurred without trespassing, breaking laws, or inconveniencing people you don’t know history.”

    I have no problem with lawful protesting Ryan. I do have a problem with trespassing on private property.

    Do you guys think this stunt will have a positive effect? Personally I think most will see RAN as a radical group akin to ELF and others, which will diminish it’s credibility and message. I had never heard of this group beforehand and that is the impression their actions left on me.

    I can understand and respect the motive, but not the tactics in relaying the message.

    One other question for all of you suffering due to the actions of the coal mines. Aren’t there lawyers chafing at the bit to file class action suits against these companies on your behalf? They’ve done the same with other class action suits, smokers, asbestos, etc.

  6. Legal Eagle says:

    Hi Didier — just letting you know — yep, there sure are lawyers fighting to stop MTR. I’m a law student and about to work for an organization that helps with the legal angle to this struggle. But lawsuits are just one piece of the puzzle. Any good issue campaigner, and good plaintiff’s lawyer (despite the PR you hear about), knows, however, that legal action is both necessary, precedent-setting, and important, but that it’s also expensive, never guaranteed to work, and mind-numbingly slow — much too slow for the people in Appalachia who have to deal with this environmental and social disaster TODAY.

    A campaign has many facets. On-the-ground organizing, grassroots outreach and education, media work, direct action, and legal intervention. It’s just one piece of things, and for the people in Appalachia, every piece is necessary and vital. You can’t always work effectively within this broken system.

    Another thing to note: often, the people in these lawsuits don’t get a lot of money because what the communities really need is an injunction: a court order to stop the activity. That means two things: first, there are not that many lawyers who will take the case, besides a handful of wonderful non-profits (including my future bosses). It also means that this isn’t the kind of money-grubbing lawyering you seem to dislike.

    Just so you know, there have been some victories in the courtrooms: in Boone County (http://www.appalachian-center.org/media/2007/10_12.html), and more. But guess what the companies, who have TONS of money, resources, and legions of lawyers, do with those court rulings, as rare as they are?

    Yep, you guessed it. They fight them to the bone and get them overturned. One more victory for Big Corporate Law, one more valley whose watershed is destroyed by this practice.

    Check out Earthjustice and Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, two organizations working on this issue.

    I absolutely applaud the people who broke the law to uphold the law. What the coal companies are doing in Appalachia is absurd, heartless, destructive, and illegal under a slew of environmental laws.

    One last question, Dieder: what tactics, exactly, do you envision being appropriate here? I hope this little post will dissuade you from thinking that legal action is the ONLY thing available for communities in distress.

  7. Nanette says:

    John Watterberg, I wanted you to know something, your friend was one of the lucky ones. Where my husband’s grandparents are buried at Peck’s Mill cemetery, right across from their gravesites is a marker of the innocent children who were never claimed or identified. I cry every year on Memorial Day when we visit there. Before they built the new highway, that one of the posters on here said was as bad as MTR, all the traffic to Logan County went right in front of my house. I can remember the flat bed tractor trailers with coffins stacked and strapped down on them on their way to bury all the dead that died at Buffalo Creek. That is a sight that a person never forgets. One truck after another of coffins. I never want to see that again….EVER!! Please tell your friend that the memories are still living to this day and that we will NEVER forget!

  8. Cente says:

    To those who live in harms way everyday, be strong. I recently traveled to WVa and Wise County, Va. I will soon be joining people similar to those who took a part of the action. We will not rest until MTR is stopped, and the coal companies pay their debts.

    I respect RAN more than ever because of these actions. We cannot please everyone, and that is not the goal. Abviously, our friend Didier is not happy with the way we put out our message, but seems to understand the reasons why. If everyone understands why this took place, that would be amazing!

    When you talk about breaking laws, do you yourself follow every law word for word? If you think so, then you must be superhuman or something. Legal Eagle says it the best, “…people who broke the law to uphold the law.”

    If you want to complain about breaking laws Didier, comlain about all of the laws the coal companies are breaking daily. It would be wonderful it you joined us in educating people on the injustices that are occuring in Appalachia. You may not agree with the methods used on Tuesday, but trust me, there are many groups out there than follow the path that you want to take. Direct Actions are not for everyone, and nor is a court battle. Find your niche and follow it to the same goal… Saving the people of Appalachia.

