By Doug Porter
You would think that losing $5 billion in pension fund investments in fossil fuel companies in 2014 would cause the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) to change course.
But Republican reaction to passage of SB 185, also called “Investing with Values and Responsibility,” beginning an eighteen month process to disinvest in any holdings of thermal coal is quite the opposite.
Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City decried the measure, saying, “We need to make (investment) decisions based on good, sound financial decisions, not based on emotions.”
So there you have it. Global climate change is simply an emotional issue.
From the Sacramento Bee:
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System and California State Teachers’ Retirement System oversee portfolios worth about $301 billion and $191 billion, respectively. A spokesman for CalPERS said the fund currently invests in between 20 and 30 of the type of thermal coal mining companies covered by Senate Bill 185, with a cumulative value of between $100 million and $200 million. A spokesman for CalSTRS said the fund’s investment portfolio holds approximately $40 million in thermal coal.
Policies combating climate change are preoccupying lawmakers this year. Advocates of SB 185, carried by Senate leader Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and passed on a 43-27 vote, argue California should not be lending financial support to the coal industry at a time when the state tries to expand the use of renewable energy.
The bill “aligns our investment policies with our values,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, adding that the bill would not violate pension funds’ fiduciary obligations because “coal is a bad investment.”
CalPERS and CalSTRS are the largest public pension funds in the US. CalPERS has about $292 billion in assets and CalSTRS has $191 billion in assets. CalPERS currently holds stock in about 30 coal companies, mostly in index funds, with a value of about $167 million.
This bill is just one of many environmental measures under consideration in the current legislative session. And the dirty energy lobby has unleashed a furious effort to derail or de-fang these laws.
S.B. 185, introduced by Senator de León, is one of eleven bills included in the California Climate Leadership Package. Other noteworthy bills include S.B. 350, and S.B. 32, which call for significant reductions in fossil fuel use and emissions, as well as an increase in the use of renewables to generate electricity and energy efficiency.
“Addressing the climate crisis is a moral imperative,” said Jim Miller*, member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 1931 VP/Chair SD-Imperial Counties Labor Council Environmental Caucus. “Although much more still needs to be done, S.B. 185 and the Climate Leadership Package are an important step in the right direction if we are serious about saving our children’s future.”
*(Yes, that’s the same Jim Miller who pens a weekly column at SDFP)
Getting Paid to Kill the Planet
The Institute for Policy Studies has released a report illustrating how CEO pay at fossil fuel companies is actually accelerating climate change.
“Money to Burn” reveals how the CEO pay system actually rewards executives for deepening the global climate crisis. It’s based on analysis of the 30 largest publicly held U.S. oil, gas, and coal companies.
All 13 oil producers out of those 30 major U.S. fossil-fuel corporations reward executives for expanding carbon reserves, even though these firms are already sitting on far more reserves than could be burned without catastrophic climate effects.
Last year 23 of those fossil fuel companies spent a combined $38.5 billion on share repurchases, six times global corporate spending on research into renewable energy in 2014. Buybacks, the report notes, artificially inflate share prices, which, in turn, inflates executives’ stock-based pay.
Even as share prices have been plummeting for the top 10 U.S. publicly held coal companies they’ve been increasing their cash-based executive pay. Several of these companies will likely go bankrupt this year, leaving their employee pension funds to Uncle Sam to fulfill.
These behaviors should be considered crimes against humanity. Ooops! There I go, getting all emotional about climate change.
Those Darn Facts, Again
One of the favorite themes of dirty energy apologists is the one where environmentally positive legislation threatens profitability and, therefore, jobs.
I’m sure the story by Erik Anderson about manufacturing in the Golden State won’t be showing up in any of their press kits.
A study by the non-partisan Next10 group finds manufacturers are thriving in California. In fact, the state was the second most productive in the nation.
“For one dollar of electricity, California manufacturers can produce 59 dollars of manufactured goods. As compared with every dollar spent by manufacturers in the rest of the nation, which produced 38 dollars,” said Noel Perry the founder of Next10.
California has some of the most aggressive carbon reduction policies in the nation, but the state is still a top location for manufacturing because there’s an emphasis on efficiency.
That’s being translated into lower costs.
The Rich Get Richer…
With Labor Day just around the corner, the Economic Policy Institute has released a report examining the widening chasm between workers’ pay and productivity since the 1970.
While productivity and compensation grew at similar rates in the post WWII era. Since 1973 there has been a decoupling of those numbers.
EPI economists Lawrence Mishel and Josh Bivens, using data from the Social Security Administration and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that median hourly compensation, adjusted for inflation, grew by 8.7 percent between 1973 and 2014. Their research says productivity rose 72.2 percent over the same time period.
EPI report focused on labor policy in explaining how wages have become uncoupled from productivity growth. Mishel and Bivens cited three categories of policies that they said had widened the split: Policies that hindered full employment, those that weakened labor standards, and those that undermined collective bargaining.
The world’s a little safer place today, now that we know the war mongers and islamaphobes in Congress don’t have the votes to block the treaty with nuclear agreement with Iran.
Here’s a little background you’re not likely to read in the daily paper, from Daily Kos:
Success in getting enough Democratic votes favoring the Iran nuclear agreement to keep Republicans from blocking it was no accident, according to Carl Hulse and David M. Herszenhorn. It was the product of a relentless strategy of White House phone calls and meetings with individuals or small groups of senators. Cabinet members and senior administration officers spoke directly to 200 representatives and senators, the reporters wrote, and President Obama spoke personally to perhaps 100, as well as 30 by phone during his vacation.
What was apparently most persuasive was a meeting that a dozen senators had just before the August recess with foreign diplomats from the other five nations—Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia—who together with the United States negotiated the agreement with Iran.
Those diplomats made it clear that no better deal could be negotiated and that they would not be on board with any continued sanctions. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, who declared his support Monday, told the two reporters that the diplomats “basically said unanimously this is as good a deal as you could get and we are moving ahead with it.”
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is likely not to have any big name or well-financed opposition for his re-election effort in 2016, but that hasn’t stopped him from buying internet ads boosting his image.
On This Day: 1783 – The Revolutionary War between the U.S. and Great Britain ended with the Treaty of Paris. 1895 – The first professional football game was played in Latrobe, PA. The Latrobe YMCA defeated the Jeannette Athletic Club 12-0. 1991 – Twenty-five workers die, unable to escape a fire at the Imperial Poultry processing plant in Hamlet, N.C. Managers had locked fire doors to prevent the theft of chicken nuggets. The plant had operated for 11 years without a single safety inspection.
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