By Robin Respaut
Jan 27 (Reuters) - The University of Maine Board of Trustees has unanimously agreed to divest from direct holdings in coal-mining companies.
The board's decision was influenced by the threat and potential costs of climate change, the steady decline of coal as a non-renewable resource and the emergence of new green technologies, the university said in a statement on Monday.
Iris SanGiovanni, a member of Divest UMaine, a coalition of students, faculty and alumni from the University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine that advocates for divestment, said the group was "ecstatic that the Board of Trustees made the right decision."
"Divesting now protects our assets, and sends the message that we take climate change seriously," SanGiovanni said.
The decision affects $502,000 of direct investments in coal and nearly 30 percent of the system's total $1.7 million exposure to coal in its managed investments, pension fund, and operating fund.
The decision by the university system follows a similar one by Stanford University last year to divest from coal companies and marks the first public state university system in the United States to make such a move.
The University of Maine system's total investments were $589 million as of October.
The University of Maine at Presque Isle, one of seven schools in the state public university system, said it had also divested all fossil fuel investments from its foundation, a separate entity.
Some board members at the University of Maine said they would continue to consider a full fossil fuel divestment across the system. (Reporting by Robin Respaut; Editing by James Dalgleish)