SNN: Will Somerville Divest from Fossil Fuel Companies?
SOMERVILLE, Mass. – Despite a unanimous resolution from the Board of Aldermen calling for institutions to divest from fossil fuel companies, the Somerville Retirement Board won’t be moving forward on the issue just yet.
“The question of whether it is prudent to divest from fossil fuel companies can only be answered through diligent research, weighing the possible gains for the environment and those vested in the retirement system against the potential losses and risk for members and retirees,” the board said in a statement released on August 6.
The Board, made up of five people, two of whom are elected by city employees, manages the city employee pension money. The funds are invested in securities valued at almost $230 million, according to Michael Pasquariello, executive director of the board.
On June 26, the Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to urge “all governments, institutions and individuals” to “cease any new investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies” and “to ensure, that within five years, none of their directly held or commingled assets include holdings in fossil fuel investments.”
None of the individual Retirement Board members contacted wanted to talk to Somerville Neighborhood News. The board’s statement, however, noted two reasons the body is waiting to decide: 1) it wants advice from its six investment managers, and 2) it is waiting to see if a state law that would create a commission to advise cities on the possible benefits or risks if divesting.
The movement to divest from fossil fuels has been growing across the country, with 28 cities, 13 universities and 41 religious institutions already pledged to pull their holdings, according to the organization GoFossilFree.org. Hundreds of other organizations and governments at the state and local level are also considering the move. In Massachusetts, eight cities and towns have promised to divest.
Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz was one of the key backers of the divestment resolution.
“I worry about the future for the next generation and what it’s going to be like to be able to live on this planet in addition to all the economic consequences if we don’t slow this thing down,” she said. “So that was the goal and I think we are joining this chorus of localities that are involved in this powerful message.”