Divest from the Coal Industry
  • Petitioned Bates College

This petition was delivered to:

Board of Trustees
Bates College

Divest from the Coal Industry

    1. Ben Breger
    2. Petition by

      Ben Breger

      Lewiston, ME

Dear Bates Board of Trustees,

The coal industry kills people and is a chief contributor to climate change. The American Lung Association reported in 2012 that pollution from coal kills 13,000 Americans, particularly people of color, each year due to mercury poisoning and airborne illnesses. Coal burning power plants are the single largest factor in America’s contribution to global warming and account for 20% of global greenhouse emissions. According to government data, they annually emit more carbon dioxide than the entire transportation sector. The Bates Policy on Social Investment stipulates clear guidelines for investing in companies which are "consistent with, or in support of, the valuing of individual worth, safety, and a just community.” The coal industry presents a major public health and environmental threat that is in conflict with the Bates mission statement, values, and responsible investment policy.


Bates devotes considerable resources educating students about the scientifically proven risks of climate change as well as the adverse environmental and social consequences of mountain-top removal coal-mining. Coal burning power plants are the single largest factor in America’s contribution to global warming, and account for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. The American Lung Association reported in 2012 that pollution from coal kills 13,000 Americans each year due to mercury poisoning and airborne illnesses, presenting a major public health risk to predominantly low-income communities in many parts of Appalachia. By establishing an environmental studies program, Bates has already made a public educational commitment to advancing climate research and counteracting scientifically unsound information about climate change. Investment and financial trust in coal as a viable long-term energy source is blatantly inconsistent with the scientific research that Bates students and faculty work to produce, and is thus in conflict with Bates’ educational duties and goals. Divestment from the coal industry is not merely a political statement, but a policy that is intrinsically consistent with the educational mission that our college has pledged to promote.

Likewise, as a school founded by abolitionists, welcoming of women from the beginning, and whose mission statement includes“stewardship for the wider world” and a “commitment to coming times,” divestment from coal would more accurately represent Bates’s history and values. The school has demonstrated a strong environmental ethic up to this point with President Hansen’s 2020 Carbon Neutal Pledge, the hiring of a Sustainability Manager, our environmentally-sound building code, an award-winning Dining Commons, and a very active, engaged student body. We are asking for this same ethic to be applied to the selection of companies we support through the investment of our endowment.

College divestment from fossil fuels is growing rapidly as a national student movement. Students at over 40 colleges and universities, including Amherst College, Williams College, Swarthmore College, Harvard University, Brown University, Tufts University and Smith College are all running strong campaigns to encourage their institutions to divest from all fossil fuels. The largest student environmental networks, including the Energy Action Coalition and 350.org are embracing this movement and holding conferences about responsisble investment. Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash recently released a public announcement that Hampshire has purposefully terminated its investments in all fossil fuel corporations, and actively seeking out environmentally screened investment options. Trustees at Amherst College have expressed a willingness to pursue coal divestment but are looking to work in conjunction with another college. That other college could be Bates.

In 1977, Hampshire College was the first to divest from corporations engaged with the Apartheid government of South Africa. Bates College did not follow suit until 1986. Bates should now take the opportunity to be among the first educational institutions to take action on this equally important issue, rather than wait to step forward until its peer institutions have already changed their policies.

I am writing to express my support for the Board of Trustees to divest the Bates endowment from corporations engaged in the extraction and refinement of coal. Divestment is a measure that should be considered sparingly, but there a number of reasons why I believe divestment from the coal industry is here appropriate.   

Recent signatures


    1. Reached 250 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Nicole Rom MINNEAPOLIS, MN
      • almost 2 years ago

      As a Bates alumnus (2000), I urge the college to divest itself from the coal and fossil fuel industry. Climate change is the urgent issue of today. Bates College has a responsibility to model appropriate choices on behalf of the school and larger community.


      Nicole Rom

    • David Boothby WATERFORD, ME
      • almost 2 years ago

      As a Bates graduate with a rich family history with the college, I would be especially proud to see Bates take a principled stand on behalf of the millions of people who stand to suffer from unchecked climate change.

    • Pamela Ross FAIRFIELD, CT
      • almost 2 years ago

      Put your money where your mouth is, Bates. Divest. And kudos to the all the students who spearheaded this campaign, you're superstars.

    • Maayan Cohen BROOKLYN, NY
      • almost 2 years ago

      Colleges and Universities have the opportunity to be leaders in the transition to renewable energy. I think Bates College has the responsibility to hold itself accountable to it's ideals as an educational community- divest from coal and other fossil fuel industries. Put your money into protecting our future! Class of 2010

    • Deirdre Wilczak LEE CENTER, NY
      • almost 2 years ago

      Nay Sayers of climate change and Global warming.. take heed; the clock is ticking..you greedy,mindless, clean coal fools.


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