COLORADO: Impacted Coloradans are sending a clear message to Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) and Canada Pension Plan (CPP), highlighting harmful fossil fuel investments that are directly and adversely impacting local communities’ health and safety. This week, impacted community members released two videos with messages for both PERA and CPP. 

Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is coming under scrutiny internationally after a new in-depth legal analysis was released last month by the Canada Climate Law Initiative, revealing how CPP owns 95% of Crestone Peak Resources, a Denver-based hydraulic fracturing (fracking) company. Crestone has come under scrutiny for oil and gas development less than half a mile away from schools, homes, and playgrounds, contributing to poor air quality, increased respiratory illnesses, and other public health issues in Colorado. Crestone drilling projects have generated thousands of complaints to Colorado’s oil and gas regulators about poor air quality, toxic fumes, poisonous gas leaks, explosions, health problems and illnesses. Coloradans have responded with this video message to Canadians.

Colorado’s PERA has similarly come under scrutiny for its fossil fuel investments by the Fossil Free PERA coalition, which has called out PERA’s problematic investments in Suncor and Extraction Oil and Gas, both under scrutiny for harming local communities through dangerous pollution violations, particularly near lower income communities and communities of color. A new video was released from impacted Coloradans to PERA members citing concerns about the role of PERA investments in harmful fossil fuel investments. 

“In Commerce City, the Suncor Oil Refinery is facing a $9 million settlement for violating air quality regulations, by filling the air with dangerous pollutants,” says PERA member and teacher Renee Millard-Chacon. “These air quality violations have caused a variety of health problems for nearby residents, including asthma, cancer, and heart and lung complications. The areas most affected by Suncor’s pollution are low-income communities and communities of color. We do not want our public money invested in these companies, which are adversely impacting our public health and safety.”

In addition to harming communities, evidence is increasingly showing that fossil fuels are a bad investment. In 2020 alone, 57 oil & gas companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy,  totaling over $55 billion in debt. Colorado ranks the 5th highest state in the US for the number of bankruptcy filings by the oil and gas industry since 2015. In fact, a 2019 study shows that PERA lost $1.77B by not divesting from fossil fuels 10 years ago. 

“Canadians would be shocked to learn what our national pension savings are being used for in Colorado,” says Adam Scott, Director of Toronto-based Shift Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health. “It’s alarming that a fracking company owned and managed by the Canada Pension Plan is putting Colorado’s communities, health and environment at risk and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence foreign elections. And all in the service of a high-carbon, high-risk sunset industry that’s fueling the climate crisis and completely inconsistent with Canada’s own climate commitments.”  

“As a beneficiary of Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and a resident of Longmont, Colorado, I am dismayed to know that the polluted air that I and my family breathes every day is in part a direct result of the emissions from the local operations of Crestone Peak Resources, a major CPP investment,” says Steve Seely, Canadian and Canada Pension Plan member currently living in Longmont, Colorado. It is my fervent wish that my and all Canadians’ pension not be reliant on “dirty money” that diminishes the quality of life for others and myself, particularly here in Colorado.” 

“Just like the Canada Pension Plan, Colorado’s PERA is investing public funds in ways that threaten the health and safety of our state,” says Giselle Herzfeld of 350 Colorado. “Fossil fuel investments are directly threatening the health, safety, and wellbeing of Colorado residents and families. Across our state, communities are experiencing dangerous consequences from this expansion of oil and gas drilling, and the question should be, do we want our public money and pension funds supporting this?” 

Over 1,110 institutions have now committed to policies black-listing some combination of coal, oil and gas investments due to mounting concern over climate and litigation risk and adverse public health impacts associated with fossil fuel investments. These include sovereign wealth funds, banks, global asset managers and insurance companies, cities, pension funds, health care organizations, universities, faith groups, foundations, and the country of Ireland. 

To view the videos released this week: Click here for the video to Canadians. Click here for the video to PERA members in Colorado. 


