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Topic: Stanford to Purge $18 Billion Endowment of Coal Stock
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 13,291
Registered: 12/3/04
Stanford to Purge $18 Billion Endowment of Coal Stock
Posted: May 11, 2014 3:30 PM
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From The New York Times, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. See
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/07/education/stanford-to-purge-18-billion-endowment-of-coal-stock.html?emc=eta1&_r=0
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Stanford to Purge $18 Billion Endowment of Coal Stock

By Michael Wines

Stanford University announced Tuesday that it would divest its $18.7
billion endowment of stock in coal-mining companies, becoming the
first major university to lend support to a nationwide campaign to
purge endowments and pension funds of fossil fuel investments. [See
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/s/stanford_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org
]

The university said it acted in accordance with internal guidelines
that allow its trustees to consider whether "corporate policies or
practices create substantial social injury" when choosing
investments. Coal's status as a major source of carbon pollution
linked to climate change persuaded the trustees to remove companies
"whose principal business is coal" from their investment portfolio,
the university said. [See
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/globalwarming/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier
]
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Stanford's associate vice president for communications, Lisa Lapin,
said the decision covers about 100 companies worldwide that derive
the majority of their revenue from coal extraction. Not all of those
companies are in the university's investment portfolio, whose
structure is private, she said. Over all, the university's coal
holdings are a small fraction of its endowment.

"But a small percentage is still a substantial amount of money," she added.

The trustees' decision carries more symbolic than financial weight,
but it is a major victory for a rapidly growing student-led
divestment movement that is now active at roughly 300 universities.

At least 11 small universities have elected to remove fossil-fuel
stocks from their endowments, but none approaches Stanford's prestige
or national influence. Tuesday's decision seems likely to increase
the pressure on other major universities to follow suit.

Among other universities, Harvard has resisted student pressure for
divestment, and one student was arrested on Thursday after
pro-divestment activists blockaded the entrance to the school's
administrative offices.
Stanford's trustees acted after Fossil Free Stanford, the campus
branch of the movement, petitioned the board to re-evaluate the
university's holdings in energy companies, Ms. Lapin said.

Yari Greaney, 20, a Fossil Free Stanford organizer, said the group
was "very proud of Stanford taking this leadership position."
Nationally, leaders of the divestment movement praised the school for
its decision.

As a global institution, Stanford "knows the havoc that climate
change creates around our planet," Bill McKibben, the president and
co-founder of the environmental group 350.org, said in a statement.
"Other forward-looking and internationally minded institutions will
follow, I'm sure."

Maura Cowley, the executive director of Energy Action Coalition, an
assemblage of groups active on climate change issues, called the
decision "a huge, huge victory."

"Their decision, coming from such a major university and from such a
huge endowment, shows that the coal industry and other fossil fuel
industries are quickly becoming relics of the past," she said in an
interview.

The trustees began studying divestment after Fossil Free Stanford
petitioned them to re-evaluate their holdings of energy companies. An
advisory panel that included students, faculty, staff and alumni
spent roughly five months studying the issue before recommending that
coal stocks be sold, Deborah DeCotis, the chairwoman of the board's
special committee on investment responsibility, said in an interview.

Among other deciding factors, Ms. DeCotis said, the panel noted that
coal produces the most carbon per British thermal unit of any widely
used fossil fuel, that practical alternatives to burning coal are
available, and that the university was not dependent on coal or
coal-derived products.

Other fossil fuels did not meet some of those criteria, but "this is
not the ending point. It's a process," she said. "We're a research
institute, and as the technology develops to make other forms of
alternative energy sources available, we will continue to review and
make decisions about things we should not be invested in. Don't
interpret this as a pass on other things."

Ms. Lapin said the school is already asking its investment advisers
to review endowment holdings and sell stocks of coal companies. The
order covers mutual funds with coal stocks as well as investments in
individual companies, she said.
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SIDEBAR PHOTO: The campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto,
Calif. The decision by trustees to get rid of stock in coal-mining
companies was a victory for a rapidly growing student-led divestment
movement. Credit Thor Swift for The New York Times
------------------------------------
A version of this article appears in print on May 7, 2014, on page
A15 of the New York edition with the headline: Stanford to Purge $18
Billion Endowment of Coal Stock.
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