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Cuomo wants to move pension investments away from fossil fuels

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is proposing that the massive state Common Retirement Fund stop new investments of pension assets in companies connected to fossil fuels.

“Moving the Common (Retirement) Fund away from fossil fuel investments will protect the retirement savings of New Yorkers,’’ Cuomo said in announcing his proposal Tuesday.

The plan has its limitations: state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli runs the fund and Cuomo has zero control over the pension fund for hundreds of thousands of state and local government workers and retirees.

DiNapoli indicated an openness to working with Cuomo on the issue.

Cuomo Tuesday rolled out another proposal for 2018 that calls for him to partner with DiNapoli to create an advisory panel that will move the retirement system to alter its portfolio. It's part of the governor's campaign to highlight aspects of the State of the State address he plans to deliver Jan. 3.

Cuomo and DiNapoli, both Democrats, have not gotten along over the years.

The state’s chief fiscal watchdog, DiNapoli is the sole trustee of the Common Retirement Fund — the third largest public pension system in the nation, and holder of more than $200 billion in assets.

The Cuomo administration said the plan would tell financial markets that New York State is committed to the issue.

The Cuomo administration said the DiNapoli-run pension system this year has investments in more than 50 oil and gas companies. Without specifics, it said billions of dollars of the retirement fund is invested in fossil fuel companies.

In response, DiNapoli said the retirement system is already a leader among public pension funds in seeking to push a low carbon economy and getting corporations to address climate change issues, such as through shareholder resolutions aimed at companies like ExxonMobil.

He said the fund already invests in an index account that shifts money to companies that reduce greenhouse emissions.

DiNapoli noted his fiduciary responsibility to pension fund members.

“While there are no immediate plans to divest our energy holdings, I welcome the opportunity to partner with Governor Cuomo and with the proposed advisory council to identify additional ways to continue our progress in achieving investment returns, while contributing to the emerging low-carbon economy,’’ DiNapoli said in a statement.

Cuomo, dating back to his days as state attorney general, has proposed that New York end the days of a single person — the state comptroller — serving as the pension's fund sole trustee.

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