Campus Reform | MA state lawmakers introduce bill compelling Harvard to ditch fossil fuels

MA state lawmakers introduce bill compelling Harvard to ditch fossil fuels

The bill applies to the Ivy League school exclusively.

Recently, one of the lawmakers proposed another bill that would compel Harvard and other nonprofit schools to make payments in lieu of taxation.

Massachusetts state lawmakers Erika Uyterhoeven (D-MA) and Mike Connolly (D-MA) introduced HD4016, which aims to make Harvard University divest from fossil fuels.

“No governing body of Harvard college [sic] shall directly or indirectly invest of the funds of the college, by holding stock, security, equity, asset or other obligation of a corporation or company, in an entity that produces fossil fuels, including coal, coke, distillate oil, residual oil, used oil fuel or natural or manufactured gas,” the bill reads. 

Harvard is the only university mentioned in the legislation, despite the fact that other prominent Massachusetts schools — including Amherst College and Boston College — presently hold investments related to fossil fuels. 

Connolly told Campus Reform that Harvard “was originally established by an act of the colonial legislature in 1642, and when the Massachusetts state constitution was written and adopted in 1780, it explicitly specified that the state legislature would continue to have the ability to make changes at Harvard.”

“Since that time, the state legislature has exercised this power 11 times, most recently in 1967,” he noted.

Earlier this year, Uyterhoeven proposed a separate bill that would force Harvard and other nonprofit universities into paying PILOTs — payments in lieu of taxation — "equal to 25% of the amount that would be paid if the property were not exempt from taxation."

[RELATED: Massachusetts bill would force nonprofit universities to pay their 'fair share']

“Unfortunately, Harvard has failed to pay their obligations, and this bill is attempting to address that problem,” Uyterhoeven told the Harvard Crimson. “This is an attempt to say, 'Look, let's just then make it law, rather than having these agreements between municipalities and various nonprofit institutions.'”

Students at other Ivy League universities are also pressuring their administrators to cease investing in companies that purportedly worsen climate change.

[RELATED: Utopian dream? UVA student gov wants 'community gardens' instead of fossil fuels]

In May, the student governments of all eight Ivy League institutions passed a joint resolution calling each university to divest from fossil fuels. The bill admonishes universities to stop “all new investments in the fossil fuel industry” by the end of the current fiscal year, as well as execute “full divestment of endowment funds from the fossil fuel industry” by fiscal year 2025.

Campus Reform reached out to Uyterhoeven and Harvard University for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft