After Sludge exposed Rep. Kathy Castor’s (D-Fla.) shares in a mutual fund with holdings in oil-, gas-, and coal-fired utility companies, the congresswoman has sold her shares.
Castor “divested from the Franklin Utilities Fund to build confidence in her leadership of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis,” said her press secretary, Steven Angotti, in an email to Sludge.
“Lawmakers have a responsibility to avoid conflicts of interest, declare conflicts and abstain from votes when appropriate, file annual public financial disclosures, and adhere to the STOCK Act that prohibits members of Congress from using private information derived from their official positions for personal benefit,” Castor told Sludge.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) picked Castor to chair the new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which will advise other committees on what could soon become a catastrophic climate reality around the globe. Progressive activist groups backed freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) ambitious Green New Deal proposal and were disappointed when Pelosi did not create a separate select committee to draft corresponding legislation, which would make U.S. power generation 100 percent renewable by 2030.
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Castor previously announced that she would not accept campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry in response to a Sludge inquiry but will not require members of her select committee to do the same. Committee members will likely be announced next week, she told Sludge on Tuesday.
Environmentalist and 350.org founder Bill McKibben told Sludge, “Divestment is important not just because it insulates one from the corrupting effects of oil money, but because it strikes a serious blow at the planet’s most dangerous industry. That’s why endowments and portfolios worth $8 trillion have already taken this step.”
The Florida representative’s Franklin Utilities Fund investment, worth between $50,001 and $100,000, was held in a joint retirement account with her husband. She told Sludge, “The 401(k) and retirement accounts that I share with my husband do not enter into my consideration of public policy. I have devoted my public service career to fighting for a clean and healthy environment and have consistently sided with the interests of the public over corporate interests, especially dirty fossil fuel companies.”
Castor has a strong legislative track record of standing up to the fossil fuel industry. She supported a large settlement with BP over the Deepwater Horizon disaster, stuck up for Florida energy consumers, sponsored the Clean Distributed Energy Grid Integration Act, and reintroduced her Florida Coastal Protection Act this year.
While the Climate Crisis Committee roster isn’t yet public, members may come from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which Castor is a member. Several Energy Committee Democrats have sizable investments in oil and gas companies, according to a Sludge report.