Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Fossil Free Divest NY, in coordination with community members and dozens of groups across America, held a rally outside the office of the New York State Comptroller in New York City, on May 14, 2018.

Fossil Free Divest NY, in coordination with community members and dozens of groups across America, held a rally outside the office of the New York State Comptroller in New York City, on May 14, 2018. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'Only the Beginning': Citing Climate and Investment Risks, NY State Pension Fund to Ditch Tar Sands

"Kudos to Tom DiNapoli for making it clear that you can't build your retirement on tar sands."

Andrea Germanos

In a development climate campaigners welcomed as a harbinger of more institutions ditching fossil fuel investments, New York state's pension fund will divest $7 million from seven tar sands companies, the state comptroller announced Monday.

"As nations around the world become increasingly serious about addressing the threat of climate change and as market forces drive a low-carbon economic transition, we need to make sure our investments line up with this reality," said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in a statement.

"We have carefully reviewed companies in the oil sands industry and are restricting investments in those that do not have viable plans to adapt to the low-carbon future," he said. "Companies responsible for large greenhouse gas emissions, like those in this industry, pose significant risks for investors."

New York's is the nation's third largest public pension fund, holding $247.7 billion in assets.

Seven companies were singled out by the comptroller because they "failed to show they are transitioning out of oil sands production"—Imperial Oil, Canadian Natural Resources, Husky Energy, MEG Energy Corp., Athabasca Oil Corporation, Cenovus Energy, and Japan Petroleum Exploration.

In addition to selling off the over $7 million in securities it now holds in those companies, the pension fund will not in the future purchase or directly hold debt or equity securities in them.

The divestment announcement reflects the broader plan for the pension fund to divest from fossil fuels and conduct reviews of the "riskiest" fossil fuel assets. In December, DiNapoli announced a 2040 goal for net-zero carbon emissions for the fund.

DiNapoli, a Democrat, said last year that the fund divested from "22 thermal coal mining companies that are not prepared to thrive, or even survive, in the low-carbon economy." Coming under the comptroller office's scrutiny next for such climate reviews are firms engaged in fracking.

Among those cheering Monday's announcement was author and co-founder Bill McKibben, who said tar sands were worthy of particularly condemnation.

"Alberta's oil patch is the dirtiest of the dirtiest—there's no need for this crude, and no place for it on a planet serious about the climate crisis. Kudos to Tom DiNapoli for making it clear that you can't build your retirement on tar sands," said McKibben.

Richard Brooks with environmental advocacy group said the divestment news was "no small matter."

"This is only the beginning," he said, "as other North American pension funds are increasingly recognizing that the tar sands is a risky investment both for pensioners and our planet."

"It's time to pivot to clean, safe renewable energy," he continued. "That's where the smart money, led by New York, is headed."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Judy Blume, Mo Willems Among 1,300 Children's Authors to Condemn 'Wave of Book Suppression'

"Reading stories that reflect the diversity of our world builds empathy and respect for everyone's humanity."

Kenny Stancil ·

Ocasio-Cortez: Maloney Should Quit DCCC Post If He Runs Against Mondaire Jones

"It's completely inappropriate" for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to be in charge of the House Democrats' campaign arm "if he's going to challenge another member," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Kenny Stancil ·

War, Disasters Drive 'All-Time High' of Nearly 60 Million Displaced in Home Nations

The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council noted the situation "is phenomenally worse than even our record figure suggests" because it does not include those forced to flee Russia's assault on Ukraine.

Jessica Corbett ·

Global Climate Movement Warns Nations Have Just 6 Months to End Fossil Fuel Finance

"The pandemic has shown that governments can rapidly mobilize massive sums of public money," says one campaigner. "This is the moment to do it, and accelerate the transition."

Brett Wilkins ·

Analysis: 26 US Billionaires Paid Average Tax Rate of Just 4.8% in Recent Years

"When you include their untaxed wealth growth in the calculation, many billionaires pay almost nothing," said Frank Clemente of Americans for Tax Fairness.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo