Updated: Jul 6, 2022
MAINE HOUSE AND SENATE PASS BILL TO DIVEST FROM FOSSIL FUELS BY 2026
$17 billion state pension fund to cut $1.3 billion in coal, oil and gas
June 8, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Anna Siegel | Core Member, Maine Youth for Climate Justice | firstname.lastname@example.org | 207-712-4777
Madison Sheppard | Core Member, Maine Youth for Climate Justice | email@example.com | 508-292-4622
June 8, 2021 -- The Maine Senate passed LD 99, An Act To Require the State To Divest Itself of Assets Invested in the Fossil Fuel Industry. The bill, sponsored by Representative Maggie O’Neil of Saco, had received support from the statewide Maine Youth for Climate Justice coalition, numerous environmental advocacy organizations such as Sierra Club Maine and 350 Maine, and State Treasurer Beck. The bill, when enacted, would direct the State Treasurer to divest the $17 billion Maine Public Employee Retirement System from their $1.3 billion of investments in coal, oil and gas companies by 2026.
Sirohi Kumar, a Core member of Maine Youth for Climate Justice and a high schooler at Mount Desert Island High School, reflected that “this bill represents our chance to both stop investments in fossil fuels and to guarantee a better future for our teachers and other public employees. I hope this can be the first of many divestments from industries like fossil fuels that are damaging our chances at a livable future."
“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
“Thank you to Representative Maggie O’Neil for driving this bill forward and the legislators who voted in favor for recognizing their fiduciary responsibility to pensioners and their responsibility to protect our future. The divestment of MainePERS is a necessary step in authentically tackling the climate crisis on a systemic level and investing in Maine’s future. This success is testament to the grassroots movement which led this campaign.'' said 350 Maine and Maine Climate Action Now’s Youth Engagement Coordinator, Cassie Cain.
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 form supporters including the 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.”
“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.
“These efforts would not have been possible without the partnership of state retirees and youth advocates. They recognize that there is so much at stake with this work and have worked tirelessly to lead this conversation,” said Representative Margaret O’Neil, the primary sponsor of LD 99.
The future for the fossil fuel industry is bleak. The passage of LD 99 closely follows the success of young activists to have the town of Wiscasset declare a climate emergency, which commits them to be 100% renewable energy by 2030. Six other Maine municipalities have declared climate emergency. Many states, including Maine, California, and New York, have Renewable Portfolio Standards that require 100% clean electricity by 2050, or sooner. It is important that Maine has bolstered our carbon emission reduction goals with a concrete commitment to end our financial enabling of fossil fuel companies.
The Governor’s Climate Council wrote in their recent 2020 report, Maine Won’t Wait, that “Climate action requires leveraging a variety of funding sources and innovative financing mechanisms to support sector-level transformations and the ability of Maine lenders to make crucial long-term investments in climate-focused projects and initiatives.” The millions of dollars that will come from the state divesting from fossil fuel companies is exactly the type of “innovative financing mechanism” that the Council recommends, freeing up capital for reinvestment into “climate-focused projects and initiatives.” In this way, L.D. 99 can fund a just and equitable future for all.
“Divesting $1.3 billion from the fossil fuel industry is one of the biggest steps that Maine can take to address climate change in the short term,” said David Gibson with Sierra Club Maine.
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.