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221 signatories from 50 counties

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Dear Comptroller DiNapoli,

We, the undersigned elected officials, are committed to protecting the economies, environment, and public health of the New York State cities, counties, towns, and villages we represent.  While we appreciate your work on a low carbon investment index and the Sustainable Investment Program, we recognize these are only the first steps towards fully addressing the risk of climate change in our State’s pension fund. The urgent timeline for addressing climate change and securing the pension fund requires a firm commitment to rapidly shift investments away from fossil fuels.

Climate change is a serious and urgent threat to the health, welfare, and prosperity of all New Yorkers. New Yorkers have experienced the tragic impacts of climate change, including Superstorm Sandy and Tropical Storms Irene and Lee; the cost of Superstorm Sandy alone to New York State was $32.8 billion. We have witnessed the losses to our communities, businesses, and agriculture due to extreme weather, infrastructure damage, displacement of residents, and threatened food and water supplies, while taxpayers in our municipalities pay billions to rebuild and adapt.

The consensus of the international scientific community is that climate change is accelerating, raising sea levels, increasing extreme weather patterns, worsening air pollution, threatening water and food supplies, causing loss of critical biodiversity, and costing lives, livelihoods, and social integrity.  The science is clear that we must rapidly reduce the extraction and burning of fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic climate change: at least 80% of all current coal reserves, half of gas reserves, and one third of oil reserves must stay in the ground.

As local officials with constituents and employees who are taxpayers and beneficiaries of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, we entrust the stewardship of our pension funds to the Comptroller’s Office. The Fund currently invests approximately $5 billion of public pension money in the 200 fossil fuel companies with the largest carbon content reserves. These investments fund coal mines, gas ports, pipelines, seafloor drilling, and tar sands extraction that worsen climate change and cost our communities. In New York State alone, at least 4,000 deaths and more than $33 billion in public health costs annually are associated with the burning of fossil fuels.

New York State’s current policy to invest indefinitely in the top 200 fossil fuel companies puts our communities and pension fund at risk and is antithetical to our state’s role as a national leader on transitioning to clean energy and climate resiliency.  It is inconsistent for the pension system to maintain a financial interest in companies invested heavily in practices that worsen climate change while New York State is committed to policies necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.

As a fiduciary, you are charged to prudently invest assets in ways that maximize long-term risk-adjusted performance. Fossil fuel companies do not meet this test. Risks to investments in fossil fuel companies continue to rise dramatically as clean energy is becoming rapidly more affordable and the extraction of fossil fuels is becoming more dangerous and costly. As communities demand a transition to clean energy, as industry develops new energy efficient and clean energy technology, and as governments take binding steps to limit emissions and restrict fossil fuel burning after the historic Paris agreement, fossil fuel companies whose value is based on unburnable carbon and methane reserves risk devaluation as a result of their stranded assets. Financial leaders around the world warn that the fossil fuel asset bubble will burst and destroy enormous wealth — putting New York State’s investments, and ultimately taxpayers, at risk.

Indeed, the Common Retirement Fund has already lost more than $261 million through coal investments from 2010 to 2015 at a time of generally strong market growth. There have been 52 bankruptcies in the coal industry, including all of the largest companies. These companies have lost 100% of their value and their efforts to come out of bankruptcy are marred by a weak pricing market, continued regulatory challenges, and growing public opposition at home and around the world.

New risks to fossil fuel investments surface with each passing month, with attorneys general from New York State and 16 other states conducting ongoing investigations of potential fraud by the industry for misleading shareholders and funding public misinformation campaigns over decades to deny the threats of and their role in climate change, even as they sought to protect their own assets from its impacts.

Divestment from fossil fuel companies has been shown to be safe, prudent, and consistent with fiduciary duty. Several studies have shown that fossil fuel-free funds perform as robustly or better than funds invested in such companies. Mercer’s Investing in a Time of Climate Change report demonstrates that divestment from fossil fuel companies can reduce investment risk by reducing exposure to climate change, allow capital to flow to the low-greenhouse gas economy, and offer exposure to investments that will benefit from climate change action — protecting beneficiaries and all New Yorkers.

