Senate Committee to Vote on April 11 on Divesting State pension fund from Fossil Fuels

The Civil Service and Pension Committee of the NYS Senate will vote on Monday April 11 on a bill to divest the state pension fund from fossil fuel holdings over the next five years. The fund would immediately divest (within 1 year) itself from coal stocks, as California has done and the NYC pension funds is considering doing.

Climate change activists argue that it is wrong for the state to profit from companies that threaten humanity’s ability to live on the planet. Many investors are also increasingly worried about the financial dangers of investing in fossil fuels, especially after world leaders agreed in December at the Paris conference to end the fossil fuel era. Countries will begin signing the COP21 agreement at the United Nations on Earth Day.

If State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli had divested when first asked three years ago, the state pension fund would be worth $5.3 billion more than it presently is. At a legislative forum held by the divestment bill’s sponsors in Albany last month, Corporate Knights, an investment research company, testified that the Common Retirement Fund (NYS-CRF) had lost billions by investing in the top 200 coal, oil, and gas companies.

“New York is a rich state, but perhaps not so rich it can afford to waste billions investing in failing business models — especially when the warming caused by those companies will cost a fortune to deal with!,” said Bill McKibben, Co-Founder of “New York has made bold moves for climate such as banning fracking and phasing out coal-fired power plants, yet the pension fund continues to invest in both of these destructive and outdated extraction practices.”

“We owe it to our children and grandchildren to do everything we can to avert climate catastrophe. Divestment is one piece of that puzzle. It will protect our pension fund from the stranded assets of fossil fuel companies that are digging and drilling themselves into financial ruin, and it will send a message that making short-term profits from the destruction of our climate is unacceptable. I urge my Senate colleagues to support the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, and help move New York and the world toward a fossil-free future.” Said Sen. Krueger, the lead sponsor of the bill in Senate (As. Ortiz in the Assembly)

“It seems odd that Comptroller DiNapoli, rather than divesting from fossil fuel companies, prefers to expend resources trying to get Exxon to do climate risk studies at the same time the company is being investigated by the State Attorney General and others for financing false information about climate change. We need the State Comptroller to join the rest of the world in recognizing that it is time to say no to fossil fuels,” stated Mark Dunlea, a member of the 350NYC steering committee.

The Committee vote will take place at 1:30 PM in Room 410 of the Legislative Office Building on Monday. Climate change activists will be at the Capitol to lobby in support of the divestment legislation as well as for a 100% clean energy goal by 2030. That goal was included in the budget resolution passed by the Assembly but did not make it into the final budget.

Climate change activists are also urging the Governor to stop promoting natural gas, since methane is 84 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (although it degrades in the atmosphere over the short term). Hundreds of activists rallied at the Capitol this week to urge the Governor to halt the expansion of gas pipelines across the state, calling upon him to reject the water certificate for the proposed Constitution pipeline.

April 8, 2016