Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Medical | By Johnnie Horton

NY sues oil companies, plans divestment from pension funds

NY sues oil companies, plans divestment from pension funds

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and other trustees of the city's $189 billion pension funds announced today a plan to divest city funds from fossil fuel reserve owners within five years, which would make New York City the first major us pension plan to do so. It marks his strongest action yet to address global warming and its associated sea-level rise, which devastated the city with massive flooding during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The lawsuit is seeking to collect billions in damages to pay for city efforts to manage the current and future impacts of climate change.

The motion would also request that the city file an amicus brief in support of the NY and California lawsuits. Many areas in New York City are built in low-lying wetlands, including JFK airport. The mayor's office noted in a recent statement that Hurricane Sandy was a lesson for us on climate change's destructivity. The filing says that since the industrial revolution, only 100 companies are responsible for the majority of the greenhouse gas emissions with the five named in their suit as the worst offenders. NY is using the centuries-old legal concepts of "public nuisance" - an illegal threat to community welfare, such as a brothel, drug den or illegal hazardous waste dump - and "private nuisance", an unreasonable interference with the use of someone else's land. But, even if there was, blaming this on the oil companies alone is disingenuous.

It appears that for New York City officials, the loss of so much potential wealth is valueless against the need to virtue signal.

Both theories have been used to attack polluters, though not on the scale of global climate change. "Deliberately hurting pension holders, like the fine men and women who keep our city safe, is a disgraceful way to score cheap political points".

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New York's five pension funds are a combined $64.8 billion in debt, according to the city's official numbers, which assumes that the funds will earn annual investment returns of at least 7 percent in perpetuity. In September, de Blasio's rollout of a new set of mandates to cut emissions from big buildings from the New York City Council, which accused the mayor of acting unilaterally and failing to go far enough with the proposed rules.

But it's not just NY taking on the oil industry. They're claiming this move is "among the most significant divestment efforts in the world to date".

"Today, the mightiest city on our planet takes on its most powerful industry - its richest, most powerful and most irresponsible industry", said Bill McKibben, the co-founder of 350.org. "Science and economics and morality are on the side of this city, and so it will eventually win".

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