Maine could become the first state where lawmakers order 'divestment' from fossil fuels, although changes to the bill could slow the process.
Divestment advocates hailed the bill’s passage as a landmark moment that helps put Maine at the forefront (at least among state governments) of an international campaign that they say has solid ethical and financial footing. Youth climate activists, environmental groups and state retirees led the fight for the bill in Maine.
“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,” Bill McKibben, an author, early advocate for divestment and c0-founder of the group 350.org, said in a statement after the House vote. “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.”
The bill, L.D. 99, would require both Maine’s state treasurer and the board of the state pension fund, known as MainePERS, to divest from fossil fuels by January 2026. That process would include selling off any current holdings and not investing in specific types of companies that either hold fossil fuel reserves, operate coal-fired power plants, are involved in extraction or operate infrastructure used for fossil fuels.
“It is not up to us to direct a pension fund how to do what their specialty is, and their specialty is investing,” said Rep. Bruce Bickford, R-Auburn. “That is what they do. We don’t do that as a body. It’s not our role. It’s not our role either to pick winners and losers in the business community.”
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MEANWHILE, Charles Schwab's sector analysis 6/12/21
“I’ve been working across the aisle to try to make a bill that gives the fishing industry a seat at the table,” said Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, a Republican and lobsterman from Winter Harbor.
He’s been a standard-bearer in the industry’s fight against ocean wind. This month, Faulkingham won a key committee’s unanimous support for turning the governor’s time-limited moratorium on near-shore wind projects into a permanent ban.
Faulkingham initially declined further comment, pending some final wordsmithing of the measure.
In a later statement, Faulkingham emphasized that while he is supporting the committee’s compromise measures in order to improve the lobster industry’s position, he still opposes wind-energy projects anywhere off Maine’s coast, including near Monhegan Island.
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