Divest! Start with coal!

Thermal-coal plant

This is a thermal-coal plant. It generates electricity from the dirtiest source of carbon pollution.

by Janet Cox

Help us strip dirty coal money from California pension funds. Help us pass Senate Bill 185!

Kevin de León, President pro Tem of the California State Senate, has offered the divestment movement a tremendous gift. With SB 185, he has proposed a law that could become the first divestment legislation passed by any state.

The bill is titled the “Public Divestiture of Thermal Coal Companies Act,” and it would require our state’s two mammoth public pension funds—CalPERS (the Public Employees’ Retirement System) and CalSTRS (the State Teachers’ Retirement System)—to divest from all companies that mine the type of coal used in power plants. But it goes even further: SB 185 would also require the funds to study the feasibility of divesting from oil and gas, paving the way for complete fossil fuel divestment.

The bill is part of a package of measures designed to advance compliance with AB 32, California’s landmark climate legislation. It’s on a fast track through the Senate and the Assembly, and when it reaches Governor Jerry Brown’s desk in a few weeks, SB 185 will make a powerful statement to the nation that it is not acceptable for a public entity to invest in coal.

But what about the fact that the bill divests only from coal? Well… we have to start somewhere. Coal is the dirtiest energy source on earth, and the industry is in big trouble, thanks to record-low oil prices, abundant natural gas (boo, fracking!), and looming regulation that will require costly pollution controls or plant closures.

It should be a no-brainer for the funds to get out of coal stocks—for financial reasons alone. The largest public investment fund in the world, Norway’s “Oil Fund,” has been doing just that. Even though it’s “only coal,” passage of SB 185 will send a message to other states—and other public funds—that fiscally prudent divestment can be legislated.

Want to help? Hop over to our campaign page and lend a hand to Senator de León. Write your state senator. Write CalPERS and CalSTRS. Distribute flyers.

Today coal. Tomorrow oil and gas. This is exciting!

Janet Cox is an environmental communications consultant who is leading Fossil Free California’s campaign to help pass SB 185.

Photo by Jimmy Thomas, Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.