After many months of COVID, amid a recession, and the eruption of nationwide protests over Minneapolis Police’s slaying of George Floyd, the Minnesota State Board of Investments passed a hard-fought resolution to divest the state’s public pension funds from companies that make more than 25 percent of their revenue from thermal coal mining.
The resolution, passed Friday, instructs chief investment officer Mansco Perry and his staff to identify companies for the chopping block before the board’s August 26 meeting. Those stocks must be sold off “in a prudent and expeditious manner, but no later than December 31, 2020,” the resolution says.
Retiree and youth activists alike have been pushing for divestment from fossil fuels for years. As of March, Minnesota’s public employee pension funds had $4 billion invested in fossil fuel holdings.
As rationale for cutting coal, the SBI said coal companies face “material declining market values and risks of stranded assets due to demand for more cost effective and efficient forms of energy production.” A number of other large public pension plans across the nation have recently removed coal companies from their investment portfolios for the same reason.
The SBI consists of Gov. Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Sec. of State Steve Simon, and State Auditor Julie Blaha.
Blaha says her role is to ensure the SBI’s efforts to shield the state’s investments against climate risks don’t get lost in the shuffle. “This is simply the right choice in these times. But like a lot of right choices, it has benefits beyond just the finances. It’s kind of one of those win-win situations,” Blaha says, crediting Ellison with putting the SBI’s instruction in the form of a resolution so the public can assess its decision.