Maine is the first state to make a commitment against fossil fuels

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 2:45 PM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) - Maine has become the first state to pass a law divesting from fossil fuels. Rhian Lowndes explains why this is happening and what it means for the state.

A new law will gradually transition the state cash pool and the state retirement system away from investments in fossil fuels, or natural fuel such as coal or gas. Rep Margaret O’Neil sponsored the bill.

" LD99 will transition Maine away from fossil fuel investments. We’re doing that because they have become risky investments in most cases and they contribute to climate change,” said O’Neil.

Madison Sheppard says The Maine Public Employees Retirement System had over a billion dollars invested in fossil fuels when she started working on the bill with Maine Youth for Climate Justice

“These funds and these people are putting money into something that is actively killing the planet.”

But the law isn’t an immediate or mandatory withdrawal of funds from fossil fuels, said Senate President Troy Jackson.

“The retirement systems have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that the funds do everything they can for the retirees so the language basically says in the event that the retirement system believes that this is the best way to go for the retirees then they will try and look at divesting from fossil fuels.”

Treasurer Henry Beck says compliance with the law isn’t a tall order for the cash pool because of this exception.

“With the Pension system it will be more of a process,” he added, but he still believes that they can reach the goal given time.

And while the state’s cash pool and retirement funds take priority, the bill aims for the state to be fully withdrawn from fossil fuel funds by 2026. But the exception means that financial duty comes first, and the bill is more what Treasurer Beck calls “disfavoring” fossil fuels.

“I think the legislature recognizes that it’s a complicated package but I think the law has meaning it means that going forward we disfavor fossil fuel investments because of what fossil fuels the consumption of fossil fuels broadly means.”

But Madison Shepard of Maine Youth for Climate Justice says this is a first in the country and another example of Maine being a state that takes first steps and sets the example.

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