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New Yorkers Call On Comptroller DiNapoli To Divest State From Fossil Fuels

Thursday afternoon, more than 100 New Yorkers, led by a coalition of environmental activist groups, delivered 11,000 signatures on a petition to the Comptroller’s office in Manhattan, urging Thomas DiNapoli to overhaul pension fund investments. 

The activists want the state’s chief financial officer to reinvest the state’s retirement fund, which has a budget of $160.7 billion and covers more than 1 million state employees, in ways that protect citizens, the environment, and the economy. 350NYC is the local New York City affiliate of the international climate organization 350.org. The group claims in the past year alone, $5 billion in state funds was invested in fossil fuels.

Clara Vondrich is with 350 NYC.  "We're asking folks like Comptroller DiNapoli who controls New York State Pension funds, to divest those funds of all their coal, oil and gas holdings because we feel it's unethical for him to be invested and indeed our state's workers, because it's their pension funds, to be invested in those very same fuels that are polluting the earth for ourselves and future generations."

Mark Dunlea attended the rally representing the Green Party of New York State.   "We have had several large cities, Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, New Haven who have said yes to divestment. Now we want to get a state to do it, and Tom DiNapoli has 100 percent complete control over the state pension plan, so it's his decision, his decision alone. We want him to divest from the fossil fuel companies."

Jordan Woch, a lifelong resident of New York City, heard about the rally and dropped by in a show of support.  "The comptroller has the third largest pension fund in the United States and he can divest, that is to say, change his investments, pull 'em out of the fossil fuel and go ideally to renewable, and that's important both materially, because it's a lot of money, and symbolically. New York has been a leader, New York involved in South African divestment and in tobacco divestment, and this would just be the future of a wave that's going to come."

Assistant Comptroller Carlos Rodriquez accepted the petitions.  Matt Sweeney with the Comptroller's office didn't want to go on tape, but affirmed that DiNapoli, a Democrat and former Assemblyman, "is widely recognized in the investment community as a global leader in addressing climate change." He adds that "consistent with his fiduciary responsibility to the State Pension Fund, Comptroller DiNapoli has vigorously engaged portfolio companies on climate change issues and has achieved real and positive improvements to corporations' environmental practices."

The petition drive is the beginning of a statewide campaign to stop new pension investments in fossil fuels and to phase out all fossil fuel investments within five years.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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