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House Approves Bill That Would Divest Maine's Retirement System From Fossil Fuel Industry

Fossil Fuel Divestment
Martin Meissner
On Jan. 19, 2016, a man watches a BP refinery in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. New York City officials say they will begin the process of dumping about $5 billion in pension fund investments in fossil fuel companies, including BP, because of environmental concerns..

The Maine House has voted in support of legislation that would require the Maine State Retirement system to stop investing in fossil fuel companies and assets, and divest existing interests over time.

The measure would immediately block any further investments in the fossil fuel industry by the State Retirement System or the state Treasurer. It sets a 2026 deadline for the divestiture of all the existing investments in fossil fuel. Democratic Rep. Margaret O’Neil from Saco sponsored the bill.

"Fossil fuels are directly linked to climate change and continuing to invest in them is bad for state coffers, retirees and the environment,” O’Neil says.

But opponents say the legislation contradicts language in the state constitution that directs investments made by the Retirement System be made solely to generate as much revenue as possible to pay benefits. They also argued the pension system has the experts to achieve those ends, and that the legislature does not.

“It is not up to us to direct a pension fund how to do what there specialty is," says Republican Rep. Bruce Bickford from Auburn. "There specialty is investment. That’s what they do.”

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.