    I will be strong for them,
    Everyone.
    I will be strong for them,
    Not just some.
    ~”Strong for Them” by Soldiers Of Jah Army

  9. Thanks to the funding that Bank of America is handing out like candy to the coal companies, I can now watch the Strip mine workers work from my bed. I go to sleep with it each night and live with it all day long every day. Constant balsting literally tearing apart my home. The dust is so bad that the sleep in my childs eyes at times has been black from the airbourne coal dust. NO ONE should have to live like this. My water has been poisoned and our home has been destroyed by the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. Bank of America should clean up there act and start funding the future and stop funding massive destruction that coal is wrecking on Appalachia and it’s people. THANK YOU RAN FOR KICKING A$$! APPALACHIA OWES YOU ONE

  10. Wes says:

    I live in Charlotte and had no idea about BoA’s involvement in the coal industry. Duke Energy’s (their HQ is a couple blocks down from BoA) is one of the worst corporate citizens in town, so maybe next time you can fire a few shots their way too (rhetorically speaking, obviously).

    It’s not much, but you do have some support here.

    http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/Environmentalist-group-pr-t42722.html

  11. Ahmad says:

    As an African American man who continues to benefit from standing on the shoulders of those who engaged in civil disobedience decades ago, I applaud RAN for being willing to “sufffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” to make a statement based on conviction. Indeed, Dr. King was right, “Our lives begin to end the moment we become silent about things that matter.”

  12. Ahmad says:

    As an African American man who continues to benefit from standing on the shoulders of those who engaged in civil disobedience decades ago, I applaud RAN for being willing to “sufffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” by acting out conviction. Indeed, Dr. King was right, “Our lives begin to end the moment we become silent about things that matter.”

  13. Didier says:

    Legal Eagle and Cente. First of all let me thank you both for your civil discourse. I’ve been on a lot of blogs where I posted an opposing opinion and you wouldn’t believe the name calling and personal attacks directed my way. Perhaps you would.

    I’m not a legal scholar, so I will take your viewpoint at it’s value legal eagle. Thank you for the information. I’m still surprised the legal system hasn’t been able to correct some of the negative activities from coal mining, they seem pretty damn capable of doing so in other arenas whether justified or not.

    I’m glad I decided to take time to comment on this blog and read your responses, particularly those who live in these areas who are affected. I understand the motive, yet I still believe in the overall scope, the RAN stunt in Charlotte will serve to alienate more people than it will attract.

    I also reject the comparisons of this struggle to that of civil rights. Sorry Ahmad. Civil rights righted a wrong against an entire race of people who were denied human rights, not people who happen to live in a certain geographic area. Not to diminish those of you who are affected in this area, but some of you may have the option of leaving.

  14. Luke says:

    Didier: RAN and its allies are indeed no strangers to name-calling.

    Clearly, RAN has made the evaluation that stirring things up is worth the occasional negative reaction.

    The only thing I’ll say with respect to the civil rights comparison is this: although communities directly suffering from extraction are being hurt the most, coal is a threat to every human being that currently lives or will live in the future. Global warming is the greatest threat we have ever faced as a species, and, failing some rather unlikely advances in space travel, we don’t have “the option of leaving.”

  15. Nanette says:

    Didier, with all due respect I take objection to you saying that those of us in the affected areas have the option of leaving. Please understand this, these companies moved in on us, not us on them. Many of our families here have lived on the same land since the 1700s. Why should we be forced to leave the place of our birth and the place where our dead ancestors are laid to rest for the greed of big coal? We have lived here in peace on our land for generation after generation. The people here are not ones who move on a whim like so many people do in today’s world. Many are elderly and could never afford to move. Why should any company or corporation be allowed to make life so miserable for the people who settled this part of the country? I don’t understand your way of thinking. You think that this is only affecting us, but you are so wrong about that. As Luke said, global warming is the biggest threat to humanity today. It is not terrorists or nuclear threats. It is the environment that each and every species on earth depends. Look at the drought situation all over the south. It is only going to get worse. Deforestation and the use of fossil fuels are going to be the death knell for untold species, and if it is not halted the human species as well.

    I am sure RAN did not attack you or anyone else. The law has failed us who have been fighting this fight so many times. The fines levied against these companies are always reduced to nearly nothing, so it is more profitable for them to break the law than to obey it. They come out ahead paying the paultry fines, meaning they reap huge profits by doing so. The Bush administration is only making it easier for them to do so by relaxing the laws for the mining industry.

    We have been called eco-terrorists by industry officials here, but where I live we have never harmed anybody or any equipment. They are the eco-terrorists, they are the ones destroying the land and water and our homes, and the habitat of the animals, not us. I would hope that you would please do some reading on this subject and really learn about what is happening here in the Appalachians and out in the western coalfields. You will see that the comforts that we have come to depend on will someday cause our doom. Learn to conserve, have a little compassion for those who don’t live in the cities. The hoggish nature of city life itself is killing the environment. Urge your city to try to conserve energy. There are many websites out there that show how much money towns and cities can save by being eco-friendly. And please understand that the inconvenience that you folks had for that one day was to get your attention, not to destroy anything or harm anyone. It did get your attention didn’t it? Well then RAN succeeded, and I am so proud of them for doing so. Maybe this can open up a dialog that will be helpful instead of hateful. Environmentalists are not bad evil people. We care for the people of the earth, and the earth that cares for us. It is just mutual respect, that is all. I hope that you can understand that. We don’t worship rocks and trees, we understand the balance that must be kept in order for all things to live and thrive. Returning to balance is essential if we expect to turn this mess that we have all made around.

