ELLSWORTH — City officials were urged Monday night to take an ethical and financial stand and get rid of any investments the city might have in fossil fuel companies.
It’s a request that’s unlikely to advance very far, however, as it turns out the city has little to no gas in that particular financial tank.
Ellsworth resident Mark Whiting, a volunteer with the organization 350 Maine, addressed the council during the citizen comment period of the meeting.
The group takes its name from the national movement 350.org, which seeks to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to less than 350 parts per million (ppm).
The current level is around 400 ppm. The group said the level must be lowered “to preserve a livable planet.”
Whiting said much of the fossil fuel that hasn’t been used yet will have to stay in the ground in order to meet that goal. That means, he said, that fossil fuel companies will be left with trillions of dollars in stranded assets. As a result, he said gas, oil and other fossil fuel companies aren’t good financial investments.
Whiting said he proposed the city “find out what we have invested” in such companies and then “consider getting rid of it and investing in something that has more of a future.”
He cited examples in Maine of other communities and institutions that have taken such steps. That list includes Unity College, College of the Atlantic, the city of Waterville and the Maine Council of Churches.
Whiting noted that Maine municipalities “are prevented from investing taxpayer funds in the stock market” due to state law, which City Manager Michelle Beal confirmed.
“All of our city investments with taxpayer dollars are in treasury bonds,” she said. “We can’t take the chance of losing taxpayer money in the stock market.”
Whiting said it is possible that there might be trust or reserve funds that were created from the donation of private funds that might be invested in the stock market (and therefore possibly connected with fossil fuels).
Beal said it is possible that cemetery trust funds may be in that kind of scenario, but said they would likely have “very, very little” money in stocks.