Protect my mother’s pension!

I am concerned about my mother’s pension. As an 83-year-old retired Maine schoolteacher, she lives modestly but comfortably on a little Social Security and her pension from the Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MPERS). She’s worked hard her whole life, raising a family, teaching school kids, and caring for my Dad his last few years. She still volunteers many hours each week and attends church on Sunday. Her family and her community are her top priorities.

I am concerned about my mother’s pension because I know it is based in part on investments in the fossil fuel industry. Chevron and Exxon Mobil are two of the largest direct investments in the MPERS portfolio. These companies, along with other top fossil fuel businesses, are firmly committed to a path of extracting and burning as much coal, oil, and gas as they can, despite clear evidence that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is leading to serious climate disruption. Investors worldwide are increasingly convinced that the industry is headed toward a “carbon bubble,” a drop in stock value due to increasing controls on emissions. Fossil fuel interests spend heavily in Washington, lobbying Congress and contributing large sums to political campaigns, which gives them undue control over energy policy. Meanwhile, they receive billions each year in subsidies, right out of the pockets of taxpayers.

Such investments threaten my mother’s family and community, as well as her financial security. How can we protect her pension? By supporting LD 1461, a bill which will require the Public Employee Retirement System to stop any new investments in the fossil fuel sector and to divest their current holdings over the next five years.

On Jan. 9 the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee of the legislature will hold a hearing on LD 1461. We encourage concerned public employees who have funds in MPERS, and all Maine taxpayers who contribute to the state pension fund via their taxes, to attend the hearing, testify in person or in writing, and contact the members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee to urge their support of this crucial bill.

But wait, not only will fossil fuel divestment help to protect my mother’s pension, it opens up a great opportunity for reinvesting in a clean energy economy, including investments in Maine! Right now we send enormous sums of money out of state for our energy, despite the fact that we have great solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, and biomass resources right here in Maine. We can protect my mother’s pension and help the local economy at the same time – a true win-win situation.

Karen Marysdaughter