In December, Seattle was the first city to announce it would divest from fossil fuel investments and now nine other cities have joined in.
The nine cities are: Madison, WI; Bayfield WI; Ithaca, NY; Boulder, CO; Rochester, MN; Eugene, OR; Richmond, CA; Berkeley, CA; and San Francisco, CA.
The goal is to unhook America from the grip of the industry, which is preventing us from addressing climate change and forcing the Keystone pipeline through.
"Cities that do so will be leaders in creating a new model for quality of life, environmental sustainability and economic success. We've got a head start on that here in Seattle, but there's a lot more work to do," says Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.
San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this week to urge its $16 billion pension fund to divest over $583 million from the fossil fuel industry.
Elsewhere, mayors have agreed to pursue ways to keep their city funds out of fossil fuel companies and urge either their city or state pension fund to divest.
The city and state divestment campaign is led by the Mayors Innovation Project and 350.org.
"Cities are taking the lead on climate change" says Joel Rogers, Director of the Mayors Innovation Project. "In the face of federal and state inaction, cities know they have to protect themselves."
"Richmond is home to the 2nd largest oil refinery and largest point source of greenhouse gas emissions in California," says Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. "I am proud to join with other cities in this divestment campaign, as we divest from an industry that is wreaking havoc on our community and planet, and reinvest in a clean energy economy with new jobs for our residents."
Petitions for divestment are active 100 other cities and states. Modeled on the anti-apartheid campaigns of the 1980s, the fossil fuel divestment campaign started last fall at colleges and universities and has now spread to over 300 campuses across the country.
Four colleges - Unity, Hampshire, Sterling, and College of the Atlantic - have so far agreed to divestment.
The campaign is targeting the 200 companies that own most of the world's coal, oil and gas reserves. Those reserves contain five times more carbon dioxide than scientists say society can emit and still keep global warming below 2°C, a limit that nearly every country on Earth, including the US, has agreed to meet.
There's no need for fossil fuels to maintain a well-balanced portfolio. Not having those investments increases risk by just 0.01%, according to a study by financial advisory Aperio Group, and the report's author Patrick Geddes, says of the investments, "Statistically, it's basically noise."
In fact, it's riskier to remain invested in fossil fuels. Companies will plow some $6 trillion to explore and develop reserves over the next decade, but that will be wasted on oil and coal that can't be burned as governments move to limit carbon emissions.
The write off of those reserves could lead to a 60% drop in market value BP, Shell, Chevron and their peers.
"Today's announcement sends a powerful message to the fossil fuel industry: if you're going to try and take away our planet, we're going to try and take away your money. We're no longer just playing defense against dirty projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, we're going on offense, too," says 350.org.
When the campaign began in October, Nobel Prize-winner Desmond Tutu noted, "The divestment movement played a key role in helping liberate South Africa. The corporations understood the logic of money even when they weren't swayed by the dictates of morality. Climate change is a deeply moral issue too, of course ... Once again, we can join together as a world and put pressure where it counts."
State Department to Make Keystone Comments Public
Meanwhile, after being pressured, the State Department agreed to make the more than one million comments it received on the Keystone pipeline open to the public on Regulations.gov.
They are working on the technical details of doing so now.
Comments are typically made public, but if they're aren't, it takes a Freedom of Information Act request to get them. By the time they are received, the debate on Keystone could well be over.
"This shows the State Department is capable of posting public comments," Sofia Plagakis from the Center for Effective Government, told InsideClimate News. "So there would be no excuse not to do so in the future, but it may depend on continued pubic pressure."
"At the same time, the State Department has not responded to a series of requests under the Freedom of Information Act for access to other documents related to the Keystone environmental assessment and permit process, including third-party reports used during the writing of the draft impact statement, information about TransCanada's oil spill emergency plans, and information about contacts between state department officials and lobbyists for the pipeline," notes InsideClimate News.
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