California pension funds to drop coal-mining companies

Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed legislation forcing California’s pension systems, the two largest public funds in the country, to divest from coal companies.

The measure, SB 185 by state Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), requires the funds to sell their holdings in companies that derive at least half of their revenue from mining coal used to generate electricity.

The deadline for divestment is July 1, 2017, and new investments will be prohibited.

SIGN UP for the free Essential Politics newsletter >>

The new law will affect $58 million held by the California Public Employees' Retirement System and $6.7 million in the California State Teachers Retirement System, a tiny fraction of their overall investments. The funds are responsible for providing benefits to more than 2.5 million current and retired employees.

De León pitched the measure as a way to emphasize more secure, environmentally friendly investments.

“Coal is a losing bet for California retirees and it’s also incredibly harmful to our health and the health of our environment," he said in a statement.

The University of California has already taken similar steps. Last month, it sold off its $200 million in investments in coal and oil sands companies.

Divestment was opposed by the Independent Petroleum Assn. of America, which argued it will hurt financially.

"Investments in fossil fuels are good for pension funds," said Matt Dempsey, a spokesman for the group. 

Follow @chrismegerian for more updates from Sacramento

For more political coverage, go to www.latimes.com/politics

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATED

4:28 p.m.: This post has been updated with comment from an industry group opposing the bill.

51°