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Friday, March 7, 2014

Public Hearing Called to Review Divestment Concern

A petition has been submitted to the City prompting a Public Hearing on divesting Pension money out of the top 200 fossil fuel companies. The campaign, led by Fossil Free Somerville (Twitter: @SomerFossilFree), collected a total 129 signatures for the hearing that was formally approved and scheduled at the last Board of Aldermen meeting.

According to the Go Fossil Free website, the top 200 companies include Exxon (oil, gas and coal) and Mitsubishi (coal) among others.

Financially speaking, Exxon is consistent in their gains and returns on the NYSE. Bloomberg.Com has Exxon's 52 week high valued at $101.74 and its low at $84.79. The company has a one year return of over 10% in what can be a very volatile market.

The mission of the Go Fossil Free campaign has an eye on the environmental impact of these companies, regardless, of their annual gross. They write, "If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. We believe that educational and religious institutions, city and state governments, and other institutions that serve the public good should divest from fossil fuels." The website does offer investment information for those considering making their portfolio fossil free.

The campaign for divesting out of Fossil Fuels does have an opponent in Alex Epstein, founder of I Love Fossil Fuels (Twitter: @ILoveFossilFuel) and the Center for Industrial Progress. The website prides itself on "out messaging attackers" and offers consulting services on the benefits of fossil fueled products.

This issue has been on the email circuit since last year and was referenced by Mayor Curtatone in his Inaugural Address this past January. While on the Board, I did ask for a review of the financial implications of divesting out of this market, but having the Retirement Board present such information is out of the jurisdiction of the Board of Aldermen and I was forced to withdraw my request. It should be interesting to see what-if any-financial impact divesting out of fossil fuels will have and what other investment opportunities are available to maintain the Pension fund should this request be approved.

The public hearing will take place during a Board of Aldermen Special Meeting in the Aldermanic Chambers on March 13th at 6:00pm.

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