Fossil Fuel Divestment Featured on Somerville Neighborhood News

SOMERVILLE, MA, April 24, 2014 – Across the country and across the planet, a movement urging institutional investors to sell their shares in oil and coal industry companies is taking shape.

Earlier this month, 93 Harvard professors asked the university – which controls the largest university endowment in the country – to divest from all fossil fuel companies, saying: “We know that fossil fuel use must decrease. To achieve this goal, not only must research and education be pursued with vigor, pressure must also be exerted. If there is no pressure, then grievous harm due to climate change will accelerate and entrench itself for a span of time that will make the history of Harvard look short.”

That same day, writing in The Guardian newspaper, South African Bishop Desmond Tutu called for “an apartheid-style boycott to save the planet.”

Closer to home, the mayor and a group called Fossil Free Somerville” are making the same appeal.

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Prepared to set a precedent?

BOA considers next move on fossil-fuel divestment petition

By David R. Smith

“There isn’t a precedent to go by on what happens if a board of aldermen, selectmen or city council catches the attention of the state Ethics Commission in voting for its retirement board to divest of any investments connected to the fossil-fuel industry, so members of Somerville’s BOA will have to decide whether they want to be that precedent and accept any consequences that may come.

A group of 129 residents, many connected to the group Fossil Free Somerville, had submitted a petition asking the city to divest from any such holdings to the best of its ability and to ensure that city pensions going forward are not supported from investments connected to that particular industry.

The BOA held a public hearing on the petition March 13. Before the hearing could delve into the issue, though, City Solicitor Frank Wright cautioned the board about even voicing an opinion on the matter out of a concern that it could be perceived as a conflict of interest.”

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