SALEM, Oregon –
Oregon’s state treasury has invested at least US$5.3 billion in fossil fuel companies, a coalition of environmental groups said on Wednesday in a report that accused the state of worsening global warming and called for divestment.
Oregon is considered a “green” state, thanks to its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by state agencies and being the first state to commit to stop using energy coal. Yet the treasury is working against the grain with more than $1 billion invested in the coal industry alone, Divest Oregon said in its report.
“The state is exposing Oregonians to climate and health risks, economic costs and financial losses” through the investments, the group said.
The amount Oregon has invested in oil, gas and coal companies – whose products are a major cause of global warming – is likely well over US$5.3 billion. This is because the numbers Divest Oregon obtained from the Treasury through a public records request do not include private equity investments, which are not subject to public disclosure.
The Treasury welcomes “the continued dialogue with the people of Oregon on the best ways to address the risks of climate change while ensuring that we meet our mandate to produce sustainable returns for beneficiaries,” said said department spokeswoman Amy Bates.
“We are committed to a portfolio that reflects the realities of a changing climate and changing political environment, while earning money for the retirement security of tens of thousands of Oregonians,” Bates said.
Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read is running for the Democratic nomination for governor in the November election. One of its platforms is the fight against climate change.
“As governor, I will lead efforts to decarbonize our economy and avoid the worst of this crisis,” he said in a recent campaign statement. “I will bring a renewed sense of urgency to building a clean energy economy and the critical infrastructure needed to meet the challenges we face.”
Yet Tobias’ agency, which manages $140 billion of the state’s investment portfolio, including the state employees’ pension fund, invests too much in fossil fuels and should instead dump those investments and putting more into green energy, Divest Oregon said.
Fossil fuel investments also underperform non-fossil fuel alternatives, according to the report.
The report’s findings on investment in the fossil fuel sector are well above the US$1.8 billion that a previous study released in December showed was invested in the industry. That report, from the Climate Safe Pensions Network, said its findings were based only on partial data released by the Treasury “due to delays in disclosure by the pension fund” and that the actual amount was likely much higher. raised.
A bill that would have increased the transparency of state treasury investments was passed by the Oregon House of Representatives in March. But he died in the Senate before receiving a floor vote there at the end of the short legislative session.
Senator Jeff Golden, one of the sponsors of the measure, said if he is re-elected this year, he will make another effort in the 2023 session.
“If I’m back in Salem next session, I’ll work to move the divestment discussion forward,” Golden said. “Full public disclosure of investments made possible with public funds seems to be the minimum we should all expect.”
The burning of fossil fuels like coal and gas emits gases which are one of the main causes of global warming and climate change. Oregon has been feeling the effects of climate change, with a record-breaking heat wave last summer that killed more than 100 people, a severe drought affecting much of the state, and worsening wildfires.
“Oregon has a green economy, based on renewable energy, agriculture and a historic commitment to protecting our natural spaces,” the environmental groups said in the new report. “Building on this legacy and moving the country forward requires bold leadership from every government agency, including, most importantly, divestment by the Oregon State Treasury.”
Meanwhile, more and more states are taking steps to disengage.
On Feb. 9, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced that the State Common Retirement Fund would restrict investments in 21 shale oil and gas companies that have failed to demonstrate readiness. for the transition to a low-carbon economy.
“As market forces and new policies drive the energy transition, we must align our investments with a profitable and dynamic future,” DiNapoli said. “The shale oil and gas industry faces many hurdles going forward that pose risks to its financial performance.”
The oil and gas industry, including shale oil and gas companies, “could be most affected by climate change and the transition to the emerging net-zero economy,” DiNapoli’s office said.
Maryland lawmakers passed a bill this session that requires a fiduciary of the state’s retirement and pension system to review potential systemic risks from the impact of climate change on system assets.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan wrote that although he decided not to veto the bill, he still has “serious concerns about politicians’ interference with the fiduciary obligations of the pension system and Maryland State Pension Fund”. He wrote that while the legislation is “well-intentioned,” it “creates a slippery slope; instead of micromanaging… elected officials should allow our experts and investment professionals to do what they do best.
Divest Oregon is a grassroots coalition of individuals and organizations representing labor unions, racial and climate justice groups, youth leaders, and faith communities.
The report was produced in partnership with Stand.Earth, 350.org, the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, Environment Oregon, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Associated Press writer Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland, contributed to this report.