This is in response to a March 20 column voicing concern about the lack of progress made by Maine Public Employees retirement System (MainePERS) in divesting from fossil fuel company holdings.

I also am a recipient of a MainePERS pension and believe that, although done with good intentions, requiring MainePERS to divest from certain investments is a huge mistake on the part of the Legislature. MainePERS primary mission is to select solid investments on the part of its pension recipients, not engage in social policy. I fully understand that burning fossil fuels releases carbon that has long been sequestered underground into the atmosphere, which greatly contributes to climate change. However, divesting our public pension plan from so-called fossil fuel companies is not the way to approach this very complex issue.

For starters, how do you even define what a “fossil fuel company” is? There are construction companies that contract to build pipelines, companies that supply specific catalysts to oil refineries, machine manufacturers that make drilling equipment, railroads that transport coal, etc. Are we divesting from all of these companies?

In addition, this legislative mandate sets a dangerous precedent. All sorts of social causes can potentially be used to tie the hands of the people charged with investing our pension fund. Finally, forward thinking “fossil fuel companies” are also exploring other “greener” sources of energy because that is in their best business interest. Companies that move in this direction will be better investments than those that don’t (and therefore more attractive to investors).

MainePERS needs to be given as much time and flexibility as necessary in order for them to meet their fiduciary responsibilities. Even better, the legislature should repeal this mandate and let the professional investors do what they do best, choose investments that protect our pension system.

Janet L. Maliga


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