SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon State Treasury has invested at least $5.3 billion in fossil fuel companies, a coalition of environmental groups said Wednesday in a report accusing the state of worsening the global warming and urging 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 $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.
Climate change activism in Oregon:
The Treasury did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The agency spokesman was linked to a Wednesday meeting of the Oregon Investment Council, which makes investment decisions.
Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read, who is a council member, 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 $130 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 behind 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 $1.8 billion that a previous study released in December showed had been 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. To protect the state pension fund, we are restricting investments in companies that we believe are unprepared to adapt to a low-carbon future.
The oil and gas industry, including shale oil and gas companies, “could be the most impacted by climate change and the transition to the emerging net-zero economy,” DiNapoli’s office said.
Related:Businesses challenge Oregon’s new climate program
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.
In an April 8 letter to key state lawmakers, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wrote that while he has decided not to veto the bill, he still has “serious concerns concerning the interference of politicians with the fiduciary obligations of the retirement and pension system of the State of Maryland”. He wrote that while the legislation is “well-intentioned”, it “creates a slippery slope; instead of micromanaging our public pension system, elected officials should allow our experts and investment professionals to do what they do the 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.