Therefore, we respectfully urge you to divest the Common Retirement Fund from the top 200 companies with the largest carbon content fossil fuel reserves by 2020, and begin by divesting from all companies in the thermal coal industry within one year.  Coal is one of the dirtiest energy sources, in addition to costing the State of New York millions of dollars and more each day. 

Furthermore, we urge the State to reinvest divested funds into climate solutions and a socially just transition to clean energy in a prudent manner consistent with your fiduciary duty. We urge you to align our investments with New York State’s policies to keep fossil fuels in the ground and support a thriving low-carbon, renewable economy.

 

Sincerely,


Darlene Abbatecola
Councilwoman
Town of Frankfort
Herkimer County

Franchesca Amparo
Legislator
Dutchess County

Howard Baker
Councilman
Town of Marlborough
Ulster County

Tracey Bartels
County Legislator
Ulster County

John Bennett
Alderman
City of Cortland
Cortland County

Katrina Binkewicz
Boardmember
Town of Landing
Tompkins County

Rebecca Brenner
Deputy Supervisor
Town of Danby
Tompkins County

Kate Browning
Legislator
Suffolk County

Christopher Cannon
Councilman
Town of Arkwright
Chautauqua County

Molly Clifford
Councilmember
City of Rochester
Monroe County

Robert Corby
Mayor
Village of Pittsford
Monroe County

Chad Davis
Legislator
Oneida County

Thomas Delehanty
Clerk
Town of Hardenburgh
Ulster County

Mary Ann DiScenza
Legislator
Cortland County

David Dukler
Councilman
Town of Gardiner
Ulster County

William Elsey
Supervisor
Town of Springfield
Otsego County

David Fogel
Mayor
Village of Freeville
Tompkins County

Jacqueline Gordon
Councilwoman
Town of Babylon
Suffolk County

Elizabeth Greenwood
Mayor
Village of Tully
Onondaga County

Barbara Hebert
Town Councillor
City of Plattsburgh
Clinton County

John Hughes
Councilman
Town of Rosendale
Ulster County

Sarah Jones
Board Member
Town of Pine Plains
Dutchess County

David Kellogg
Supervisor
Town of Adams
Jefferson County

Dooley Kiefer
Legislator
Tompkins County

Jenna Koch
Council President
City of Tonawanda
Erie County

Ginger Kuenzel
Town Board Member
Town of Hague
Warren County

Linda Lavine
Councilperson
Town of Dryden
Tompkins County

Kathy Luz Herrera
Legislator
Tompkins County

Bruce Maxson
Trustee
Village of Cooperstown
Otsego County

Bill McKenna
Supervisor
Town of Woodstock
Ulster County

William Moehle
Supervisor
Town of Brighton
Monroe County

Marc Neves
Assessor
Town of Hunter
Greene County

Louise Novros
Councilperson
Town of Brighton
Monroe County

Douglas Ostrander
Councilperson
Town of Cairo
Greene County

Gerald Pietraszek
Councilman
Town of Colden
Erie County

Marion Porterfield
Councilmember
City of Schenectady
Schenectady County

William Reinhardt
Legislator
Albany County

Frederick Ricci
Mayor
Village of East Rochester
Monroe County

Ann Rider
Supervisor
Town of Town of Enfield
Tompkins County

Edmond Roberts
Councilperson
Town of Rhinebeck
Dutchess County

Helen Rosenthal
Councilwoman
City of New York
New York County

Bennett Sandler
Councilman
Town of Town of Otsego
Otsego County

Bill Schroeder
Trustee
Village of Lancaster
Erie County

Georgia Shafer
Councilperson
Town of Summit
Schoharie County

JoAnn Sherwood
Clerk
Town of Elmira
Chemung County

James Sofranko
Councilmember
Town of Olive
Ulster County

Debra Stapleton
Clerk
Town of Elbridge
Onondaga County

Katherine Stuligross
Representative
Otsego County

Elizabeth Thomas
Supervisor
Town of Ulysses
Tompkins County

Ritchie Torres
City Councilmember
City of New York
New York County

David VanLuven
Councilor
Town of Bethlehem
Albany County

Laura Walls
Deputy Supervisor
Town of Gardiner
Ulster County

Irene Weiser
Councilmember
Town of Caroline
Tompkins County

Wayne Wink
Clerk
Town of North Hempstead
Nassau County

Jere Wrightsman
Board Member
Town of Austerlitz
Columbia County

Nancy Zahler
Deputy Supervisor
Town of Ulysses
Tompkins County

Mary Adams
Commissioner
School District of Rochester
Monroe County

Dorcey Applyrs
Council Member
City of Albany
Albany County

Jan Baldwin
Town Clerk/Tax Collector/Vital Recors Registrar
Town of Wirt
Allegany County

