The Maine Public Employee Retirement System should sell all $1.3 billion of their investments in the fossil fuel industry.

These investments are bad for the PERS members who will now receive less in their retirement, bad for the climate and bad for the state of Maine. The Legislature should support L.D. 99, An Act to Require the State to Divest Itself of Assets Invested in the Fossil Fuel Industry.

Fossil fuels are the leading cause of climate change. Burning fossil fuels builds up excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which acts as a greenhouse for the earth, trapping additional heat from the sun. In Maine, climate change has caused the Gulf of Maine to warm faster than 99 percent of the ocean, has increased the northward spread of ticks and increases weather extremes like drought and flooding that impacts our farms, forests and everything in between.

Currently, MainePERS has $1.27 billion invested in fossil fuels. These investments lost $133 million last year, which only built upon losses suffered over the previous eight years. However, the reality is even worse than that. The remainder of their investment portfolio went up 9.17 percent last year, meaning they would have gained $129 million if their fossil fuel investments had been spread across the rest of their portfolio. Together, this means that their fossil fuel investments really cost us $260 million in the past year.

MainePERS is invested in every aspect of the fossil fuel industry. In 2019, they increased their investment in Taurus Mining Fund by $75 million, nearly doubling their investment in a private equity fund that invests in Australian coal mining. Recent testimony MainePERS made to the state legislature acknowledges they have $500 million invested in oil and gas pipelines. Additional testimony submitted by David Gibson for Sierra Club Maine lists dozens of fossil fuel companies representing every stage of the oil, gas and coal industries.

Looking forward, the future for the fossil fuel industry is bleak. Industry analysts at BP say that global oil usage peaked in 2019. President Biden is committed to strong climate action, curbing carbon emissions and curtailing fossil fuel consumption with 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. One hundred and eighty nine nations have signed the Paris Climate Accord. Many states, including Maine, California and New York, have Renewable Portfolio Standards that require 100 percent clean electricity by 2050, or sooner. More than 280 corporations, including household names like Amazon, Walmart, Google and Microsoft, have committed to 100 percent renewable electricity in their operations, and some have already met that goal. Globally, we are committed to the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Dan lives in Topsham, and David lives in a 190-year-old post and beam farmhouse in Morrill. Both of us have weatherized our homes and replaced oil boilers with heat pumps, which now provide all our heat. David helped the State of Nevada to create Direct Energy Assistance Loans – zero percent interest loans for state employees to make efficiency improvements to their homes. These loans are repaid through a monthly payroll deduction, making it impossible to default on the loan as long as the recipient continues with public employment. Rather than losing millions on fossil fuel companies, MainePERS could invest in efficiency and clean energy improvements directly in the homes of their members. This would create local jobs, increase local tax revenue, improve the health and comfort of the homes and reduce out-of-state fossil fuel expenses.

Gov. Mills and the Maine Climate Council have made bold and necessary commitments to take climate action statewide. This needs to include MainePERS divesting from fossil fuels. It will help the climate, and it will help public employees to have a safe and properly funded retirement. Please contact your legislators and ask them to support LD 99.

— Special to the Press Herald

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