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New York Pension to Coal Companies: Evolve or We'll Divest

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 1/29/2020 Saijel Kishan
a close up of a rail: Hopper cars laden with coal trail behind an eastbound Norfolk Southern Corp. freight train heading through Waddy, Kentucky, U.S. © Bloomberg Hopper cars laden with coal trail behind an eastbound Norfolk Southern Corp. freight train heading through Waddy, Kentucky, U.S.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund, the third-largest U.S. public pension fund, said it may divest from coal mining companies that aren’t ready to move away from relying on thermal coal for profits.

The fund is reviewing 27 miners that earn at least 10% of revenue from mining thermal coal that’s burned by power plants to produce electricity, either directly for industries or to supply power grids. The companies under review include Peabody Energy Corp., Anglo American Plc. and Coal India Ltd.

“We are assessing minimum standards for transition readiness at coal mining companies first, because they face the greatest risk as the world turns to cleaner and renewable energies,” Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in a statement Wednesday.

The review is part of DiNapoli’s Climate Action Plan, which seeks to cut the carbon footprint of the pension plan’s investments. DiNapoli has asked the miners for relevant information, and the companies have until mid-February to respond. The review process will take several months to finish, the pension plan said.

The New York pension fund managed about $210 billion as of the end of March 2019, and its investments in the 27 coal miners are worth about $98 million, according to spokesman Matt Sweeney.

The standards being assessed include companies’ measures to align their business models with the Paris Agreement’s emissions goals, reducing capital expenditures on coal and setting long-term targets to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

The pension fund said it may divest from miners that fail the state plan’s assessment and are unable to show their readiness to transition to a low-carbon economy.

State Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat who has sponsored legislation to push the New York pension fund to divest its fossil fuel investments, described its moves as “incremental.”

“I continue to urge the Comptroller to reach the logical conclusion of today’s announcement, and move swiftly to fully divest the pension fund from all oil, gas, and coal producers,” she said in a statement.

Related video: How employees can protect themselves against pension mismanagement (provided by Yahoo Finance)

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