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Climate activists calls for faster divestment from fossil fuels by Maine's retirement system

Third Act Maine, Maine Youth For Climate Justice and other groups rallied outside of the MainePERS building in Augusta on Thursday, arguing that that the system has been too cautious in implementing a three-year-old law calling for MainePERS to divest from fossil fuels by 2026.
courtesy of Third Act Maine
Third Act Maine, Maine Youth For Climate Justice and other groups rallied outside of the MainePERS building in Augusta on Thursday, arguing that that the system has been too cautious in implementing a three-year-old law calling for MainePERS to divest from fossil fuels by 2026.

Maine climate activists are calling on the Maine Public Employees Retirement System to divest from fossil fuels more quickly.

Third Act Maine, Maine Youth For Climate Justice and other groups rallied outside of the MainePERS building in Augusta on Thursday, arguing that that the system has been too cautious in implementing a three-year-old law calling for MainePERS to divest from fossil fuels by 2026.

System officials this week told lawmakers that the state law conflicts with their "fiduciary duties" to pensioners, as outlined in the state constitution, which they say has led them to keep fossil fuels in their portfolio.

Charles Spanger, with Third Act Maine, pointed to a recent analysis showing that a fossil fuel-free portfolio would have outperformed MainePERS over the past decade.

"They will do better if they purchase fossil free portfolios," Spanger said.

The groups are asking for MainePERS to commit to no more new investments in private fossil fuel assets, exclude fossil fuels from its public equities and fixed income portfolios, and to include climate risk when making new investments. Spanger said climate change will affect everything from migration and housing to coastal infrastructure.

"All kinds of enormous economic impacts, that will bubble around and cause enormous trouble impacting everything. And they're just not paying attention to any of that. It's not relevant to them," Spanger said.

MainePERS officials told lawmakers this week that they have taken many steps to comply with the three-year-old law, including receiving guidance from the Attorney General's office, but that their "fiduciary duty" requires them to invest in the entire market, without excluding particular sectors. The system said it expects to reduce fossil fuel exposure by a third, by 2026, and does not anticipate future investments in fossil fuel-focused funds.