Case is weak for divesting fossil fuels from NY pension fund (Commentary)

June 15, 2018

Ted Skerpon

It appears that environmental groups are putting pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and some elected leaders in Albany to divest fossil fuels from the New York state pension portfolio.

As chairman of the Utility Labor Council of New York, I have serious concerns about this proposal.

First, divesting fossil fuels from the pension fund is problematic. Most of the fossil fuel securities are part of larger funds that contain numerous securities. You cannot simply decide to divest from fossil fuels without it having a significant impact on the fund overall. The IBEW Utility Labor Council represents several hundred pension beneficiaries. It would be extremely harmful to them should this type of proposal move forward.

Second, the divestment issue is symbolic in nature. While divestment would have a significant disruptive impact on the pension fund, it would have a minimal overall impact to fossil fuel producers.

This governor has made his position clear that he does not support long term reliance on fossil fuels, shutting down a half-dozen fossil fuel plants in the Southern Tier and Western New York. In addition, this governor has also provided hundreds of millions of dollars to support clean renewable energy projects through NYSERDA and other state agencies.

Lastly, the governor does not and should not be involved in the investment decisions of the pension fund. Nor should the state comptroller be involved in policy decisions that are specifically reserved for the executive.

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