SACO — Rep. Maggie O’Neil, D-Saco, received Sierra Club Maine’s 2021 Public Service for the Environment Award last month in recognition of her legislative leadership and commitment to protecting the environment.

O’Neil earned the award for her work to sponsor and pass groundbreaking legislation that moves the state cash pool and retirement system away from investments in fossil fuel companies, which are linked directly to climate change, according to a a statement from the Maine Legislature’s House Democrat Office. State retirees, youth advocates, and Mainers across the state worked together on the legislation to ensure that state coffers get the best returns possible by shifting away from risky fossil fuel investments.

“I am honored to be recognized with this award,” said Rep. O’Neil. “It is our responsibility to be good financial stewards and to preserve our planet for future generations. While there is still a lot more work to do, fossil fuel divestment is an important step in our state’s effort to mitigate the climate crisis, and it would not have been possible without the support and collaboration from Mainers who led this effort, including youth advocates and state retirees.”

Youth advocates in Saco and across the state were instrumental in passing this legislation and other environmental accomplishments this session.

“Our commitment to divest from fossil fuels shows that Maine people are passionate about protecting our environment and being a part of the solution to climate change,” said Cole Cochrane, a junior at Thornton Academy. “As young people, we feel empowered to continue the work that needs to be done to protect our communities and our home state from the impacts of climate change.”

“This work gives our generation a chance at hope,” said Emma Drown, a junior at Thornton Academy. “We are fighting for our future, and we hope for a future where the looming threat of climate disaster is not a constant thought on our minds.”

The new law requires the state cash pool and the Maine Public Employee Retirement System, or MainePERS, to divest from coal, oil, and gas companies by 2026, making Maine the first state in the nation to commit to fossil fuel divestiture through legislation.

O’Neil is serving her third term in the Maine House. She is House chair of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee and a member of the Government Oversight Committee. She represents District 15, part of Saco.

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