Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Adding More Coal to the Fire

Santa Monica's coaling pier in 1893
We noted in a post yesterday that California state senate president Kevin de León made a proposal to divest from coal in CalPERS.  A later report on what he said indicates he also included CalSTRS in his proposal.  UC's pension and endowment would not be immediately affected, but the UC Regents' rejection of fossil fuel divestment - including a coal-only version - might be harder to sustain if CalPERS and CalSTRS divested from coal.  However, it appears that organized labor - a major constituency of legislative Democrats - might not be keen on the coal divestment idea.  While, as indicated in the prior post, California has no coal mining industry (but does have a considerable oil production industry which de León omits), California unions are sensitive to concerns from coal unions in other parts of the country:

It was unclear how far-reaching the proposal might be, or what firms other than coal-mining companies, if any, might be affected. The Los Angeles Democrat [de León] said he is “going through all of those details right now” and that “once we get down deeper in the weeds we can tell you how far it goes.” He said his proposal will not extend to petroleum and gas. Coal is a relatively small source of power in California, generating less than 8 percent of electricity system power statewide in 2013, according to the California Energy Commission... In a lobby of the building where de León spoke, Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, was noncommittal about the proposal. “That’s a challenging question because we don’t represent any coal miners in California,” he said, adding that “coal miners around the country are really concerned about (divestment).”

Full article at

In short, the labor angle may color the debate over the proposal.  The color could even be blue:

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