Boston City Council Endorses Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill

Boston City Council Endorses Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill

Legislation Would Open the $4.8 Billion Boston Pension System
to Fossil Fuel Divestment

BOSTON – Boston City Councilors have unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the Local Option Fossil Fuel Divestment bill H.3662/S.636. The bill, filed by Rep. Jay Livingstone of Boston as well as Rep. Dylan Fernandes and Sen. Marc Pacheco, would allow independent retirement systems throughout Massachusetts to divest funds under their control from the fossil fuel industry. The bill is also cosponsored by Boston Reps. Cullinane, Elugardo, Honan, Malia, Madaro, Miranda, Santiago, and Boston Senators Collins and DiDomenico. Boston’s pension system, valued at roughly $4.8 billion, is the state’s largest municipal independent retirement system. 

“When we’re talking about the pension fund in particular and the parts that are tied up with the state’s PRIM — the teachers’ pensions, for example — cities and municipalities are not able to make their own decisions about that,” said Councilor Michelle Wu, as she introduced the resolution at the November 20th City Council meeting. 

Independent retirement systems in Massachusetts, including Boston’s, are currently barred from divesting their assets due to a ruling from the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC). H.3662/S.636 would effectively reverse that ruling by providing authorization to divest, which PERAC has stated is necessary.

“Part of the point of this resolution is to make sure that we can speak with our money and speak with our retirement without having to ask the permission of the state, and giving that freedom for municipalities to be able to move their money where their thoughts, where their passions and where their understanding of civil justice is,” said Councilor Lydia Edwards, who cosponsored the resolution. 

The council’s action brings the city in line with Somerville and Cambridge, both of which also passed resolutions calling for the passage of H.3662/S.636 in 2019. 

“It’s amazing to see these municipalities calling for the ability to fulfill their fiduciary duty and protect their retirees from the volatility and declining returns of fossil fuel investments,” said Sean Donaghy, of MassDivest, which championed the resolution to the City Council. “We have a duty to ensure that these municipal employees not only have a livable future to retire into but also that they are not left holding the bag when it comes to poor performing fossil fuel investments.”

“I just want to reiterate a point I often make when talking about climate issues, and that’s every fiscal conservative ought to be an environmentalist, as well. That is particularly true as it relates to investing and divesting,” said Councilor Matt O’Malley, the third cosponsor of the resolution, as he focused on the economic advantages of fossil fuel divestment. “We should do this because it’s the right thing to do. We should do this because it sends an important message. We should do this because it will help the clean energy sector grow. And we should do this because we will get better returns for all of our city employees and retirees.”