The House Energy & Environment Committee held an informational hearing on Climate Responsible Investment organized by 350PDX on February 25, 2014. Testifying before the committee were Sandy Polishuk, Divestment Coordinator, 350PDX; Emily Letherstrom, Senior Investment Analyst, Portfolio 21; Christy Splitt, External Affairs Director, Oregon League of Conservation Voters; Walt Eager, 350.org Corvallis, retired supervisory engineer, Oregon Department of Transportation.
Sandy Polishuk explained the math of climate change, making the case that 80% of fossil-fuel companies reserves need to be left “in the ground” in order to limit climate warming to a liveable level. She then explained 350.org’s strategy of fossil fuel divestment to highlight the destructive practices of the fossil fuel companies. She said, “Divestment would weaken the fossil fuel industry’s political standing and increase the chances of retiring its special breaks by taking away their social license to continue unchecked extraction.”
Emily Letherstrom testified that her company, Portfolio 21, has had “a long-held rational for not investing in fossil fuel companies….our research has found unacceptable risks in the fossil fuel exploration and production industry and therefore we do not invest in companies in this sector. Approximately 8% of the global equity market is off limits to those who choose to divest, leaving 92% of the market available to a portfolio manager to meet their fiduciary responsibility.” She went on to detail the numerous factors that influenced this decision.
Christy Splitt from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters talked about her work with conservation groups across the state. “Climate is the issue that unites us all, across a variety of issues and from places as diverse as the canyons of Eastern Oregon and the coast.” She also noted that 350.org plays a unique role in Oregon. “An all-volunteer, grassroots group coming to the Capitol means a lot. I am here every day, but this sort of advocacy on this all-important issue makes a real difference.”
Testimony closed with Walt Eager, a PERS retiree, stating that PERS must divest from fossil fuel holdings. He said, “It is incomprehensible that funds, belonging to Oregon retirees, are being used to destroy the natural environment and economy of the State in which we live and for so many years dutifully served.”