(Rochester) Divest NYS pension funds fossil fuels; Vacuum Oil

Dunlea Calls for State to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Time for Exxon to Pay Up: Clean Up of Vacuum Oil Hazardous Waste Site

(Rochester, NY) Mark Dunlea, the Green Party candidate for State Comptroller, says it was time for the government to hold fossil fuels companies financially liable for the damages they have caused, starting with driving climate change.

As Comptroller, Dunlea said he would push litigation to make Exxon, Chevron and other fossil fuel companies pay for damages from climate change, as NYC and other municipalities are doing. Dunlea noted that the State Attorney General is investigating Exxon and other fossil fuel companies for lying to the public and investors about the realities of climate change.

Dunlea said it was time for Exxon to pay for the cleanup of the Vacuum Oil cite as a court has already ordered.

Dunlea said at a minimum the State Comptroller needs to divest the state pension fund from fossil fuels. The Comptroller’s office says the state has $6 billion invested in fossil fuels. Climate advocates believe the number may be twice as large.

“It is immoral for the state to seek to profit from companies whose actions literally threaten our future survival. They are killing life on the planet. It is also a mistake to continue to invest billions in an industry which the world is seeking to end as soon as possible and which is already underperforming the rest of the stock market,” noted Dunlea.

Dunlea over the last 5 years has worked with 350.org and DivestNY to help coordinate efforts in New York to divest public pension funds from fossil fuels. The groups recently convinced NYC to divest its pension funds. Since the campaign was launched 5 years ago, more than 900 institutions worldwide with $6.2 trillion in assets have agreed to divest. Ireland recently became the first nation to divest. Ithaca, Cooperstown and Syracuse University are among NYS institutions that have agreed to divest. A study two years paid for by 350.org found that the failure to divest in 2013 when first asked had cost the pension fund $5 billion.

The Vacuum Oil hazardous waste site at 1 Flint Street in Rochester is polluted with lead, arsenic, mercury, copper and various carcinogens. The damage was caused by Vacuum Oil, which became part of ExxonMobil. In the late 1800s, Vacuum Oil was processing millions of gallons of crude oil a year. The plant stopped operating in 1935. In 2013, the state Supreme Court ruled that ExxonMobil was liable for cleaning up pollution it left behind. ExxonMobil has failed to do so, which has prevented the site from being developed.

“We need a State Comptroller and other political leaders who will stand up to these polluters and bad corporate actors and make them do the right thing. They need to start cleaning up their messes before we lock them up,” said Dunlea.

Dunlea has raised the concerns over the swinging door between the fossil fuel industry and the capitol. The chief investment officer for the State Comptroller, who helped lead the fight against divestment, was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of The Williams Company upon her retirement. Williams is a major gas pipeline builder (Williams and Constitution in NY) and has spent considerably to be a major lobbying force in Albany on fracking. Cuomo campaign manager was paid to lobby for Williams. Cuomo’s top assistance was convicted for corruption involving the CPV power plant in Orange County.

“New York needs elected officials to break free from the fossil fuel industry. That means voting for the Green Party candidates, starting with Howie Hawkins for Governor,” added Dunlea.

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