Interest in Fossil Fuel Divestment Grows in Vermont State House

Interest in Fossil Fuel Divestment Grows in Vermont State House

Clean Yield divestment legislature

Photo: Dan Barlow/VBSR

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For the fourth time in four years, Clean Yield Chief Investment Officer Eric Becker journeyed to Montpelier to make the case to the Vermont legislature in favor of fossil fuel divestment. This time, however, Eric was buoyed by what he called a “change in tone,” after he presented to the legislature’s joint Climate Caucus and the Senate Government Operations Committee. “There’s much more support and urgency for taking action. It was standing-room-only for both sessions. I’m more optimistic that a bill will pass.”

Three bills addressing divestment are available for the legislature’s consideration. S. 28/H. 229 would direct the Treasurer Beth Pearce  to divest State retirement funds from the 200 publicly traded companies that hold the largest carbon content fossil fuels reserves.  A separate joint resolution would simply urge the Treasurer to do so. A third option is being drafted requiring divestment from coal producers. The latter approach has the support of Governor Peter Shumlin, who called on the Vermont Pension Investment Committee (VPIC) to sell off both coal stocks and its position in ExxonMobil in his State of the State speech on January 7. Clean Yield will be providing the governor’s office with further research and analysis.

Momentum has been building rapidly for the fossil fuel divestment both globally and locally. On the eve of the Paris climate talks, pro-divestment organizations announced that over 500 organizations worth more than $3.4 trillion had committed to divesting. The previous month, Clean Yield and state environmental groups jointly released the results of an analysis showing that VPIC’s investments in the top 200 oil, gas, and coal companies cost Vermont pension holders more than $77 million in reduced returns over the past three years.

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