City dumping investments in fossil fuels, suing 5 big oil companies

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio will sue fossil fuel companies for climate impacts

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has made climate action a centerpiece of his administration

New York City is suing five major oil companies, becoming the latest in a growing number of municipalities attempting to hold the industry accountable for damages caused by climate change.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also joined Scott Stringer, the comptroller, in announcing Wednesday that the city's five pension funds, which control about $189 billion in assets, intend to divest about $5 billion from more than 190 "fossil fuel reserve owners" within the next five years.

NY became the largest American city to sue Big Oil, demanding that ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips pay for the cost of protecting the city from the "existential threat" of climate change.

San Francisco and Oakland filed similar suits in September against the same five companies.

Mayor de Blasio, said: "New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major U.S. city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels". Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman, said the courts are not the venue to address climate change.

Representatives for BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

"New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major United States city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels", said Bill de Blasio, New York's mayor.

The court filing claims that just 100 fossil fuel producers are responsible for almost two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution, with the five targeted companies the largest contributors.

Chevron dismissed the NY lawsuit as "factually and legally meritless" and said it will "do nothing to address the serious issue of climate change". Three of the companies shot back against the mayor's accusations, while two others - ConocoPhillips and BP - declined to enter the fray. The funds invest the pensions of hundreds of thousands of active and retired city teachers, firefighters, police officers and other employees.

Climate campaigners heaped praise on the city as well.

The city's five pension funds now hold about $5 billion in total in fossil fuel investments across 190 fossil fuel companies, according to the mayor's office. He and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli are creating an advisory committee to examine the way to proceed with divestment. The field of climate attribution science is rapidly advancing and we now know, for example, that emissions traced to the companies named in the city's suit have contributed more than eight percent of global sea level rise and over nine percent of global temperature rise. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, notable for its links to the past oil wealth of John D Rockefeller, has also sought to divest.

The National Association of Manufacturers, which represents the oil companies, slammed NY for joining a "politically-motivated campaign to undermine manufacturing in America". "Mayor de Blasio is just the latest mayor to lead his city into misguided litigation against America's energy manufacturers", said Linda Kelly, the group's general counsel. The industry group's NY executive director, Karen Moreau, accused him of hurting pension holders in "a disgraceful way to score cheap political points".

"Ironically, this attack on energy manufacturers comes at a time that New Yorkers have depended on natural gas and heating oil to carry them through the recent extreme cold", she said.

Longtime environmental activist Bill McKibben called the actions by the city "one of a handful of the most important developments" in the past 30 years.

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