St. Petersburg City Council members are considering divesting the city from fossil fuels. During a meeting Thursday, the eight-member board voted unanimously to refer to the Budget, Finance and Taxation Committee a divestment measure recommended by Mayor Rick Kriseman.
The measure would affect city pensions where investments are currently placed strategically to incur the most financial benefit. City Council approval of the issue would remove fossil fuel industries from those investments.
Kriseman pushed the issue as a way to encourage sustainability, specifically renewable energy. A few residents and community partners spoke during public comment in support of the measure.
“Years ago many of us thought that climate change would happen someday, but it turns out that someday is now,” said Mackenzie Avallone of the group Environment Florida. “That’s why our city needs to act swiftly and boldly.”
She explained the first step to curbing carbon emissions that lead to global warming is to making sure the city doesn’t remain a part of the problem implying that by continuing to place key investments in fossil fuels, the city is doing just that.
Though the vote to further the conversation was unanimous, new City Councilman Ed Montanari expressed concerns.
“I don’t think that it would be good policy for a city council to start directing investment policy,” Montanari said. “It gets to a level of micromanagement that we shouldn’t be doing.”
And whether or not the city even can do that isn’t clear. City Councilman Jim Kennedy asked whether the council had the jurisdiction to direct pension boards on investments. The answer from the city’s legal staff was simple: They just aren’t sure yet.
“We’re looking into that,” said city attorney Jackie Kovilaritch. “I can’t give you an answer on it.”
Again expressing reservations, Montanari defended the fossil fuel industry.
“They’re one of the biggest investors when it comes to renewable energy,” he said.