New York City sues 'polluting' Shell, BP and others

12 January, 2018, 03:39 | Author: Barbara Daniel
  • New York City to Announce Climate Lawsuit Against Oil Companies

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer and other trustees of New York City's $189 billion pension funds on Wednesday announced a goal to divest city funds from fossil fuels within five years.

The city is suing five major oil companies for billions of dollars to pay for the cost of protecting New York City from the effects of climate change. Today, New York City's mayor said it was time to "break the cycle" by suing the culprits - fossil fuel companies. De Blasio's team hopes that the other funds will join, too.

The initial reaction from industry backers was to criticize de Blasio's "politicization" of climate change.

"Our industry has led the way in reducing United States carbon emissions to their lowest levels in almost 25 years due to the increased use of clean and abundant natural gas to deliver reliable electricity, " API New York Executive Director Karen Moreau said in a statement. If New York City succeeds, it will be the first major US pension plan to do so. That study also showed that 80 percent of NY members believe their pensions are fully-funded. However, the city's pension funds are already struggling.

"This lawsuit is based on the claim that a corporation that makes a product causing severe harm when used exactly as intended should shoulder the costs of abating that harm", the city said in the complaint. "But everything that happens in the most global of cities is amplified".

But here's what should be an obvious question: Is extensive travel and absence from the city consistent with sound governance? The trend is expected to continue and according to the NPCC report, "projections for sea level rise in New York City are 11 to 21 inches by the 2050s, 18 to 39 inches by the 2080s, and could reach as high as 6 feet by 2100". "If we no longer assume that fossil fuels are innocent, if we no longer assume we have to keep investing in them, that changes the conversation".

De Blasio explicitly linked New York's actions to the plethora of lawsuits against the tobacco industry that led in 1997 to the largest corporate legal settlement in USA history: a $246 billion pay-out to all fifty states to fund medical care and smoking prevention programs.

"Given the unique role of the energy sector in the economy, investors that chose to remove traditional energy from their investments reduce the diversification of their portfolios and thereby suffer reduced returns and greater risk".

He said the process of divesting from co-mingled funds necessitates "extensive transaction fees and ongoing management fees", which have the power to "rob endowment funds of as much as 12 percent of a fund's total value of a 20-year time frame".

"During a period when many pension funds, are underfunded, divestment has real financial implications that jeopardize their the long-term health and solvency", it concluded.

Matt Dempsey, spokesman with the pro-industry group Divestment Facts described Wednesday's announcement as a "prime example of 'ready, fire, aim'".

Climate leaders responded with unbridled enthusiasm at the news. De Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) are both working towards divestment.

"Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue that requires global engagement", Chevron said in a statement.

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