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CNY officials react to NY pension divesting from fossil fuels: ‘It’s really groundbreaking’

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New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced that the state’s pension fund, the third-largest in the country, will transition to an investment portfolio with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. Elected officials in central New York are celebrating the change and calling it groundbreaking.

Katelyn Kriesel is a Manlius town councilor and a member of the DivestNY coalition, which has been working for years with DiNapoli to get this accomplished.

“Financially, it is not in the interest of pensioners, of New Yorkers, to remain invested in a sector of the economy that can’t last much longer,” Kriesel said. “It simply cannot continue to exist, or we won’t have a planet to live on.”

Kriesel said in recent weeks, the coalition was able to get DiNapoli to come to an agreement.

“There’s not only a strong financial case for fossil fuel divestment, there’s also the very real implication of how it will help us in the fight against climate change,” Kriesel said. “These companies will be compelled, by divesting from them, to transition to a renewable energy economy.”

By 2025, the comptroller’s office will complete a review of energy sector companies in industries like oil and gas, and will divest from those that don’t meet minimum standards to transition to a low-carbon economy. The fund has already divested from 22 coal companies.

State Sen. Rachel May cosponsored a bill that would have required DiNapoli to divest from the largest fossil fuel companies in five years. She’s had talks with him, and said he’s adamant about his fiduciary responsibility.

“The fact that Comptroller DiNapoli has made this decision and that it is clearly seen as in the fiduciary interest of the funds he manages, that’s enormous and could have just a gigantic ripple effect across the country and world,” May said.

The DivestNY coalition will now turn its attention to the New York state teachers' pension fund.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.