Tim Batzel
Trustee
Village of Avon
Livingston County

Robert Best
Supervisor
Town of Russell
St. Lawrence County

Hannah Black
Legislator
Dutchess County

Thomas Briggs
Legislator
Ulster County

Doug Bullock
Legislator
Albany County

Frank Capozza
Trustee
Village of Cooperstown
Otsego County

John Codman III
Trustee
Village of Pelham Manor
Westchester County

Brendan Coyne
Mayor
Village of Cornwall-on-Hudson
Orange County

James Dean
Trustee
Village of Cooperstown
Otsego County

Judith Dellerba
Deputy Mayor
Village of Boonville
Oneida County

Judy Doesschate
Council Member
City of Albany
Albany County

DuWayne Gregory
County Legislator
Suffolk County

David Englert
Mayor
Village of Sodus
Wayne County

Linda French
Supervisor
Town of Dover
Dutchess County

Alexandra Gordon
Trustee
School district of Comsewogue
Suffolk County

Frank Hagen
Deputy Mayor
Village of Suffern
Rockland County

Joan Hinman
Mayor
Village of Stamford
Delaware County

Regina Hunt
School Board Trustee
Village of Patchogue
Suffolk County

Ken Jones
Councilmember
Town of Greenburgh
Westchester County

Judy Kennedy
Mayor
City of City of Newburgh
Orange County

Meg Kiernan
Supervisor
Town of Otsego
Otsego County

Jeffrey Koppelson
Trustee
Village of Poquott
Suffolk County

Donald La Forge
Supervisor
Town of Wellsville
Allegany County

Meg Lefevre
Councilor
Town of Plattsburgh
Clinton County

Fion MacCrea
Councilman
Town of Alfred
Allegany County

David Mayo
Legislator
Town of Colonie
Albany County

Karen Mejia
Councilwoman
City of Newburgh
Orange County

Deborah Mohlenhoff
Alderperson, Common Council
City of Ithaca
Tompkins County

Ducson Nguyen
Councilmember
City of Ithaca
Tompkins County

Sean O’Brien
Trustee
Village of Canton
St. Lawrence County

Cheryl Parisi
Trustee
Village of Farmingdale
Nassau County

Doug Plummer
Mayor
Village of Sharon Springs
Schoharie County

Christopher Pryslopski
Councilman
Town of Rosendale
Ulster County

Ryan Reynolds
Mayor
Village of Whitney Point
Broome County

Darlene Rich
Clerk
Town of Shelby
Orleans County

Kari Rieser
Legislator
City of Poughkeepsie
Dutchess County

Hector Rodriguez
County Legislator
Ulster County

Rebecca Rotzler
Deputy Mayor
Village of New Paltz
Ulster County

Julie Sasso
Board Member
Town of Bethlehem
Albany County

Ezra Scott
Council Member
City of Niagara Falls
Niagara County

Darius Shahinfar
City Treasurer
City of Albany
Albany County

Merton Simpson
Legislator
Albany County

Elizabeth Spinzia
Supervisor
Town of Rhinebeck
Dutchess County

Owen Steed
Legislator
Niagara County

Julie Szumigala
Clerk
Town of Sheridan
Chautauqua County

Ellen Tillapaugh
Trustee
Village of Cooperstown
Otsego County

Matthew Turnbull
Legislator
Orange County

Kathryn Vernay
Trustee
Village of Tully
Onondaga County

Jeanne Walsh
Supervisor
Town of Town of Rosendale
Ulster County

Gregory Westbrook
Councilman
Town of Canandaigua
Ontario County

Mark Witmer
Supervisor
Town of Caroline
Tompkins County

Gregory Young
Supervisor
City of Gloversville
Fulton County

Chris Allen
Legislator
Ulster County

Rachelle Armstrong
Councilor
City of Plattsburgh
Clinton County

Martin Bamonto
Councilman
