June 17, 2015

SB 185, California coal divestment bill, continues building momentum


As S.B. 185 begins committee review, Tom Steyer, unions, and health organizations call for fossil fuel divestment

Contact: Brett Fleishman, 350.org, (970) 376-5041

SACRAMENTO, CA — As the California State Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security prepares to review S.B. 185, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), the Alliance of Nurses for a Health Environment (ANHE), and Tom Steyer, have all endorsed the bill.

ANHE’s endorsement is accompanied by a joint letter from a wide range of health organizations. The letter speaks to the severe threat that fossil fuel investments and use have on human and environmental health.

“At every juncture coal creates health hazards – as it is extracted from the earth and when it is combusted for energy. Coal-fired power produces a wide range of unhealthy pollutants and increases the risk of childhood asthma and an array of other diseases in those who live in close proximity to power plants,” said Barbara Sattler, professor in the Public Health Program of University of San Francisco, and a member of ANHE. “By divesting from coal, California will be sending a strong signal regarding our trajectory towards healthier energy sources and better health for the people of California.”

Prominent unions, including SEIU 1000 and the California Faculty Association, have already backed fossil fuel divestment. Joining them is the California Federation of Teachers, representing 120,000 members working at every level of the educational system.

“As educators committed to building a better world and a brighter future for our students and our communities, we cannot continue to have our pension funds invested in something that devastates our environment and threatens the future of our students,” said Jim Miller, political director of CFT affiliate AFT Local 1931, and a professor at San Diego City College. “It is crucial that the Assembly approves this bill to divest from coal and goes further to consider full fossil fuel divestment. Indeed, considering the long term costs for our children and the natural world, it should be a moral imperative.”

These recent endorsements come just days after the June Teachers’ Retirement Board meeting where Tom Steyer urged CalSTRS to divest coal holdings. Steyer notes the “unique moral authority” of the pension fund, and argues that all fossil fuel investments are indeed a bad bet. The committee will vote on the bill next Wednesday, June 24.

The campaign for S.B. 185 is part of a growing worldwide push to divest the financial holdings of universities, religious institutions, pension funds, and other investors from fossil fuel companies.

For more information on S.B. 185, visit: http://focus.senate.ca.gov/climate.