Amherst Town Meeting to consider fossil fuel divestment
AMHERST — Fall Town Meeting is expected to consider a resolution advocating divestment of the town’s holdings in oil and gas companies.
The lone general petition article that will come before the sessions of the legislative body, which begin Nov. 4, calls on both the Hampshire County Retirement Board and the town treasurer to adopt policies to review investment portfolios with direct and indirect investments in fossil fuel companies, preclude any future investment and release yearly updates on progress toward meeting this objective.
Alice Swift, a Town Meeting member who will present the petition, said the resolution is part of Fossil Fuel Divest/Pioneer Valley, which raises awareness that continued use of fossil fuels is contributing to global warming.
“It’s really to set a precedent or policy for the future that we don’t want to start investing,” Swift said.
The petition reads, in part: “The town of Amherst has a moral duty to protect the lives and livelihoods of its inhabitants from the threat of global warming and believes that its investments should support a future where citizens can lead healthy lives without the catastrophic impacts of a warming environment.”
The petition argues that global warming is being caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and that to ensure international targets for carbon dioxide levels are met and to avoid dangerous levels for human habitation, two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves should remain underground.
Fossil fuel companies are defined as any of the 200 largest coal, oil and gas extractors that would extract and use the fuel reserves. Swift said she would like to see federal subsidies to these companies end and be reinvested in renewable energy.
“By raising awareness and helping with this movement we figure they’ll lose some of their power,” Swift said.
The impact on Amherst will be negligible, she said.
“Amherst does not currently invest in fossil fuels, so it would not have an effect on the finances of the town,” Swift said.
The language in the resolution is modeled after one adopted by Northampton’s City Council in September. If approved by Town Meeting, Amherst would join Northampton, Seattle and San Francisco, as well as religious organizations and colleges and universities, in making a commitment to divest portfolios of such companies.
Town Manager John Musante said he and Finance Director Sandy Pooler were both consulted by Swift prior to submission of the petition.
The Amherst resolution also supports statewide legislation that would require divestment from oil companies for the Pension Reserves Investment Trust.
If the measure is adopted by Town Meeting, town officials would send letters to state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, Gov. Deval Patrick and state Treasurer Steven Grossman urging their support for the legislation.