Maine becomes the first state to pass law to divest from fossil fuels

Tuesday June 08, 2021

Legislation directs $17 billion pension fund and state treasury to divest from coal, oil and gas companies by 2026

AUGUSTA, MAINE— In a groundbreaking move today,  the Maine State Legislature passed LD 99, An Act To Require the State To Divest Itself of Assets Invested in the Fossil Fuel Industry. The successful vote makes Maine the first state in the USA to commit to fossil fuel divestment through legislation. The bill directs the $17 billion Maine Public Employee Retirement System to divest $1.3 billion from fossil fuels within 5 years and directs the Treasury to do the same with other state funds. 

“As the Gulf of Maine keeps heating, so does the pressure on the fossil fuel industry: divesting sends a truly powerful message, and to have Augusta join in adds real weight. This action is a gift to the planet--and also to the pensioners of the Pine Tree State, freeing them from the money-losing investments in gas and oil that are also undercutting the landscape into which they will someday retire,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org

“This is groundbreaking and will be heard across the nation. Maine is responsibly acting to address climate risk in its pension by divesting from fossil fuels. With the freed up funds, the pension fund can invest in climate solutions, doing double duty of earning profits for the fund while safeguarding our future. ” said David Gibson with Sierra Club Maine.

Momentum to divest pension and government funds is growing as New York City and State have moved recently to divest from fossil fuels and Minnesota dropped coal stocks last year. More than 1300 institutions with $14 trillion in assets have also committed to some form of fossil fuel divestment. The Maine vote follows on accelerating climate finance related actions by the Biden administration and a game changing report by the International Energy Agency that no more fossil fuel expansion can be accomodated in order to meet global climate goals and big setbacks for fossil fuel giants Exxon, Shell and Chevron at the hands of investors and the courts.  

“If Maine can divest responsibly and thoughtfully, there are no more excuses for any other pension fund and legislature in the USA. It is past time for every other public pension to address the mounting climate risk in their portfolios by holding onto fossil fuel investments. These are a ticking time bomb and fiduciaries must act,” said Richard Brooks, Climate Finance Director with Stand.earth which is coordinating the national Climate Safe Pensions Network

The bill, sponsored by Representative Maggie O’Neil of Saco, received support from Maine State Treasurer Henry Beck, the statewide coalition Maine Youth for Climate Justice, and numerous environmental advocacy organizations such as Sierra Club Maine and 350 Maine. The Maine Public Employee Employee Retirement System currently has more than $1.3 billion invested in fossil fuel companies including dozens of publicly traded companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips including $850 million invested through secretive private equity investment funds. 9

“Pensioners deserve better out of their retirement funds than investment in companies that actively damage the ground on which we walk, the water we drink, and the air we breathe,” said Anna Siegel with Maine Youth for Climate Justice

The victory in today’s legislature comes after a multi-year effort by Maine community activists and advocates. These included protests, letter writing campaigns, meetings with legislators, educational webinars and petition drives. In February, a committee hearing saw numerous testimonies from supporters including Sierra Club Maine who identified environmentally positive investments that MainePERS could make instead of propping up the fossil fuel industry.  Maine Youth for Climate Justice also testified in support of LD 99 stating “to tackle a broad issue such as the climate crisis, it must be dealt with comprehensively. Such a comprehensive response includes financial solutions, making L.D. 99 an important step forward.” 

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Media contacts: 

Anna Siegel, Core Member, Maine Youth for Climate Justice: annasiegel6@gmail.com, 207-712-4777

Richard Brooks, Stand.earth: richard@stand.earth, 416-573-7209

 

Maine Youth for Climate Justice is a coalition of over 300 youth from all over Maine who fight for bold climate action, a just transition, and a livable future. Our goal is to create a space for youth who are concerned about the climate crisis to connect, be in community, and make change. Acknowledging that the climate crisis is rooted in systemic forms of oppression, and disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, MYCJ aims to center the voices of folx who have been historically excluded from narratives around climate activism, in addition to the political conversation.