MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — College students gathered at the Statehouse on Thursday in support of legislation that would divest the state pension fund of stocks from top fossil fuel companies.
If the bill passes, Vermont would be the first state to divest its state pension fund of fossil fuel stocks. Similar legislation is pending in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"The college divestment movement arrives at a key moment in global history with Vermont students at the helm," University of Vermont student Josh Gachette said. In addition to state-level legislation, the students are also pursuing changes in university endowment investments.
The student campaign Gachette belongs to pursues similar goals to 350.org, an international group founded by environmentalist Bill McKibben. McKibben lives in Ripton, and serves as a scholar in residence at Middlebury College.
To date, 21 cities and two counties in the U.S. have committed to fossil fuel divestment plans, according to organizer Alyssa Johnson-Kurts of 350Vermont, a branch of 350.org.
"Fossil fuel divestment is not the only answer," UVM student Caroline DeCunzo said. "Divestment is not the end goal in this movement to mitigate climate change and to preserve our society and our relationships with each other."
Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce said she shared climate concerns with the students, but expressed concerns with divestment from fossil fuels. She said it would cause "sizable" impact, with losses up to $11 million annually for the state pension fund, and could reduce dollars available for future energy initiatives.