Maine moving ahead with fossil fuel divestment plans

Maine lawmakers are advancing a plan that would require the state’s pension managers to cut investment ties to the fossil fuel industry over the next five years.

Legislation approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday would require the state Treasurer’s office to “divest” any fossil fuel holdings from its retirement portfolios by 2026.

The measure passed by a vote of 80 to 57 in a vote that went along party lines, with Republicans opposing the measure.

Backers of the proposal say it would send a message to the fossil fuel industry that Maine is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to tackling climate change.

“We need to take every step possible to mitigate continued damage to the environment, and our solutions will need to address the problem from a number of angles,” Rep. Margaret O’Neill, D-Saco, one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said during a recent hearing. “The actions we take now as a society will reverberate in our lifetimes and impact future generations.”

Beyond the issue of climate change, she said pulling investments from fossil fuel holdings – which have lost value in recent years – also makes good economic sense for the state.

“As we transition to a reduced carbon economy, companies that are unable or unwilling to get out of fossil fuel production will lose value, making them a poor long-term investment,” she said. “If Maine’s system divests from fossil fuel companies sooner rather than later, our retirees will likely avoid losses on such investments.”

The effort to win the state all fossil fuel investments is part of a broader national movement pressuring big institutional funds to divert the money to the clean energy sector.

The fossil fuel industry opposes the changes, arguing that divestment campaigns ignore polluters who use the products and the overall contributions of oil, gas and other fossil fuels.

“Society may be headed toward the use of less carbon-intensive resources for power generation, heating, and transportation, but the need for both oil and natural gas and the products made from them in manufacturing is likely to increase for the foreseeable future,” David O’Donnell, associate director of the Northeast chapter of the American Petroleum Institute, said.

The Maine Employees’ Retirement System has about $1.3 billion in investments tied to fossil fuel companies, about 7.7% of the fund’s investments, according to state data.

Maine’s roughly $11.1 billion public-employee pension system covers the retirements of nearly 89,000 current and retired workers.

The measure now moves to the state Senate for consideration.

This article was originally posted on Maine moving ahead with fossil fuel divestment plans

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