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July 15, 2020

New York State’s Pension Fund Divests from 22 Coal Companies

Advocates thank Comptroller DiNapoli, urge faster action on remaining billions of fossil fuel investments

New York — This week, New York State Comptroller announced that the New York State Common Retirement Fund, with assets totaling more than $200 billion, has divested from nearly two dozen thermal coal companies. The divestment comes after a review was initiated by the Comptroller’s office in January. Now, with strong momentum behind the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (S.2126/A.1536), advocates believe this completed review and divestment action represents a big step forward for the pension fund.  

“This is a tangible and positive move by the Comptroller and represents a shift in his approach,” said Dominique Thomas with 350.org. “There’s obviously no future in thermal coal and the Comptroller has recognized this and moved the pension fund for over 1 million New Yorkers out of this financially risky and destructive industry.”

The demand to #DivestNY’s pension funds launched the day after Superstorm Sandy devastated New York nearly eight years ago. Members of the intergenerational #DivestNY coalition have garnered significant support for the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, which currently has nearly 100 sponsors across the state senate and assembly, gaining dozens of new sponsors in recent months. The Act, which is the most advanced divestment legislation in the US, directs the Comptroller, in line with his fiduciary responsibility, to divest the pension fund from all fossil fuels. 

“Comptroller DiNapoli’s decision to divest NYS Pension Funds from 22 coal companies is a great first step on New York’s road to protect the assets of the fund and the environment. In order to build on the progress and ensure a bright future for New Yorkers, full divestment from all fossil fuel companies is obviously the next step. The time has come to pass the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act,” said Assistant Speaker Félix W. Ortiz and lead Assembly sponsor of the Act.

As of the fund’s latest public disclosure, the pension had more than $12 billion invested in fossil-fuel-related companies. In recent years, these investments have severely underperformed the rest of the stock market and dragged down overall performance of the fund. The fund has more than $4 billion invested in shale and fracking companies, many of which are facing imminent bankruptcy due to heavy debt loads and unfunded environmental liabilities.

“The need for full fossil fuel divestment continues, as the fund remains very exposed to tar sands, fracking and other oil and gas companies and the clock is ticking. We see the Comptroller’s leadership move on thermal coal companies as a great stepping stone to addressing the larger problem of risky fossil fuel investments. There’s no doubt that momentum is increasing to fully DivestNY and we hope to work with the Comptroller to do so,” added Jordan Dale with 350 NJ Rockland

To date, more than 1240 institutions globally with assets over $14 trillion have committed to divest from fossil fuels. In recent weeks, Cornell, Vermont and George Washington Universities have announced divestment, following on the University of California completing divestment of its $85 billion pension and endowment funds. In 2018, New York City announced its commitment to divest its massive pension funds from fossil fuels, and is on track to complete this by 2023. 

Going forward, the #DivestNY coalition will continue to push for full divestment of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, particularly tar sands, fracking, oil service and pipeline companies and Arctic oil drillers, as laid out in the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act which mandates this within five years of passage into law.  

QUOTE SHEET

“We applaud Comptroller DiNapoli’s action on divesting from coal and look forward to similar action to reduce the risk from climate change from the rest of the pension fund.” – Mark Dunlea of PAUSE (People of Albany United for Safe Energy).

“As a beneficiary of the Common Retirement Fund, I support the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act and I am very happy to see Comptroller DiNapoli taking steps toward divestment of the fund from all fossil fuel investments. I look to Comptroller DiNapoli to be a leader in protecting pension recipients and our climate future.” – Mona Perrotti Indivisible Mohawk Valley, Co-Chair, Climate Crisis Working Group

“Although we commend Comptroller DiNapoli’s decision to divest from over 20 coal companies, we urge him to fully divest the Common Retirement Fund away from all fossil fuels. With the world now on track to hit 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2024, my generation and future generations to come simply cannot afford any further delay.” – Hridesh Singh, Executive Director for the New York Youth Climate Leaders

“We acknowledge Comptroller DiNapoli’s divestment from several coal companies and thank him for taking this first step in decarbonizing the CRF and protecting the retirement funds of State workers.   We remain hopeful that the Comptroller has recognized the need to divest from these risky and harmful investments and will soon follow suit with the oil and gas sector of the portfolio.” – Dorian Fulvio, 350NYC Steering Committee member

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Claudio Magliulo
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Nathália Clark
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