Comptroller Staff Joins Fossil Fuels Board of Directors

Dunlea Pushes for State Divestment Following Appointment of Comptroller’s Top Investment Staff to Fossil Fuel Company Board

Mark Dunlea, the Green Party candidate for State Comptroller, said today that the appointment of Vicky Fuller, the former chief investment officer for the state pension fund, to the Board of a major fossil fuel infrastructure company calls into question the Comptroller office’s objectivity in opposing divestment of the fund.

Tom Sanzillo, the Acting State Comptroller before the appointment of Tom DiNapoli as state comptroller by the state legislature, has increasingly warned of the financial risk posed by the state’s $6 billion investment in fossil fuels. This includes keeping $1 billion in Exxon Mobil while the State Attorney General has been investigating them and other fossil fuel companies for misleading the public and investors for decades about the realities of climate change

“It is morally wrong for New York to seek to profit by investing in companies that have driven global warming that has already caused tens of billions of dollars in damage in New York. It is also a financial mistake to ignore the increasing underperformance of fossil fuel stocks as the world has agreed to move away from fossil fuels and transition instead to clean, renewable energy,” said Dunlea, who has helped coordinated the efforts in New York City and State to divest from fossil fuels.

Earlier this year the leaders of the main NYC pension funds voted to begin the process of divesting from gas and oil companies; they had previously divested from coal companies.

Vicki Fuller recently announced her retirement from the New York State Common Retirement Fund (NYSCRF) where she had served as chief investment officer since August 2012. The fund is the third largest public pension fund in the nation. She recently joined the Board of Williams Company. Williams describes itself as “a premier provider of large-scale infrastructure connecting U.S. natural gas and natural gas products.”

Williams is proposing to lay a new pipeline, called the Northeast Supply Enhancement Pipeline, which would carry fracked natural gas (methane) from Pennsylvania across the Lower Bay of New York’s harbor. The pipeline is strongly opposed by New York climate activists. Williams, also a part owner of the Constitution pipeline, was also one of the biggest spenders on lobbying the state legislature on fossil fuel infrastructure and fracking.

“Taxpayers are ill-served by the revolving door between industry and state government,” said Dunlea.

The recent study co-authored by Sanzillo describes divestment “as a proper financial response by investment trustees to current market conditions and to the outlook facing the coal, oil and gas sectors… The fossil fuel sector is shrinking financially, and the rationale for investing in it is untenable. Over the past three and five years, respectively, global stock indexes without fossil fuel holdings have outperformed otherwise identical indexes that include fossil fuel companies.  Fossil fuel companies once led the economy and world stock markets. They now lag. A cumulative set of risks undermines the viability of the fossil fuel sector.”

The study also cautions that fossil fuel companies’ exposure to litigation on climate change and other environmental issues is expanding and notes that campaigns in opposition to fossil fuel industries have become increasingly sophisticated and potent. While a lower federal court recently ruled against the lawsuit filed by NYC against fossil fuel companies, this week the United States Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lawsuit on climate change filed by the Children’s Trust.

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