Quote Deck: 

“Climate-related financial risk should be front and center for PERA. Climate change is not a distant issue – we are already feeling the effects of global warming here in our state. Colorado is experiencing one of its driest years on record, a quarter of the state is in extreme drought, and we have wildfires that have collectively burned over 175,000 acres of our land. It is time for PERA to look climate change in the face and make decisions accordingly. And if climate change isn’t imminent enough, then look to impacted residents adversely impacted by PERA’s investments such as those right here in Commerce City and Greeley.” – Deborah McNamara, Campaign Director, 350 Colorado 

“As a beneficiary of Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and a resident of Longmont, Colorado, I am dismayed to know that the polluted air that I and my family breathes every day is in part a direct result of the emissions from the local operations of Crestone Peak Resources, a major CPP investment. It is indeed ironic that the income that sustains me late in life is produced in part by an investment that reduces the quality of that life (for example, not being able to hike the beautiful Colorado trails on some days because the Air Quality Index is so poor), and possibly will even shorten it. 

It is also distressing to know that the income I depend on is undermined by CPP’s investment in an industry that has such a poor outlook for the future. As climate change accelerates and investors increasingly shift their money to sustainable industries that have a future, oil and gas will increasingly become a poor investment with ever diminishing returns, heading toward virtual worthlessness.

I strongly desire to see CPP withdraw Canadians’ money out of oil and gas in general, and Crestone Peak in particular, in order to invest in industries that have a future, as well as are supportive of community health and well-being. It is my fervent wish that my and all Canadians’ pension not be reliant on “dirty money” that diminishes the quality of life for others and myself, particularly here in Colorado.” – Steve Seely, Canadian and Canada Pension Plan member currently living in Longmont, Colorado

“The economic risk of climate change is real and unlimited. A foundation of any investment is do not take on more risk than you are able to handle, and the State of Colorado is not able to handle unlimited risk. The main reason fossil fuels are even so profitable today is reliant on $5+ Trillion in government subsidies. This movement is greater than just divesting from fossil fuels. Do not the Black Lives Matter movement and beyond show that people are becoming discontent with many current government practices. Aren’t some previously accepted systems already changing? PERA needs to be on the forefront of this and get with its people, not the lobbyist. If the goal of the board of PERA is to keep PERA alive for future generations, every effort should be made to have a future. This is a clear action that helps the future generations.”Laura Isanuk, Financial Advisor, AIF & CFS, First Affirmative Financial Network

“As the union representing Colorado state employees, we are always concerned with issues that threaten our retirement security. We remain hopeful that with our rapidly changing socio economic landscape,  PERA will continue to remain vigilant and strive to improve the diversity of its investment portfolio. We live in a time of extreme global market volatility, not only for PERA but all investors. Through the implementation of PERA’s new governance and disclosure policy, coupled with stakeholder engagement, Colorado WINS remains confident PERA is on the right path to once again provide a well funded retirement for our state employees.” – Dragan Mejic, Colorado WINS Executive Board, Colorado PERA member

“As long as PERA’s money remains invested in the fossil fuel industry, that investment supports an industry that has willfully denied its role in climate change, accelerating today’s climate crisis in favor of profits. For the sake of drowned Pacific islands, migrants fleeing drought, and future generations’ lives, PERA must divest from fossil fuels.” – Devon Reynolds, Colorado PERA member, University of Colorado Graduate Student Employee  

“We as educators need to remember we have the moral responsibility to steward future generations to walk in beauty in all they do, by standing as a barrier to extractive industries like Suncor, and divesting from their insidious practices of poisonous plumes. We need to ensure we can live as transformative educators and good ancestors now for all future generations social and climate justice.” – Renee Millard-Chacon, Colorado PERA member, Educator – Adams D27-J Charter School, Youth Program Coordinator VISTA, Spirit of the Sun, Inc. 

“PERA owes the same fiduciary duty to members retired today and members retiring 30 years from now. What this new information makes clear is that everyone’s interests are aligned when it comes to fossil fuel investments. It’s time to move our money to safer investments, both for better returns today and a viable future for PERA members of my generation and beyond.” – Bobbie Mooney, Fossil Free PERA Spokesperson & Colorado PERA member

“The economic outlook for fossil fuels has been weak for years now. As a fellow Coloradan, I hope PERA pays better attention moving forward, and invests with these risks in mind. People’s retirements are on the line.” – Andrew Rodriguez, CEO + CIO, Change Finance, PBC

“We have known for many years that holdings of fossil fuel companies are morally and ethically unsuitable for most investors. We now see that those investments are also detrimental to the risk-adjusted returns of a diversified portfolio like PERA. Combine these factors, and the investment case for fossil fuels collapses.  The only question is who will be the last one to come to this realization and what price they will pay for it.” – Daniel Carreno, Change Finance, PBC