In a significant victory for the fossil fuel divestment movement, the California Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill requiring the state's two pension systems, CalPERS and CalSTRS, to release their holdings from coal investments.
Follow the 43-27 vote, S.B.185 now heads to the desk of Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, "who has not formally stated his position but who is still expected to sign it into law," Reuters reports. California would then become the first state in the nation to have its public pension funds divest from any fossil fuels.
Givens its rank as the world's eighth largest economy, environmental groups were quick to note that such a commitment from California is no small feat. According to the Fossil Free California campaign, the combined funds have over $300 million invested in coal.
"This is a big moment for California, and for everyone around the world standing up to the most powerful and destructive industry in history," May Boeve, executive director of 350.org said in a press statement. "Today’s vote is so meaningful because it sends a strong message: political leadership on climate change means being willing to stand up to powerful moneyed interests, and call out the destructive practices of the companies causing the climate crisis."
The measure passed the state Senate in June.
Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, who introduced the legislation to the Assembly, said that it was a commonsense initiative. "Coal is losing value quickly and investing in coal is a losing proposition for our retirees; it’s a nuisance to public health; and it’s inconsistent with our values as a state on the forefront of efforts to address global climate change," he said.
"California’s utilities are phasing out coal, and it’s time our pension funds did the same," de León added.
RL Miller, cofounder of Climate Hawks Vote and chair of the California Democratic Party’s environmental caucus, who penned the original resolution, said the move was initially inspired by Bill McKibben and 350.org's "Do the Math Tour."
Though Miller was purportedly "stunned" by the vote, the activist noted that there is still more work to be done in the state with a number of other climate-related bills in the pipeline, including S.B. 350 and S.B. 32, which call for significant reductions in fossil fuel use and emissions, as well as an increase in the use of renewables.