Let’s spread the excitement generated by the students of Divest UMass to the state pension fund divestment campaign! We have only a short time left in this legislative session to get the divestment bill (and other climate legislation) enacted. The divestment commission bill, H.2372, sponsored by Representative Aaron Michlewitz, and strongly championed by Rep. Marjorie Decker, provides the lone remaining path to divestment and is currently being considered by the House Ways & Means Committee. The bill would create an 11 member commission which would make a recommendation by January 1, 2017 on the advisability of pension fund divestment.
The Mass Divest Coalition asks for your help in garnering support for the bill, with amendments to
1) immediately divest from thermal coal, and
2) reconfigure the composition of the commission to ensure balance.
Please make these calls:
- Call your own Rep., asking him or her to contact Chairman Dempsey (Find your own legislator here) with the message below.
- Call Committee Chairman Brian Dempsey’s office (617-722-2990) directly.
- Call Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo (617)-722-2500).
You can call after hours if you like, and leave a voicemail.
Sample call script:
Hello, my name is _________. I am a Massachusetts resident from ___________. (If you are a current or former stakeholder/union member, make sure you say so, and name your union.) I am calling to ask [Rep. ___________to contact Chairman Dempsey to urge] or [Chairman Dempsey] that the House Ways and Means Committee give H.2372 a favorable report, with amendments to require:
- immediate divestment from thermal coal companies, and
- reconfiguration of composition of the commission to ensure that it is balanced
It is not only immoral to be investing in companies that escalate climate change, but it is also financially unwise, when the fund is losing money every day by continuing to invest in them. These losses are bound to accelerate after the COP21 agreements reached in Paris; the world has begun to move toward a carbon-neutral economy. Please move the fossil fuel divestment legislation forward. Can I count on [Rep. _______] or [Representative Dempsey] to take action on behalf of future generations?
Please report your call here.
Why the amendment to divest from thermal coal?
The structural decline of the coal industry is universally accepted. Top coal companies are going bankrupt. Many institutions have started their divestment process by divesting first from coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels. In Massachusetts, the UMass Foundation pledged to divest from coal. Last year, California became the first state to enact a bill requiring coal divestment and its pension fund just voted to fast track the timeline for that divestment.
The Trillium Asset Management analysis of PRIT holdings in 2015 found that PRIT lost approximately $15 million in direct investments in coal over the prior year (out of a total of $521 million in total losses from fossil fuel investments). At that time it had $45 million invested in coal.
For background, the Stowe Coal Index lost 85% of its value in the last five years.
This amendment would mean that some substantive divestment could be started – divesting from the dirtiest and most bankrupt of the fossil fuels – at the same time that the divestment commission would be meeting and then reporting on the advisability of divesting from oil and gas companies.
See Fact Sheet: The End of Coal regarding the effect of the Paris Agreement on the coal industry.
Why the amendment to reconfigure the composition of the commission?
The composition of the commission as currently configured in the language of H.2372, is not balanced. The bill includes no language ensuring that there will be members of the commission who are proponents of or knowledgeable about fossil fuel free investing. The change from Democratic to Republican administration added to the imbalance.