Rep. Fernandes Says Divestment Bill Gaining Support

CCB MEDIA PHOTO: Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket State Representative Dylan Fernandes.

BOSTON – A divestment bill filed by Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket State Representative Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth) is gaining attention.

The bill would allow 104 independent retirement boards in the state to divest from fossil fuel companies, which they are currently unable to do.

Independent retirement system boards would be able to choose if they wanted to divest, if the legislation is signed into law.

“A place like Falmouth has an independent retirement system,” Fernandes said. “If this passed, the board, if they chose to, would be able to divest.”

Fernandes said the legislation would help combat the impacts of climate change and provide financial benefits.

“It’s bizarre to me that we mandate investment in the fossil fuels and we then spend billions of dollars to clean up the effects they will have on our coastline, on our public health, the environment and the like,” Fernandes said.

Fernandes said the dependence on fossil fuels must end and there needs to be a transition to a clean energy economy.

“The faster we do that, the better we’ll be in terms of combating climate change,” Fernandes said. He added that the clean energy sector has a potential for more jobs in the state and locally on Cape Cod.

State lawmakers passed a $2 billion bond bill last year which will fund adaptation to climate change. Another $1 billion was passed through the Green Works bill that will go towards coastal resiliency efforts and dealing with climate change.

“We are bonding billions of dollars in taxpayer money to fund for the effects of climate change, while at the same time we are mandating that our state retirement systems and state investment boards continue to invest in the fossil fuel companies that lead to us having to make these billion dollar investments and cleaning up the mess that they’ve created,” Fernandes said.

Fernandes said the state is moving in the right direction in terms of supporting clean energy projects and spending the money for climate change adaptation efforts.

“We should continue to do that, but why at the same time are we mandating that our public funds that taxpayers pay into support fossil fuels,” Fernandes said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Other entities in the state have already taken action on divestment. The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees voted in 2016 to support the UMass foundation’s decision to divest its $770 million endowment fund of fossil fuel holdings.

Fernandes testified in support of the bill last week in front of the Joint Committee on Public Service. The hearing was at the largest auditorium at the State House due to the support the legislation has received.

Fernandes said there are also financial benefits to divestment. During his testimony, he cited a study published in the Global Finance Journal in 2018, which indicated that portfolios that divested from fossil fuels and invested in clean energy perform better than portfolios with investments in fossil fuels.

More than 60 of his colleagues have co-sponsored the legislation.

Fernandes said he is hopeful the bill will move out of committee and head to a full floor vote.

A version of the bill has also been filed in the Massachusetts Senate.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the CapeCod.com NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.



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