  16. Steve says:

    Good Job RAN! I am a native of Charlotte. Our NC flag is imprinted with 2 dates on it. One being statehood and the 2nd being May 20th, 1775. Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) was the 1st in our Nation to declare ourselves free and independent from British rule. Our Declaration was used as a guide/format for the United States Declaration of Independence. WE ALL NEED TO BE ECO-FRIENDLY. Charlotte/Mecklenburg needs to rekindle this proud heritage. 1. STOP PAYING FOR INSURANCE 2. STOP BUYING PHARMACEUTICALS 3. STOP BUYING OIL PRODUCTS. This is the only way to take back our Country. BOA needs to stop funding COAL and Stop Supporting a war that has killed over 700,000 civilians in Iraq. (911 WAS AN INSIDE JOB)

  17. kelly says:

    This message is for Laura and everyone else! Their are folks in the Charlotte community rallying around this issue – taking the message to people by holding meaningful events like the one coming up on Nov 16. We are bringing the nation’s foremost climate expert to Charlotte – Dr. James Hansen. Go to http://www.clean-air-coalition.org to learn more and RSVP. It is a FREE event but seats are limited.

  18. Jim says:

    Thanks for taking action against mountaintop removal and global warming. To the crane operator- I definitely think there’s a link between predatory mortgages and mountaintop removal– short term thinking.

  19. Dana says:

    Now that everyone has had a little time to cool off, it’s now Nov. 7th, take a deep breath and think about this:
    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
    To those who don’t like that people act their beliefs, please, just go to your rooms and reflect on your sorry selves.

  20. Oso says:

    You guys suck. Get a real job instead of doing nothing with your lives.

  21. Geoff says:

    Great post Oso. You must have spent hours to get it just right. Apparently, most of you who live in & around Charlotte missed this piece in the Observer on Saturday, October, 27:
    Demand for coal destroys mountaintops
    HARVARD AYERS
    This week’s protest of Charlotte-based Bank of America’s practice of financing companies who strip mine coal in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia raised concerns that should be of interest to all North Carolinians. The Rainforest Action Network hung a huge banner off a crane in front of the Bank of America building that dominates the skyline of downtown Charlotte. The sign read, “Financing Coal, Killing Communities.”
    Many of us are not aware of all the mining practices of coal giants such as Arch Coal and Massey Energy. Besides the familiar underground mining, they blow up mountains in Appalachia to get down to the coal, and push the waste and debris into surrounding valleys.

    Known appropriately as mountaintop removal, this practice has leveled more than 470 Appalachian mountains and buried or polluted thousands of miles of mountain streams — streams at the headwaters of the drinking water supply of millions of Americans. Blasting and flooding from mountaintop removal are also devastating families and communities in the mountains and leaving the economy of central Appalachia in shambles.

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr., perhaps the most prominent environmentalist of our time, recently stated in a speech in Blowing Rock, “Mountaintop removal is the biggest environmental battle of our hemisphere. You know, you can restore the Hudson River in perhaps a hundred years. But you will never, never, get these mountains back. This is truly a crime against every human being in the world.”

    Duke wants huge new plant

    Another prominent corporation in Charlotte, Duke Energy, is closely connected to Kennedy’s concerns. Duke is trying to gain state approval for a huge coal-fired power plant just upwind from Charlotte. The smaller, existing plants at this Cliffside site use mostly mountaintop removal coal from West Virginia and surrounding states, and the much larger unit, if approved, is expected to burn coal from the same region. In fact, according to the Boone-based environmental organization Appalachian Voices, Duke Energy is one of our nation’s three biggest users of mountaintop removal coal.Not only would increased demand for coal from the expanded Cliffside plant lead directly to the destruction of more beautiful and irreplaceable Appalachian mountains and communities, it would add millions of tons of global warming gases and other pollutants to our atmosphere. Congressional efforts to curb global warming are very likely to succeed in what promises to be a much more environmentally concerned Congress. So the Duke Energy effort to gain approval for the Cliffside coal plant may be seen as a race against time to get what may well be one of the last of the dirty coal plants in under the wire.

    When Congress does finally act to regulate global warming gases, those regulations will be costly for states like North Carolina that get most of their electricity from dirty coal plants. With an astronomical 61 percent of our electricity already generated by burning coal, North Carolinians have a lot to lose by putting even more of our energy “eggs” in the coal “basket.”

