MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The campaign to get Vermont to divest its public pension funds from fossil fuels is adding a financial argument to its environmental one, with two green groups and an investment firm saying Monday that oil and coal companies aren’t good investments anymore.
The group 350.org, the Sierra Club’s Vermont chapter and a representative from Clean Yield Asset Management came to a Statehouse news conference armed with a study by the Canadian group Corporate Knights that Vermont’s fossil fuel investments had caused it to miss out on more than $77 million in investment gains during the past three years.
“This study points out the flawed arguments that VPIC (the Vermont Pension Investment Committee) has made for continuing to invest in fossil fuel companies, namely the unfounded assertion that divesting would reduce returns of the funds and hurt beneficiaries,” said Eric Becker, chief investment officer with Clean Yield.
State Treasurer Beth Pearce responded to the groups Monday by reiterating her longstanding opposition to divestment from fossil fuel companies. She pointed to studies by the state’s investment advisers, NEPC, that Vermont’s $4 billion in combined teachers’, state and municipal workers retirement funds would suffer $9 million in annual losses if they were to divest in the energy companies.
“Results indicate that the likely impact of divestment would be significant, in the millions of dollars, one-time and ongoing annual losses as a result of implementing such a strategy,” Pearce said in an email. “Based on our analyses, and our statutory requirements and polices, I believe divestment from fossil fuels is not a strategy appropriate to the Vermont pension plans.”
Divesting in the immediate future likely would cost Vermont some investment losses. The S&P 500 reported Monday that energy stocks were down about 21 percent in the last 12 months - the worst-performing among 10 sectors of the economy.
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