Divest Oregon welcomes Oregon State Treasury data on fossil fuel holdings, urges further transparency

Portland, OR – The Oregon State Treasury released a comprehensive list of all holdings comprising Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) assets under management on December 9 following a public records request from Divest Oregon in August 2021. Releasing this information was a core ask of the Divest Oregon coalition, who encouraged the Treasury to disclose its fossil fuel holdings by November 2021 – the start of COP26 (the UN Climate Change Conference).

“We are thrilled that the Oregon State Treasury has taken this critical first step toward addressing Oregon’s contribution to the climate crisis and we hope that the Treasury will build on this spirit of transparency to help our state invest with accountability,” said Susan Palmiter, co-lead of the Divest Oregon coalition. “While this round of disclosures will help Oregonians review our state’s exposure to climate-wrecking and financially-risky fossil fuel holdings, it is critical that it is not a ‘one-and-done’ exercise. We encourage annual disclosures that allow for routine assessments of the climate risks of state investments. This is why we are urging lawmakers to move forward with the Treasury Transparency Bill in 2022.” 

This transparency bill (LC 226) – co-sponsored by State Representative Khanh Pham, State Representative Paul Holvey, and State Senator Jeff Golden – would ensure that the Treasury publicly releases its asset holdings annually, along with any climate risk investment assessments. Legislators have pledged to use this information to form a workgroup in the interim to understand the fossil-fuel impacted holdings of the Treasury. The bill will be introduced in the Oregon State Legislature during the short February 2022 legislative session in Salem.

“Accountability starts when we can follow the money. This transparency bill will build on Treasury’s disclosures in December 2021 and allow Oregonians to ensure that their long-term investments are protected from climate risks while better ensuring that we are investing in companies and funds that will power our communities and our state into the future,” said Rep. Pham. “It will also have additional benefits for members of the media, civil servants and concerned residents that are interested in where Oregon is investing our money and how we can align these investments with our state values.”

According to the recent disclosures from Treasury, Oregon has roughly $29 billion from PERS invested in private equity, funds which are broadly exposed to fossil fuels and whose management routinely face allegations of “low-road’ labor practices. In addition to PERS, Treasury also holds investments in various other funds (such as the Oregon Short Term Fund). The proposed Treasury Transparency Bill would also mandate disclosure of these holdings.