Coal divestment bill passes California state legislature

A bill requiring California’s state pension funds CalPers and CalSTRS to sell their investments in coal companies passed the Assembly on Wednesday, a major step for legislation that backers hope will inspire other funds to address climate change.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 43 to 27, would require the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPers) and California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) — public employee pension funds that manage a combined $476 billion in assets — to liquidate holdings in companies that generate at least half of their revenue from coal mining by July 2017.

CalPers invests in about 20 to 30 thermal coal mining companies valued at approximately $100 million to $200 million, a spokesman said. Coal companies it invests in include St. Louis-based Peabody Energy and Creve Coeur-based Arch Coal, according to its latest investment report. Neither company was immediately available for comment.

The California bill is the latest in the international coal “divestment” movement. Norway’s parliament recently voted to reduce coal investments by its $880 billion sovereign wealth fund. Stanford University and the University of Maine have made similar moves.

The measure was backed by billionaire climate-change activist Tom Steyer, a hedge-fund founder, who told the CalSTRS board in June that he doesn’t expect coal, oil and other fossil-fuel stocks to outperform companies that produce energy from renewable sources.

Read more from Bloomberg and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch


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