Providence Divestment from Fossil Fuels Moves Slowly

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — The City Council voted nearly three years ago to divest all city assets from fossil fuels. But the process has been slow and appears to be happening only after some prodding.

Back on June 20, 2013, Providence became one of the first cities in the nation to pull its publicly traded investments from the 200 largest fossil-fuel companies. This divestment was expected to take five years. But it wasn’t until July of last year that the Board of Investment Commissioners began selling assets from the 15 largest and most polluting oil companies. Those investments amounted to about $1.4 million.

Last week, City Council member Seth Yurdin led a unanimous resolution to prompt the board to continue divesting.

“It’s good to see that the Board of Investment Commissioners has voted to support divestment from the 15 worst coal companies, but now it’s time to divest the rest,” Yurdin wrote in prepared statement.

The Board of Investment Commissioners are Mayor Jorge Elorza, city treasurer Jim Lombardi, director of finance Lawrence Mancini, and John Igliozzi, chair of the city Finance Committee. Ted Mocarski, Normand Benoit and Doris Blanchard also serve and were appointed by Elorza.

Last May, the Rhode Island School of Design board of trustees voted unanimously to divest its endowment from fossil-fuel companies. Brown University and the University of Rhode Island rejected student campaigns to divest.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of South County also divested its assets from fossil fuels.

The advocacy group Fossil Free RI has ongoing divestment efforts at Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island.