I need to be crystal clear that I am no friend of the Dakota Access pipeline. That project is is an outrageous abridgment of tribal sovereignty and I think that the issue of risk to clean water has been vastly whitewashed by the proponents of the project.
So I support the issue very much. But I didn't support that bill.
My primary reason for opposing that bill was a simple one: The purpose of the Maine State retirement system is to provide return for retirees who do not qualify to receive social security and who have trusted their lifetime pensions to that fund. It's not the state's money - it is all owed to the individuals who paid into it. Therefore I oppose any sort of restrictions on its investments for specific political causes (however valid those causes are) unless the people who own the funds have voted that whatever restriction is being proposed is okay with them.
It's difficult, because this year it's DAPL - two years ago, it was a proposed plan to force the fund to divest from all fossil fuels. I could think of many other things that I would like us not to invest in, like Monsanto, or various drug companies that in my estimation fleece the American people, or, for that matter, Wal-Mart. Another bill this session, from right-wing activists, would have forced us to stop any investments or business with any company that has boycotted Israel. We killed that, too, thankfully.
The difficulty with these issues is that if you start placing legal restrictions on investment options, you quickly end up with a whole grid of restrictions that makes investing harder, and puts Maine retirees at a relative disadvantage. Many of those retirees already have pensions that leave them in poverty because they were paid poorly during their working careers, and I am troubled by that.
Oil is something that every single American uses every single day of every year, either directly or indirectly. It would be very hard to single out specific DAPL investments in companies in that sector and in the financial services sector, which is so interlinked with the whole US economy. This particular bill was very vague in how it defined investment in DAPL, and I think that even if I was able to ignore the issues above, I would have opposed it for that more technical reason.
Finally, I think it's worth noting that the Maine Retirement system already takes into account environmental and social considerations when it makes its investments. I don't know if the fund actually holds any specific assets that were directly tied to the DAPL project, but if there were serious concerns about a specific company, those factors would be considered by the fund as part of that process. The legislature is not equipped to make investment decisions, and that's why we have people whose sole job is to consider all these issues in managing the billions of Maine State Workers' dollars that they've been entrusted with.
I don't know if you are moved by these arguments, but I hope I can offer at least a glimpse into my reasoning. This was neither a reflexive nor an idealogical vote for me. As much as I support those who object to DAPL I had no problem saying no to this idea.