EO President Talks Responsible Development, Fossil Fuel Divestment at UMass Amherst

EO President Talks Responsible Development, Fossil Fuel Divestment at UMass Amherst


EO President David Poritz (left) with Dean of the College of Natural Sciences Steve Goodwin on the UMass Amherst discussion panel following a screening of "Oil and Water". (photo: Kevin Hollerbach)

At the invitation of the school's Eco-Reps program, EO President and co-founder David Poritz visited the University of Massachusetts, Amherst last week as part of Campus Sustainability Day last week. Following a screening of "Oil and Water" at the campus center, Poritz participated in a panel discussion on the university's fossil fuel use, the Equitable Origin model for linking conscientious consumers to responsible producers, and the fossil fuel divestment movement on campus.

Poritz joined UMass Amherst Sustainability Manager Ezra Small, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences Steve Goodwin, and student Eco-Rep facilitator and divestment movement representative Kristie Herman on the panel. Small noted that UMass Amherst is among the biggest consumers of natural gas and liquid petroleum fuels in the state, and suggested that it was the responsibility of administrators, faculty, and students to take steps to reduce consumption and address its impacts higher up the supply chain. Poritz explained that the EO Market, through which petroleum product consumers can support certified-responsible oil and gas operations, is a tool to address those impacts. EO certificates represent crude oil (or crude oil equivalent, in the case of natural gas operations) produced at an EO-certified site. Revenues from certificate purchases go primarily to pre-approved plans for social and environmental restoration and improvement projects on and around certified production sites. EO certificates became available for pre-sale following the first EO certification of a socially and environmentally responsible development site in September.


David Poritz answering questions after the screening of "Oil and Water" at UMass Amherst.(photo: Kevin Hollerbach)

The event included a lively discussion of Equitable Origin's work in the context of the divestment movement, a global campaign calling for universities and other large institutions to divest their financial portfolios from investments tied to fossil fuel companies (more information on the divestment movement is available at gofossilfree.org). During the discussion, Poritz addressed the misconception that Equitable Origin supports or enables oil and gas development, explaining that EO certifications happen only after exploration and production projects are approved and moving forward. The divestment movement and the EO system are two distinct approaches to separate but related problems, he said, and they should work in parallel or even in concert to achieve their goals. Asked to elaborate after the panel discussion, Poritz responded:

"We at Equitable Origin support the divestment movement as a way to address the global climate change crisis. While the movement continues to progress, EO is working to solve the local and immediate social and environmental problems brought on by irresponsible oil and gas operations happening right now. I think our work and that of the divestment community are strongly complimentary, and I look forward to engaging and possibly collaborating with them in the future."