It’s Wednesday, June 9, and Maine just became the first state to pass a law requiring divestment from fossil fuels.

Plenty of cities, counties, and states have begun divesting from fossil fuels in recent years, but Maine just became the first state in the nation to pass an actual law requiring divestment of public funds from oil, gas, and coal companies.

Legislative Document 99 passed the Maine state legislature on Tuesday. It directs the Maine Public Employee Retirement System to divest $1.3 billion from fossil fuel companies by January 1, 2026. It also requires the state treasury to divest by the same date. Both will have to provide annual reports to the legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee until the funds are fully divested.

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The bill’s passage wasn’t a given, even though Maine’s Democrats hold a state government trifecta — control of the state House, Senate, and governorship. Republican lawmakers vehemently opposed the bill. GOP state Representative Michael Lemelin claimed it would hurt the state’s trees by reducing the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. “If we keep lowering our CO2 levels, all the tree huggers in the room, you are gonna lose your trees,” he said on the House floor. The committee that considered the bill was split on whether to recommend its passage. It ultimately voted 7-5 to move it along to the full legislature, where it passed the House 80-57 and the Senate 19-13.  

Maine is joining a growing crowd. Worldwide, institutions worth nearly $15 trillion have divested from fossil fuels to date. 

Zoya Teirstein

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