Public Comments for: HB645 - Virginia Retirement System and local retirement systems; fossil fuel divestment, report.
Last Name: Wood Locality: Richmond

I write to express my support of HB 645. The recently published 6th Report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is absolutely clear that we must do all we can to move away from the burning of fossil fuels and toward the development and utilization of renewable energy sources to ensure a livable future. Divesting the Virginia Retirement system from fossil fuels constitutes a necessary step to accomplish this goal. I am a professor in the Religious Studies program at Virginia Commonwealth University. I teach courses on world religions, with a focus on their views about our obligations to care for the earth and for each other. They emphasize sound stewardship of nature just as VRS emphasizes sound stewardship of finances. In fact sound stewardship of nature is requisite for sound stewardship of finances. In addition to the loss of life, the financial costs of global warming linked disasters, including record-setting fires, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes, now runs in the hundreds of billions of dollars. See here Good stewardship of the earth and finances necessitates investing in development that repairs, protects, and preserves the health of the ecosystems on which our lives depend. For the health and wellbeing of this and future generations, please support HB 645.

Last Name: O'Keefe Organization: Extinction Rebellion Richmond Locality: Richmond

I'm a teacher, parent, homeowner and lifelong Virginian and I strongly support HB 645. My wife and I have personally transferred all of our checking and credit accounts from the fossil fuel funder Chase Bank to the local Virginia Credit Union, and moved all of our retirement savings into ESG accounts that prioritize renewable energy. In 2021, the International Energy Agency said " immediate action is needed to reshape the world’s energy sector in order to meet ambitious climate goals by 2050, including ending investments in new coal mines, oil and gas wells." Our remaining carbon budget could be fully expended just by burning fossil fuels already extracted and held in reserve, yet oil and gas companies continue exploring and extracting. This is a collective suicide, comparable to the stockpiling of nuclear weapons. It is an ethical imperative to divest.

Last Name: Muth Organization: Th!rd Act Virginia Locality: Richmond

I write on behalf of Th!rd Act Virginia, a State-wide group senior citizens who are strongly aligned with the divestment movement across the country, as well as a VRS retiree. We are very grateful to Delegate Kaye Kory for introducing HB645 which requires the Virginia Retirement System and local retirement systems to divest from fossil fuel companies by January 1, 2027. As everyone who respects science knows, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has set unambiguous targets for reducing climate emissions by 2030 and 2050. With these in mind, as well as the well being of our planet and out grandchildren and their grandchildren, I urge the GA to approve this bill and assure that the VRS divests from fossil fuel industries. Without actions precisely this one, we will not be able to achieve the IPCC goals and avoid the worst affects of climate warming. In addition, fossil fuels are an increasingly poor financial risk and will continue to increase risk in the years ahead. On behalf of my group of highly active voters and our loved ones who are members of younger generations , I urge you to pass this bill.

Last Name: Williams Organization: Sierra Club, Falls of the James Group Locality: Richmond

I am submitting comments today in support of Delegate Kaye Kory’s HB645 which requires the Virginia Retirement System and local retirement systems to divest from fossil fuel companies by January 1, 2027. With over $46 trillion in assets worldwide, pension funds are among the largest institutional investors in fossil fuels. These investments have dangerously underperformed the rest of the market, making public pensions’ fossil fuel investments risky for everyday people who are relying on these funds for their retirement. Divesting from fossil fuels will allow pensions to avoid major losses and gain the opportunity to reinvest in less risky sectors including climate solutions, local business and clean energy companies. Pension funds’ financial influence creates barriers to solutions to mitigate climate change, and there’s hard evidence that divestment, with reinvestment to assets aligned with environmentally-friendly business practices and the conservation of natural resources is a winning financial strategy. While profit is not the only motive, there is a decade of research evidencing that green investing beats the returns of more traditional assets. Thank you for your consideration of my remarks. I hope I can count on your support of this urgently needed legislation.

Last Name: Logan Locality: Richmond

I am writing to ask you to please support HB 645. As a faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University, I have the privilege of witnessing every day the passion, curiosity, empathy, and, of course, fear with which students confront our climate crises. I see my job as supporting these young people in their ambitions to protect their communities and to envision a healthier future for this planet. VRS's continued investment in fossil fuels means that I am daily failing students both ethically and professionally. I cannot tolerate that failure, and my students deserve more, both from their university and commonwealth. I encourage those voting today to recognize the important impact divestment will have; it sends an important message that Virginia refuses to invest in companies and policies that harm Virginians. Please support this important legislation. Thank you for your time, Katie Logan, Richmond, VA