City of Dunkirk
Chautauqua County

Joyce Becker
Board Member
Town of Bethlehem
Albany County

Khalid Bey
Councilmember
City of Syracuse
Onondaga County

Andrew Boggess
Board Member
Town of Olive
Ulster County

Cynthia Brock
Alderperson
City of Ithaca
Tompkins County

Scott Burto
Mayor
Village of West Carthage
Jefferson County

Michael Cashman
Supervisor
Town of Plattsburgh
Clinton County

R. Dale Cole
Councilman
Town of Andes
Delaware County

Joseph Croce
Supervisor
Town of Plattekill
Ulster County

Anthony Del Plato
Trustee
Village of Interlaken
Seneca County

Rich DePaolo
Councilperson
Town of Ithaca
Tompkins County

Jennifer Dotson
Supervisor
City of Ithaca
Tompkins County

Christopher Eachus
Legislator
Orange County

Mary Farmer
Town Clerk
Town of Urbana
Steuben County

James Goldstein
Supervisor
Town of Lebanon
Madison County

Manna Jo Greene
Legislator
Ulster County

Kara Hahn
Legislator
Suffolk County

Thomas Hohensee
Council Member
Town of Otsego
Otsego County

Patricia Jacob
Councilmember
City of Oneonta
Otsego County

Jeff Katz
Mayor
Village of Cooperstown
Otsego County

Donald Kerr
Trustee
Village of New Paltz
Ulster County

Kelly Kimbrough
Council Member
City of Albany
Albany County

Gary Koutnik
Representative
Otsego County

Brad Lander
City Councilmember
City of New York
New York County

Lynne Lekakis
Legislator
Albany County

Marybeth Majestic
Supervisor
Town of Gardiner
Ulster County

Cindy McFarland
Clerk
Town of Lapeer
Cortland County

Rosie Mendez
Councilwoman
City of New York
New York County

Shawn Morse
Mayor
City of Cohoes
Albany County

Joan Nicols
Trustee
Village of Cooperstown
Otsego County

Michael O’Hara
Alderman
City of Hudson
Columbia County

James Pawliczek,Sr.
Mayor
Village of Florida
Orange County

Amy Pokorny
Deputy Supervisor
Town of Knox
Albany County

Michael Queenan
Mayor
Village of Woodbury
Orange County

Michael Reynolds
Supervisor
Town of Covert
Seneca County

Vern Richardson
Councillor
Town of Elbridge
Onondaga County

Kerin Rigney
Councilmember
Town of DeWitt
Onondaga County

Cheryl Rogers
Clerk/Collector
Town of Taghkanic
Columbia County

Donald Sage
Councilman
Town of Schroon
Essex County

Christopher Schaeffer
Councilperson
Town of Pomfret
Chautauqua County

Julie Seyfert-Lillis
Councilwoman
Town of New Paltz
Ulster County

Julianne Sharratt
Councilman
Town of Hartwick
Otsego County

Terry Skelton
Trustee
Village of Springville
Erie County

Andrew Stammel
Representative
Otsego County

Michael Stolzer
Councilman
Town of Oneonta
Otsego County

Kathleen Talbot
Councilmember
City of City
Westchester County

Thomas Tkachuk
Board member
Town of Ava
Oneida County

Joel Tyner
Legislator
Dutchess County

Greg Vogler
Board Member
Town of Austerlitz
Columbia County

Kenneth Walter
Mayor
Village of Fort Johnson
Montgomery County

Jeremy Wilber
Supervisor
Town of Woodstock
Ulster County

Tom Wood
Councilor
Town of Plattsburgh
Clinton County

Dennis Young
Trustee
Village of New Paltz
Ulster County

Lou Allstadt
Trustee
Village of Cooperstown
Otsego County

William Bacon
Councilman
Town of Shelby
Orleans County

Don Barber
Supervisor
Town of Caroline
Tompkins County

