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Montgomery County Council President Berliner's statement on approval of resolution regarding divestment of fossil fuel holdings from County pension funds

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, May 17, 2017



Montgomery Council President

Berliner’s statement on approval of

resolution regarding divestment of

County’s pension funds

from fossil fuel holdings

ROCKVILLE, Md., May 17, 2017—The Montgomery County Council on May 16 approved a resolution in support of having the County’s pension systems divest from holdings in fossil fuel stocks and bonds. By approving the resolution, Montgomery became one of the largest counties in the nation to support such an action that further enhances the County’s commitment to combat the causes of climate change.

Council President Roger Berliner was the lead sponsor of the resolution entitled “Environmental, Social and Governance Investment Policy Guidelines and Fossil Fuel Company Investments of the Employees’ Retirement System and the Consolidated Retiree Health Benefits Trust.” Council Vice President Hans Riemer and Councilmember Tom Hucker were co-sponsors. The resolution was approved by a vote of 8-1. More information about the resolution is available at http://tinyurl.com/m5fbtdx .

“The resolution the Council approved regarding fossil fuel investment policy makes it clear that investing in companies with the largest fossil fuel reserves damages our ability to fight climate change and conflicts with our County’s well-demonstrated priority of promoting sustainability and environmental protection,” said Council President Berliner.

The resolution asks the Board of Investment Trustees of the County’s Employees’ Retirement System, with assets of about $3.8 billion, and the board of the County’s Consolidated Retiree Health Benefits Trust, with assets of about $700 million, to minimize their investments in the companies with the largest untapped fossil fuel reserves. It asks them to do so consistent with their fiduciary duties.

Council President Berliner’s complete statement following approval of the resolution:

I am proud to say that Montgomery County has become one of the largest counties in the United States on record in support of divesting from fossil fuel stocks and bonds in its pension funds. The resolution the Council approved regarding fossil fuel investment policy makes it clear that investing in companies with the largest fossil fuel reserves damages our ability to fight climate change and conflicts with our County’s well-demonstrated priority of promoting sustainability and environmental protection.

Climate change is an existential threat to our planet—the effects of which we are already beginning to see. We should be moving away from our reliance on carbon-heavy coal, oil and gas and toward renewable energy sources. If our fund managers can find alternative investments that maintain or improve upon our retirees’ returns, we should not be profiting from investments in fossil fuel companies. Doing so contradicts the work we have already done to become a model sustainable community—including becoming the first County in the country to create a Green Bank, adopting energy benchmarking, going carbon-neutral and revamping our vehicle fleet with electric and hybrid vehicles.

The resolution asks the Board of our County’s Employees’ Retirement System, with assets of about $3.8 billion, and the Board of our County’s Consolidated Retiree Health Benefits Trust, with assets of about $700 million, to minimize their investments in the companies with the largest untapped fossil fuel reserves. It asks them to do so consistent with their fiduciary duties. Pensioners must not be harmed in pursuit of this goal. Nor should they be. We can have great returns and an environmentally-conscious investment policy. The two are not in conflict.

The Council of the District of Columbia passed a similar resolution in 2014. Two years later, the District of Columbia Retirement Board had fully divested from directly held stocks of the 200 companies with the largest fossil fuel reserves consistent with their fiduciary duty.

I want to thank my Council colleagues who supported this measure and resolution co-sponsors Council Vice President Hans Riemer and Councilmember Tom Hucker. We look forward to seeing the annual reports that the resolution requires showing progress.


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Release ID: 17-170
Media Contact: Neil Greenberger 240-777-7939