Last Name: Mellos Locality: The Plains, Fauquier

My family and I strongly support HB 630 and SB 747, which would allow speed cameras on Rte 17 between Marshall and Warrenton. This stretch of road is treacherous and deadly. We live at the intersection of Rte 17 and Old Tavern Rd (near Great Meadow). We must merge from our gravel road onto Rte 17 or cross Rte 17 every time we leave the house. The large volume of high speed traffic makes this a potentially deadly maneuver every day. My father was killed when he attempted to cross Rte 17 to have dinner with us. His car was T-boned, and flipped several times. He was airlifted by medivac helicopter to Fairfax Hospital, where he passed away after a week suffering in trauma intensive care. Our family is still devastated. It is difficult to appreciate how treacherous this stretch of road is unless you have daily experienced trying to merge with double-trailer tractor trailers and other vehicles that often travel in excess of 70 mph, and appear from just around the bend when you have little time to get up to speed. When we hear a helicopter in the distance, we tense up, and watch to see if it is a medivac chopper landing on Rte 17 to evacuate yet more accident victims. Several times, it has been. Several more times we have heard crashes from our house a mile away, and my sons ran over to make sure it was not their sister coming home from school. I have counted at least 5 deaths at that single intersection since about 2015. That is more than all the homicides in Fauquier County. Rte 17 is different than most roads. It is treacherous because it has two conflicting characters: it is a local rural road with numerous driveways and small roads intersecting on both sides. Large horse trailers merge on and off, and school buses stop to pick up and drop off children. It’s second character is effectively a major interstate highway, functioning similarly to I-95. (It is a thoroughfare for truckers and others to quickly access the inland port). It could be made less treacherous by consistent and thorough enforcement of reasonable speed limits via speed cameras. Rte 17 simply must be made safer. It is unconscionable to allow this level of death and injury to continue. I am generally opposed to speed cameras, having experienced seemingly unnecessary cameras in DC that, in my opinion, may have impeded rather than improved safe traffic flow. However, in this case, it is essential to reduce speed to improve safety on this deadly stretch of road, and speed cameras are the only consistently effective way to reduce speed and save lives on Rte 17. I respect and admire the difficult work that truckers do and appreciate their essential role in a healthy economy. I believe that these bills benefit truckers as well as the local residents that share Rte 17. Truckers may not be aware of the many driveways and roads that intersect Rte 17. I don’t think that even a very capable, experienced truck driver would necessarily expect a high volume of slower-moving local traffic on a road that effectively functions as an interstate. I think it’s an unusual and unexpected combination of uses, and therefore, speed cameras would help truckers to be safer, which is one of their main priorities. Please enact these bills so that we can reduce deaths and injuries on this treacherous stretch of roadway.

Last Name: Kreydatus Locality: Henrico

I am writing to support HB 645, a bill that would divest the Virginia Retirement system from fossil fuels. I’ve worked as a state employee for Virginia Commonwealth University since 2007; I’m a university professor who has taught at three Virginia public universities. It’s ironic that our retirement system was established to ensure that public workers like myself can enjoy a measure of financial stability and wellness after years of service to the state. The mission of the VRS refers to “sound financial stewardship,” a goal that we all appreciate as we work to prepare to reach a period in our life when we can, or sometimes must, step away from paid employment. However, as an employee who is anticipating probably another 3 decades in the workforce, I struggle to imagine financial stability and wellness for my own retirement, despite a life of full-time, hard work. Trusted world scientists who compiled the IPCC reports have clearly explained to us that we have less than a decade to end our dependence on fossil fuels; if we fail to do so, we will face massive crop failures, geo-political instability, extreme storms, rapid sea level rise, and a long list of other catastrophies. That’s not a retirement I want to invest in. I believe it is the responsibility of the Virginia General Assembly to ensure that the employees who serve our state in roles like mine have access to public benefits that match our values. I shouldn’t be forced to choose between my values and my retirement, and Virginia shouldn’t require our workforce to invest in companies that are so contrary to our public interests and our liveable future. Please support this disinvestment bill, thank you for your time.

Last Name: Sims Locality: Henrico

My name is Jessica Sims and I submit this comment as a private citizen, deeply concerned with the continued investment that our state-funded and related agencies retain in industries directly harmful to Virginia constituents. I ask you to please support HB 645. Through volunteering with organizations such as DivestRVA and InvestVA, I’ve had the pleasure of learning about the crucial step of divesting from companies and financial institutions which perpetuate and support extractive, harmful industries. This timely step helps move communities closer to an equitable, clean energy future as profit is no longer associated with the fossil fuel industry, which actively harms people, places, livelihoods and ecosystems. Within the fiscal impact statement divestment is characterized as a "last resort," but for VA-run fiduciary entities to best serve those they provide funds for, they should consider this an "only resort" and should please consider and calculate, the cost of not divesting. What negative health impacts tied to the oil, gas, coal and petroleum industries would be supported through continued financial partnership? Delegate Kory has put forth important legislation which recognizes the severity of the current climate crisis, and reflects the urgency of the timeline we need to move forward in a way which best serves communities. Please support and fund HB 645. Thank you, Jessica Sims, Henrico, VA

Last Name: Kushner Organization: Third Act Locality: Nelson County

My pension comes from the VRS so I have tried to educate myself about investments the VRS holds. I congratulate the VRS on its success at generating healthy returns. But fossil fuel investments have turned a corner and no longer generate the returns they did even a few years ago. Pipelines and oil & gas infrastructure are getting fierce resistance and getting canceled at ever-increasing rates as our climate emergency has become not just a concern, but a most pressing global crisis of our time. In our state alone, we’ve seen the Atlantic Coast Pipeline canceled in 2020, due to community resistance. The Mountain Valley Pipeline, now 2 years behind schedule and $3 billion over budget, was denied an air permit for its Lambert compressor station in November. This past Tuesday the MVP was dealt what may have been its death sentence by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals denied for the second time the MVP’s crossing of the Jefferson National Forest. MVP’s main investor, EQT (EquitransMid) saw its stock plunge more than 20% yesterday. This story is being repeated ever more frequently, and that’s a very good thing for our local communities, resources and planet. The divestment movement is catching fire, so to speak. Pension funds in MA, NY, ME, RI and PA have already divested or are working towards it. States, communities, colleges and universities are divesting. Pressure is mounting for banks and financial institutions to divest. Already, more than 40 trillion $ has been committed to divestment from FF globally. Renewables are the hot and necessary trend now, here and in developing markets. I caution the Board to scrutinize new investments for the greenwashing that’s become prevalent. Not every fund with the word ‘green’ or ‘bio’ in it is a good thing. The public is not going to back down on this issue, and will only increase demands as our small window of opportunity to prevent the most catastrophic consequences of inaction closes. The divestment movement is not going away.

End of Comments