Penny Beebe
Trustee
Village of Freeville
Tompkins County

Stanley Bilinski
Clerk
Town of Salisbury
Herkimer County

Craig Brendli
Legislator
Dutchess County

Tina Brown
Legislator
Monroe County

Raymond Byrnes
Trustee
Village of East Aurora
Erie County

Rose Mary Christian
Councilwoman
City of Batavia
Genesee County

Carolee Conklin
Councilmember
City of Rochester
Monroe County

Joanne Cunningham
Legislator
Albany County

James Delaune
Legislator
Ulster County

Vincent DeSantis
Councilman
City of Gloversville
Fulton County

Richard Driscoll
Supervisor
Town of Newfield
Tompkins County

Bob Eklund
Councilman
Town of New Lisbon
Otsego County

Samuel Fein
Legislator
Albany County

Dorothy L Goosby
Councilwoman
Town of Hempstead
Nassau County

Ronald Greenleaf
Supervisor
Town of Hannibal
Oswego County

Tiffany Hamilton
Mayor
City of Hudson
Columbia County

Ruth Hopkins
Board Member
Town of Lansing
Tompkins County

Christopher Johnson
Council Member
City of Yonkers
Westchester County

Stanley III Kaznowski
Councilmember
Town of Cheektowaga
Erie County

Jean Kessner
Councilor-at-Large
City of Syracuse
Onondaga County

Kathy Kinder
Village Clerk
Village of Wellsville
Allegany County

Judd Krasher
Council Member
City of Albany
Albany County

Kristopher LaPointe
Highway Superintendent
Town of Sennett
Cayuga County

Scot Lueck
Town of Butternuts Councilman
Town of Butternuts
Otsego County

Christian Mathiesen
Commissioner of Public Safety
City of Saratoga Springs
Saratoga County

Janet McFetridge
Trustee
Village of Champlain
Clinton County

Jen Metzger
Councilwoman
Town of Rosendale
Ulster County

Steve Napier
Councilman
City of Cohoes
Albany County

Steven Noble
Mayor
City of Kingston
Ulster County

Tom Olenych
Town Clerk
Town of Scipio
Cayuga County

A. Martin Petrovic
Mayor
Village of Trumansburg
Tompkins County

Rachel Polens
Council Member
Town of Meredith
Delaware County

David Ray
Councilman
Town of Hyde Park
Dutchess County

Michael Reynolds
Councilman
Town of Gardiner
Ulster County

Patricia Riddell Kent
Board Member
Town of Oneonta
Otsego County

Thomas Roach
Mayor
city of White Plains
Westchester County

Tim Rogers
Mayor
Village of New Paltz
Ulster County

Thomas Salamone
School Board Member
School District of Minisink Valley
Orange County

Allegra Schecter
Councilperson
Town of Roseboom
Otsego County

Cheryl Shackelton
Clerk
Town of Oneonta
Otsego County

John Sherman
Mayor
Village of Schuylerville
Saratoga County

Clifford Smalley
Councilman
Town of Franklin
Franklin County

Robert Stanley
Supervisor
Town of Shandaken
Ulster County

Charles Storms
Highway Superintendent
Town of Hardenburgh
Ulster County

Conrad Taylor
Councilman
City of Binghamton
Broome County

Dr. Len Torres
Council President
City of Long Beach
Nassau County

Peter Van Scoyoc
Deputy Supervisor
Town of East Hampton
Suffolk County

Giles Wagoner
Board Member
Town of Bethlehem
Albany County

Edward J. Warner Jr.
Trustee
Town of Southampton
Suffolk County

Anna Wilcox
Clerk
Town of Willet
Cortland County

Gunnar Wordon
Trustee
Village of Chatham
Columbia County

John Zaccaro
Mayor
Village of Saltaire
Suffolk County