Climate activists ask local municipalities to divest from fossil fuels
Questions of logistics main barrier as financial costs minimal
A small group of climate change activists held court at the city halls of Glenwood Springs and Carbondale on Friday afternoon, advocating for the nonrenewal of city bonds in fossil fuels.
Environmental advocacy group 350 Roaring Fork, a subsidiary of 350 Colorado, organized a petition that received around 400 signatures asking the two municipalities — plus Snowmass, Pitkin County, New Castle and Basalt — to write letters to investment funds Colorado Surplus Asset Fund Trust and Colorado Statewide Investment Pool asking them not to renew bonds in two prominent energy companies, Exxon and Chevron.
The percentage of holdings in the investment fund, however, is minimal. Glenwood Springs has around $218,000 invested between Exxon and Chevron through the two funds. After reinvesting, however, City of Glenwood Springs Chief Operations Officer Steve Boyd said he believed the actual loss would be fewer than $5,000 total based on assumptions that the funds would reinvest in other bonds.
“This is not a financial issue for the city, it’s a political issue,” Boyd said.
To 350 Roaring Fork Coordinator Will Hodges, it’s about taking a stance in favor of climate change and for cities to put their money, however little it may be, where their mouth is.
“I see it as a not very hard lift,” Hodges said. “It’s not a huge sum of money, relatively speaking, but it’s not responsible for our towns and cities who profess to care about climate justice and sustainability to be earning even small amounts of revenue off of two giant climate polluters.”
Data from Colorado Surplus Asset Fund shows that 0.79% of its portfolio, called Core, is allocated to Exxon and 0.13% is allocated to Chevron. It adds up to 0.92% overall, or around $24.3 million in total cost in its second-quarter holdings. Through the fund, the six local municipalities hold around $615,000 in Chevron and Exxon.
It’s about building momentum toward stability, Hodges said. Ralliers also spoke of cutting up credit cards from companies that aren’t climate friendly and other measures to promote environmental health.
“We hope to use this win to build pressure on (Public Employees Retirement Association),” Hodges said. “They own $1.5 billion in fossil fuels.”
In Glenwood Springs, the small cost makes the decision easy in the eyes of mayor Jonathan Godes. He was, however, unsure of the specifics on bond renewals and if the funds would be willing to take a measure, having heard about the rallies less than 24 hours before they occurred.
Godes said he did not want to speak for the city council or commit to any action before becoming more informed on the subject, but he is willing to have the discussion.
“I am very supportive of having this council engage in the conversation and I hope to do it at our next meeting,” Godes said. “Glenwood Springs has experienced more than our share of climate change related events over the last several years. … We need to address both the symptoms and the cause of climate change.”
The next city council meeting is slated for Oct. 7.
Hodges said Portfolio Manager Glenn Scott has already expressed interest in removing the oil bonds from the portfolio. Scott could not be reached for comment on this story.
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