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Divest from fossil fuels? Some Kalamazoo County officials are leery

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A judge who spoke at a commission meeting Tuesday suggested that taking the county's money out of fossil fuel investments could affect its ability to pay pensions.

Climate change activists are calling on the Kalamazoo County Board to dump the county’s fossil fuel stocks. But they’re getting pushback from some local officials.

Local groups in favor of fossil fuel divestment include a chapter of the Sunrise Movement, and Kalamazoo Remembers, which formed after the 2010 Enbridge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River. The activists say the City of Ann Arbor has already divested its pension funds as a means of slowing climate change. But at a commission meeting Tuesday, District Judge Richard Santoni opposed taking the county’s money out of fossil fuel stocks.

“These pensions are our future. That while you may have powers, your ability to be sued individually by us is very much in play,” Santoni told commissioners.

Supporters of divestment from fossil fuel stocks asked the county board to take up the proposal at their next meeting, but commissioners showed little enthusiasm for the proposal.