    Rhetoric misleading

    Another connection exists between Bank of America and Duke Energy: both claim to be responsible corporate citizens who are concerned about their environmental footprint. Bank of America claims to be investing heavily in technologies that will reduce global warming. However, in 2006 the company spent $100 on dirty energy projects for every dollar it spent on clean energy, according to a white paper by the Rainforest Action Network.

    The environmental rhetoric of Duke CEO Jim Rogers is just as misleading: Rogers asserted in a recent editorial in The New York Times that the best power plant is the one you don’t have to build. But a recent study by the N.C. Utilities Commission demonstrated unequivocally that conservation, efficiency and renewables could meet North Carolina’s projected energy demand at a comparable cost to what Duke plans to spend building the Cliffside coal plant.

    The motto of North Carolina is Esse Quam Videri — “To be, rather than to seem.” But what North Carolina-based companies Duke Energy and Bank of America may have most in common is how far they are from living up to this standard.
    Harvard Ayers is professor emeritus of anthropology at Appalachian State University and a board member of Appalachian Voices, http://www.appvoices.org. Write him at harvard@boone.net.

  22. Japhet says:

    All of those responders who think this issue will garner no attention or energy to change the way we finance coal: we’ve got enough energy simply from you repeatedly coming back here to continue the conversation. Thanks for that!

    Civil disobedience has a long history my friends…including giving freedom to this country (also an act against a corporation — Boston Tea Party), the right to vote for women and civil rights…all of you complaining about “inconviences” sound just like the folks who spit on Martin Luther King, kicked the iron-jawed angels and stood silent while this country fought for independence. Take your place amongst democracy’s wallflowers and thanks for keeping the status quo as stale as ever.

  23. Jennifer says:

    Calling all MBAs, lawyers, accountants: here’s your design problem

    Let’s get the banks to divest from coal. There must be a way.

    The entire scientific community (including NOAA, NASA, and the US delegate to the IPCC) agree that global warming is real, it is human caused, and something must be done in the next 10 years to avoid huge catastrophes – flooded cities, major droughts etc. This was widely known 20 years ago. We also know that the reserves of oil will run out long before we ever reach a limit with coal.
    Coal is the problem. Stop coal and we have a chance. Stop the loans that fund coal-mining.
    Now for something positive.

    Clean energy is a design problem. So is divesting from coal.
    Groups like RAN have spanked the banks. Now let’s show that there is a solution. All of you bankers, MBAs, investment whiz kids, lawyers: here is your challenge. Suppose you work for a large bank with major investments in coal mining and coal-fired plants. The bank wants to completely divest from coal, legally and with no loss in overall profit, within 6 months. There is your challenge. Go.

    The word is out. Now let’s talk about the solution. Don’t tell me its impossible to divest from business commitments that quickly. When the heat was on, companies around the world found a way to divest from Apartheid South Africa, quickly, legally, profitably. We did it then, we can do it now.
    All you business whiz kids out there – write a step by step process for how Bank of America and others can divest completely from coal in 6 months.

    Be famous. Be the banker that stopped coal.

  24. Jade Queen says:

    Here is another design challenge. Once the banks come to understand the changes they need to make, they will need to help finance clean-up. Some interesting work on cleaning with fungi and plants exist. Some southern rivers are polluted with substances that create unbelievably bizarre and ugly health challenges. People on the forefront of this need to submit business plans for clean-up. As for fueling the South, has anyone ever heard of kudzu? They poison it too now, believe it or not. Some politician’s uncle’s brother works for a big chemical company wanting a contract. Meanwhile, an entertaining post you can Google for is how to save NASCAR with kudzu. The roots can be made into alcohol fuel, the tops, when they die down from the cold, can be made into baskets, big baskets, and the residue taken down to burn in fireplaces, because otherwise it sometimes burns up on top of the junk cars and other things it has swallowed. We can make cleaner, better lives if we exercise the brains, ingenuity, and hard work Americans used to be famous for, before we became famous for the biggest incarceration rate on the planet. Cheers to everyone who posted. We need to cross over many boundaries to start working together for a better relationship of humans to earth.

  25. Jade Queen says:

    P.S. I found this site by Googling hollergirl hillbillies to find hollergirl’s comments there on a cabinet choice that on the surface appears to be a disaster waiting to happen. I commend hollergirl’s comments there, I encourage people here to link over to truthout.

  26. frntlines says:

    Lets all just choose what’s conveniant to rebel against, ok. I mean if I don’t see anything happening on the news, then there must be nothing to protest, right? There’s much more important oppositions to support out there people! Don’t let the corporate media choose your issue.
    I add this purely out of continuing this discussion, Has anyone thought about what would happen to these miners? Acquiring only a knowledgable trait in mining, what will happen to the continually growing unemployment rate when these mines shut down? Every action has an equal but opposite reaction.

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