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Briefs -- CA to Ban Coal Investments, Formosa Petrochemical

In a first-in-the-nation action, California's two largest public pension funds will be forced to divest their nearly $300 million of investments in the coal industry if Gov. Jerry Brown, as expected, signs a law (SB 185) passed by the state legislature Wednesday. State lawmakers took the stance that coal is a dying industry in the face of climate change issues and therefore a poor investment for the $292 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and the $191 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS). After earlier Senate passage, SB 185 was passed by the lower house Assembly 43-27 and is now headed to the governor's office. State lawmakers concluded that coal divestiture is a growing movement that already has been undertaken by other investment funds, such as the Stanford University Endowment, Yale University, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and across 300 college campuses nationwide. CalPERS said it holds about 30 investments in coal mining/producing companies valued at $167 million, and CalSTRS said it has $132 million in coal assets.

Formosa Petrochemical Corp. is considering a $9.4 billion industrial complex in St. James Parish, LA, where the company would build two project phases producing ethylene and chemical products. A final investment decision is expected by mid-2016. Upon completion of both phases of the project, which would be built on the west bank of the Mississippi River, Taiwan-based Formosa would have developed one of the largest, single-site ethylene production complexes in the world. Formosa Petrochemical, a member of the Formosa Group, would develop the project with an ethane cracker and downstream plants in an initial phase, followed by a doubling of those facilities' capacities in the second phase. The project would convert ethane to ethylene and then produce polyethylene, with customized outputs of low- and high-density polyethylene, ethylene glycol, polypropylene and other derivatives. Formosa Group has operated in Louisiana since 1981, with three plastics manufacturing locations in East Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee parishes. Construction could begin in 2016. The second-phase ethane cracker and downstream chemical plants would begin construction in 2022, following completion of the first phase.

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