The Maine House of Representatives passed a bill that would require the state, including the $16.7 billion Maine Employees' Retirement System, Augusta, to divest from fossil fuels.
The bill, which passed 80-57 in the House on Thursday, states that the state treasurer's office and the pension fund's board of trustees may not invest any assets in "stocks or other securities of any corporation or company among the 200 largest publicly traded fossil fuel companies."
Exempt from the divestment are short-term investment funds that commingle commercial papers or futures, according to text of the bill.
The bill requires divestment by Jan. 1, 2026. Until then, the state treasurer's office and the pension fund's board of trustees would be required to provide annual reports to a joint standing committee of the Maine Legislature in 2023, 2024 and 2025 regarding the progress of divestment.
In Feb. 10 testimony from MainePERS Executive Director Sandra J. Matheson posted on the pension fund's website, Ms. Matheson said the pension fund opposes the bill and divestment because the Maine Constitution "prohibits the investment of this money by MainePERS or the Legislature for any purpose other than to pay member pensions."
"Simply put," Ms. Matheson wrote, "MainePERS is entrusted and restricted by law to make investment decisions which are in the best financial interest and only the best financial interest of paying pensions."
According to a separate memo on MainePERS' website, the pension fund's total energy and utilities sector holdings totaled $1.27 billion as of Dec. 31, about 7.7% of the total fund at that time.
Ms. Matheson could not be immediately reached for further comment. State representative Margaret M. O'Neil, who introduced the bill, could not be immediately reached for further information.