Energy & Environment

Green Mountain Power divests pension funds from fossil fuels

A map on the wall in Green Mountain Power’s control room can spot power outages at intersections in their service territory. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Green Mountain Power has announced the divestment of its pension fund from fossil fuel companies. The company last week finalized the reinvestment of about $13.5 million of its $180 million pension fund — a 99.2% divestment.

President Mary Powell made the announcement at a Climate Week event Thursday in New York City alongside environmentalist and author Bill McKibben. 

“Divestment began with colleges and churches — it’s truly a watershed moment when a utility firmly turns its financial back on the fossil fuel era,” McKibben said.

GMP said its retirement board officially made the decision at a quarterly meeting on Sept. 5. The company plans to divest the final .8% by the end of 2020, a pace the company said it would follow “to protect retirees.”

Powell said as a B Corps business (and the first utility globally to get that certification), GMP is committed to using energy as “a force for good,” noting that divesting is “the right thing to do.” B Corps follow social and environmental standards and seeks to “balance profit and purpose.”

“This is an important step we can take to make sure the dollars invested for our union and non-union employees are not only invested wisely but in a way that is doing good for the planet and addresses the climate crisis,” Powell said in a statement.

Powell also announced Monday her plans to step down as president of the company at the end of the year. She has spent 12 years in the role.

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GMP’s retirement board is made up of GMP executives and employees, including two IBEW union members, representing the company’s more than 280 unionized workers. The company’s pension fund was closed to new employees in 2008.

“GMP’s pension is a critical benefit for many of our union members, and we know GMP is working to ensure it continues to deliver on what employees have been promised, as the company moves to cleaner investments,” Tim Watkins, business manager for IBEW Local 300, said in a statement.

GMP says the divestment is a way of building off of its commitment made earlier this year to provide Vermonters with 100% carbon-free power by 2025, and 100% renewable power by 2030. 

McKibben and other environmental activists have been lobbying the state to divest its pension fund — by far Vermont’s largest — from fossil fuels for years. State Treasurer Beth Pearce maintains that the move would be too risky.

She noted that a work group was formed in 2017 to review the state’s portfolio and the issue of divestment. Representatives from environmental organizations recommended an independent pension consultant to conduct the study.

“The study concluded that divestment could increase costs and add risk to the portfolio, but did outline various alternative steps that could be taken,” Pearce said in a statement.

She said the committee incorporated the recommendations in a five-point plan that will be implemented after they release a comprehensive report on all of their “environmental, social and governance” efforts in October.

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Ellie French

About Ellie

Ellie French is a general assignment reporter and news assistant for VTDigger. She is a recent graduate of Boston University, where she interned for the Boston Business Journal and served as the editor-in-chief of The Daily Free Press, BU’s student newspaper. She is originally from Duluth, Minnesota.

Email: [email protected]

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