California Teachers Retirement Money Shouldn’t Fund Line 3

PENSION POLICY–Environmental organizers from across the country are converging in northern Minnesota to support Indigenous Water Protectors, to stop construction of the Line 3 pipeline expansion.

Across the country, people are protesting, sending letters and calling to demand that President Biden stop construction of Line 3 just as he called for the Keystone XL pipeline to be closed in January. They are also demanding that banks, insurance companies and pension plans part ways with Enbridge, the owner of the pipeline. (Photo above: Protests march through downtown St. Paul, MN with a Stop Line 3 banner on January 29, 2021. (Photo: Tim Evans / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Joining this fight, Fossil Free California, Youth vs Apocalypse and Earth Guardians Bay Area, have called for the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), the 11th largest pension fund in the world, to be good side. of history and divest of Enbridge. For years, these organizations have called on pension funds to divest from fossil fuels in general because of environmental racism and the climate impact of these investments. Now they are particularly focused on their investments in Enbridge. Students as young as 12 with Youth vs Apocalypse and Earth Guardians painted large street murals calling for CalSTRS to separate from Line 3.

In 1991, Line 3 spilled 1.7 million gallons of crude oil into the frozen Prairie River, which empties into the Mississippi. It was the largest inland oil spill in history and the Mississippi River was only saved by ice covering the Prairie River, making containment much easier. However, the Line 3 expansion is about to cross the upper Mississippi River twice directly, putting it at direct risk of contamination. While the massive 1991 spill grabbed the headlines, Enbridge pipelines have had a record of one spill every 20 days since 2002. Staying invested in Enbridge puts CalSTRS on the wrong side of history. The Enbridge divestiture would help the movement stop the Line 3 extension.

CalSTRS has made several unsuccessful attempts to engage with Enbridge over the construction of their pipeline. In fact, the commitment has never prompted a fossil fuel company to stop mining or burning fossil fuels, and Enbridge is no exception. The futility of CalSTRS’s engagement strategy became evident in 2017 when CalSTRS voted in favor of a shareholder statement asking Enbridge to report on its “social and environmental risks, including risks related to human rights. Indigenous “. This shareholder proposal has lost nearly 70%. And yet, CalSTRS keeps the $ 100 million it invested in Enbridge.

By remaining invested in Enbridge, CalSTRS is:

  1. Tacit approval of the violation of treaties between the United States and Indigenous nations such as the Anishinaabe people. The “expansion” of Enbridge’s Line 3 follows a new route that breaks the treaties of 1837, 1854 and 1855 between the US government and the Anishinaabe people. The pipeline will pass through sacred areas of wild rice cultivation, threatening to destroy them with an inevitable leak of chemically diluted tar sands oil.
  2. Dismiss the health and safety impacts of inevitable oil spills on people living near the pipeline. Enbridge has a long history of oil spills large and small, averaging one every 20 days from 2002 to present. In fact, the current Line 3 pipeline has over 900 anomalies each of which is a potential low point for a spill.
  3. Fuel climate change by developing fossil fuel infrastructure. Enbridge alone transports 25% of North American crude oil and 20% of US natural gas. Despite the violation of the Paris Climate Agreement, Enbridge continues to build and expand its pipelines. In fact, the “replacement” Line 3 would more than double the capacity of the pipeline to 790,000 barrels of oil per day, which represents more annual CO2 emissions than all of Minnesota!

Even beyond Enbridge, divesting into fossil fuels is the obvious best choice. Divesting from fossil fuels would save the fund money. In fact, if they had divested 10 years ago, they would have earned $ 5.5 billion more in the last 10 years. Fossil fuels are a dying out industry.

So far, two CalSTRS board members, State Treasurer Fiona Ma and State Superintendent of Education Tony Thurmond, have spoken out in favor of divesting from fossil fuels. CalSTRS Board Chairman Harry Keiley, who represents teacher unions, and Vice-President Sharon Hendricks, who represents Community College faculty, have repeated the staff’s arguments over and over again: opting out of fossil fuels would “turn off the lights” and “shut down transportation in Los Angeles.” And they supported CIO Chris Ailman’s argument that it is better to engage with fossil fuel companies than to get out of business. divest. They have maintained this position despite resolutions representing over 100,000 of their members calling on them to divest. Recently, they refused to meet with young people and teachers of color who wish to discuss the environmental racism of divestment from fossil fuels and because more than 92% of people living near fossil fuel sites in California are people from color.

Now the questions are: Will CalSTSRS divest itself of Enbridge and become part of the movement to stop the Line 3 expansion? Will they join the New York State pension system, the University of California, the Government of Norway and more than $ 15 trillion in global assets under management by disengaging from fossil fuels? Or will they continue to co-sign the destruction of our future and ignore the needs of the young people that CalSTRS beneficiaries work so hard every day to educate.

Cynthia kaufman is the author of “The sea rises and so do we, “Challenging Power: Democracy and Responsibility in a Fractured World“(2020),”Beyond capitalism: history, vision, hope“(2012), and”Ideas for action: theory relevant to radical change“(2016). She is the director of the Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action at De Anza College. She blogs at cynthiakaufman.wordpress.com.

Myriam Eide is the Communications and Volunteer Coordinator at Fossil Free California. She also organizes campaigns with the Sunrise movement to stop Line 3 and to build solid alliances between union and climate activists in the fight for a just transition. Am here: @ miriameide1

First published on CommonDreams.org.

-cw