AMAC Exclusive – By Sam Adolphsen
It was below zero in Maine last week. That is not exactly unusual for January in one of the northernmost states in America. But this year the cold isn’t just freezing the lakes, it is also squeezing Mainer’s checkbooks more than usual, thanks to the high cost of heating fuel brought on by the Biden administration’s energy policies.
Energy affordability is a big deal in a state that relies more heavily on heating oil than any other state in the country. In a geographically large, rural, blue-collar state where you are just as likely to see a pulp truck as a Prius, heating oil, diesel fuel, and gasoline make the state economy go.
That is why it is so perplexing that Maine democrats have followed California, Oregon, and New York leftist politics to use the state pocketbook to protest heating oil and gasoline companies. Maine is now the first in the nation to pass a law banning investments in those companies.
Maine Democrats, including democratic Governor Janet Mills, pushed through the law last year titled “An act to require the state to divest itself of assets invested in the fossil fuel industry.” The bill title explains it well. The law requires the state to end all its current investments, and no longer invest, in “fossil fuels” in the state’s public pension program. The state must divest from “any fossil fuel company or any subsidiary, affiliate or parent of any fossil fuel company” by January 1, 2026.
Maine’s public pension program, which invests retirements funds for around 100,000 current and retired Maine state workers and teachers, in a state of just over a million people, holds about 8% of the $18 billion pension portfolio in the traditional energy sector.
But it won’t anymore, thanks to Maine democrats and Janet Mills’s new anti-oil, progressive investment plan.
So-called “ESG” investing, which stands for “environmental, social, governance” investing, is the white-collar version of protesting in the streets against “evil corporations.” But instead of looting a Target, these progressive protesters look at American energy companies as one of their primary targets for destruction.
The Maine bill specifically targets the “200 publicly traded companies with the largest fossil fuel reserves” and companies who use “coal-fired power plants” or have “infrastructure used exclusively for fossil fuels.”
ESG investing upends the traditional fiduciary responsibility of money managers, which is earning their member’s solid returns, and instead requires them to become woke police. The focus is to only allow investments in industries and companies deemed worthy by far-left progressives and climate shills like Al Gore who recently started his own ESG investment group.
While Maine may be the first state with a law on the books, this progressive panacea has quickly become in vogue across the country. The Trump administration slowed the ESG tidal wave with a rule that required retirement plans to focus on financial returns over climate religion, but that rule has since been reversed by the Biden administration.
That’s not surprising given that much of the Biden administration is populated with former high-level BlackRock employees, who hold millions in BlackRock equities. BlackRock and CEO Larry Fink, the investing group buying up single-family homes around the country, is also leading the efforts to force “environmental investing” down the throats of 401k holders around the country, often under the guise of fighting the “global threat of climate change.”
The Maine public pension program loves BlackRock. Nearly half of the state’s pension portfolio is with the company. They also invest Mainer’s pensions with Carlyle, a group that has partnered with California’s public pension group, and others like BlackRock and the Canadian pension system, to bully companies into giving up data on their “greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, and board diversity.” This ESG effort will presumably be used to kick out companies that are deemed “unclean” by ESG standards.
The retirement-fund-rioting extends to the boardroom as well. The Maine retirement system brags in its 2021 “ESG report” that they were part of the hostile takeover of the ExxonMobil board of directors, by partnering with “Engine 1” – an activist ESG investing group.
The Maine pension ESG report also boasts of its increasing investments in “renewables” like wind power. The report notes that “the largest growth in private MainePERS renewable energy investments since 2012 has been in wind energy.” Interestingly, Maine’s U.S. Senator Angus King has been in office since 2012, when he had to divest from his wind project after a congressional investigation.
The Biden administration has also shut down part of the Maine lobster industry, apparently in pursuit of their wind power goals.
Workers and retirees in Maine and around the country, from state employees to schoolteachers, deserve their investment managers to focus on making the choices that deliver the most returns and stability for them. That is clearly not what ESG investing does. Instead, it promotes a global leftist agenda at any cost.
It’s banning investments in oil in Maine right now, but it may be banning companies who won’t support critical race theory next. This sets the precedent that states can force adherence to leftist politics using tax dollars and public pensions. Mainers will have to hope that woke investing won’t make their pension system broke again, like it was before former treasurer and current candidate for Congress Bruce Poliquin, and then republican Governor Paul LePage fixed Maine’s pension system.
Maine public pensioners, thanks to Janet Mills and Maine Democrats, are in the wind with financial returns based on the political left’s social agenda. That could leave them out in the cold, just like they would be without heating oil.
Is your state next?
Sam Adolphsen is the former chief operating officer at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. He currently serves as the policy director at the Foundation for Government Accountability and lives in Maine.
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