Maine Divesting from Fossil Fuels, Minnesota Divesting from Coal, Rhode Island Already 50% Divested from Both, Happy 50th, Environment Council Rhode Island!

by | Sep 15, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Maine divesting from fossil fuels, plus Minnesota divesting from coal. Guess what? Rhode Island already 50% divested from both, and Happy 50th, Environment Council Rhode Island!



A new bill recently passed by Maine’s Legislature requiring the state to divest its pension investments and other funds from fossil fuel companies is being hailed by climate activists as a major milestone, fueling optimism that more states and influential institutions could follow.

Advocates say divesting from fossil fuel companies is one of a number of critical steps that humans must take to combat climate change.

The Maine legislation, which still needs Governor Janet Mills’s signature, would direct the Maine Public Employee Retirement System to divest all holdings in coal, oil, and gas companies. Currently, about $1.3 billion of the $17 billion fund is invested in fossil fuels. The bill also includes divestment from the state treasury’s cash pool and trust funds. The Legislature approved the bill earlier this month.

More and more people are realizing that divesting from fossil fuel companies is not only a moral issue, but a fiscally responsible issue. For example, in 2020 during the height of the pandemic, the price of a barrel of West Texas crude fell below $0, proving that oil companies are a poor investment.

Why does this matter to the rest of us? Maine is the first state to authorize divestiture, and similar measures to curb or phase out fossil fuel investments are being debated or are in the works in California, New York, Minnesota, and in Massachusetts. Should the bill be signed into law, it provides momentum, precedent and cover for other state legislatures to get a backbone and do the right thing.

DEEPER DIVE: Boston Globe, Sierra Club, Slate



Minnesota made news recently. The Minnesota State Board of Investment, St. Paul, approved a resolution to divest from publicly traded companies that derive 25% or more of their revenues from the extraction and production of thermal coal within the $65.2 billion of defined benefit plan assets managed by the board.

Mansco Perry III, executive director and chief investment officer, told board members that the action is “consistent with our fiduciary duty” in considering the ESG risks and opportunities within the investment portfolio. The resolution directs Mr. Perry to identify the money managers who invest in companies that exceed the thermal coal revenue threshold. Those stocks must be sold off “in a prudent and expeditious manner, but no later than December 31, 2021.”

Retiree and youth activists alike have been pushing for divestment from fossil fuels for years. As of March, Minnesota’s public employee pension funds had $4 billion invested in fossil fuel holdings.

As rationale for cutting coal, the State Bd of Investment said coal companies face “material declining market values and risks of stranded assets due to demand for more cost effective and efficient forms of energy production.” Many other large public pension plans across the nation have recently removed coal companies from their investment portfolios for the same reason.

State Auditor Julie Blaha says her role is to ensure the SBI’s efforts to shield the state’s investments against climate risks don’t get lost in the shuffle. “This is simply the right choice in these times. But like a lot of right choices, it has benefits beyond just the finances. It’s kind of one of those win-win situations.” 

DEEPER DIVE:, IEEFA, Responsible Investor



Gotta be honest, when it comes to Rhode Island, the Little New England State that Did, I totally dropped the ball during Earth Week. Apparently, in advance of Earth Day, Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner announced a nearly 50 percent decrease in the Rhode Island pension fund’s exposure to companies that engage in the production and distribution of fossil fuels by summer, 2021.

The Treasurer made the announcement at Save the Bay in Providence, and was joined by Save the Bay Executive Director Jonathan Stone and Environment Council of Rhode Island President Priscilla De La Cruz.

In an official press release put out by the office of the General Treasurer, Magaziner said, “To continue delivering on the promise of retirement security for all 60,000 members of the Rhode Island pension system, and for all taxpayers, we must invest in the economy of the future,”

The press release went on to state in order to continue to strengthen the fund’s impressive the $9.5 billion plus performance, the fund must continue to invest in clean energy and not in the large-scale burning of fossil fuels.

Priscilla De La Cruz, President of the Environment Council of Rhode Island added, “Good policies that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, like decreasing the exposure to fossil fuels in the Rhode Island pension fund, are important steps towards facing the climate challenge, protecting our environment, our health, and our state’s fiscal health. There is big economic opportunity in continuing to disinvest in fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy, and in adaptation and resilience to protect the people and places we love.”

DEEPER DIVE: RIOGT, ECRI, Providence Journal, UpriseRI



Speaking of the Environment Council of Rhode Island, it just celebrated a major milestone—50 years in existence! ECRI was created as a Rhode Island nonprofit corporation in 1972.  It was established to coordinate, to initiate, to promote and to unify efforts of Rhode Island organizations concerned about the problems of the state’s natural environment consistent with the right of its people to a clean, healthy and productive environment in which to live, work and play, and to lobby and advocate for that right.

The Environment Council fosters programs:

  1. To alert and inform its members and the citizens of Rhode Island regarding the vital importance of environmental policies and procedures for the effective use, management, maintenance and protection of our natural environment; and the action necessary to provide adequate and effective natural resource management and planning;
  2. To use energetic and constructive leadership in initiating action that will achieve its objectives;
  3. To accommodate and encourage volunteer engagement in achieving its objectives;
  4. To secure the enforcement of existing laws relative to environmental problems

 DEEPER DIVE: ECRI, Tisdale Awards, RI Climate Change Resilience Report