By ANDREW SELSKY, Associated Press

SALEM, Oregon (AP) – The state of Oregon should pull out of the fossil fuel industry to protect both the environment and its investments, three Oregon lawmakers said Wednesday as a new study put the level of this investment at $ 1.8 billion or more.

“The Oregon Treasury, which manages the state’s $ 130 billion investment portfolio, is invested in the oil, gas and coal companies responsible for our climate emergency,” said representatives Khanh Pham, Paul Holvey and Jeff Golden in a column published in The Oregonian. / OregonLive, the state’s largest newspaper.

The three Democratic lawmakers have announced that they will introduce a bill in the 2022 legislative session, which begins February 1, “to disclose Oregon’s fossil fuel holdings so that the public can clearly understand the financial risks. and climatic conditions of our State “.

Burning fossil fuels like coal and gas emits gases which are one of the main causes of global warming and climate change. Oregon has been hit by the effects of climate change, with worsening wildfires, a record-breaking heat wave last summer that killed more than 100 people, and severe drought affecting much of the state.

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Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read, in an interview last summer with Oregon Public Radio, would not be determined by the amount of the state’s investment in fossil fuels.

“It’s not just public stocks, it’s also private equity, it’s also bonds,” said Read, a Democrat running for governor in the 2022 election. “So we sell and buy bonds literally every day. So that changes. “

A group called the Climate Safe Pensions Network said in a report released Wednesday that the Oregon State Employees’ Pension Fund’s investment in fossil fuels was at least $ 1.77 billion, including investments with Exxon Mobile, Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips and Marathon Petroleum. The figure is partial “due to delays in disclosure by the pension fund,” the report said.

The Climate Safe Pensions Network describes itself as a network of retirement divestment and shareholder advocacy campaigns coordinated and supported by Stand.earth.

“The fastest way for pensions to tackle climate change is to divest fossil fuel holdings and invest in fair and equitable climate solutions,” said Amy Gray, senior climate finance strategist at Stand.earth .

In their newspaper column, the three Oregon lawmakers challenged the Treasury to “take a compelling first step towards bold climate leadership by disclosing the state’s fossil fuel holdings as soon as possible.”

“Accountability begins when we can follow the money,” they said.

The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the newspaper column or the report.

But John Russell, chairman of the Oregon Investment Council, said in a meeting Wednesday that divesting from fossil fuels and other questionable sectors was beyond the board’s mandate.

“Divestiture is, fundamentally, our organization becoming an activist organization, which I don’t think it was ever meant to be,” said Russell, whose board oversees the investment and allocation of all. Oregon State Trust Fund, including Oregon Public Employees. Pension fund.

However, Russell added that if the legislature wanted to change the statutes under which the council operates or advise the council, its members would be “open to that.”

He noted that before Wednesday’s meeting, board staff had received more than 200 pages of written public comments and some 1,500 phone calls on the divestment issue, although he said not all supported divestment. fossil fuels.

Opponents of divestment argue that the funds would lose any leverage they might have on the companies they are involved with. Proponents of divestment claim that in addition to an effort to tackle climate change, there is also a financial incentive, with the value of stock offerings in fossil fuel companies shrinking.

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