PITTSBURGH — The mayor of the central Pennsylvania borough of State College has endorsed a campaign that urges municipalities to divest from fossil fuel companies, the environmental group 350.org said in a release Thursday.
Borough Mayor Elizabeth Goreham joined nine other mayors in urging municipalities to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies because of climate change, but other officials said the issue hasn’t been voted on.
“That’s just her speaking personally, as mayor,” said borough council member Thomas Daubert, who noted that the question hasn’t been discussed yet at a public meeting.
Daubert said a full council vote would be needed for official action. He wouldn’t speculate on what the council might do, but said that most of the members “are middle-of-the-road type people.”
Goreham couldn’t be reached for comment, but Daubert said he knew she had been considering the issue.
State College is the home of Penn State University.
One leading state environmental group applauded Goreham’s action, but said it was mostly symbolic.
“It’s about the value of clean energy and the harm caused by continuing to rely on fossil fuels,” said George Jugovic, president of the group PennFuture.
Jugovic said addressing climate change is one of PennFuture’s primary goals “and then there’s reality,” which is why they also support using natural gas during the decades it will take to transition to a society powered by renewable energy like wind and solar.
The modern oil industry began in northwest Pennsylvania in 1859, and the state is currently home to the most productive natural gas field in the nation, the Marcellus shale.
That’s sparked a boom in drilling.
Patrick Henderson, Gov. Tom Corbett’s energy executive, declined to comment on the State College divestment stance.
350.org and many scientists say ever rising amounts of greenhouse gases — mostly carbon dioxide — are contributing to global warming. Carbon dioxide is emitted by the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, but other gases such as methane come from natural sources, too.
A poll last December found that a growing majority of Americans think global warming is occurring and that it will become a serious problem, an Associated Press-GfK poll found.
The poll found 4 out of every 5 Americans said climate change will be a serious problem for the U.S. if nothing is done about it. That’s up from 73 percent when the same question was asked in 2009.
The 350.org statement said that on Tuesday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to urge the city’s $16 billion pension fund to divest more than $583 million from the fossil fuel industry.
350.org said divestment petitions are being considered in 100 other cities and states across the country.
The other mayors who have endorsed divesting from fossil fuel companies are from San Francisco; Seattle; Madison, Wis.; Bayfield, Wis.; Ithaca, N.Y.; Boulder, Colo.; Eugene, Ore.; Richmond, Calif.; and Berkeley, Calif.