In late December 2017, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo made waves when he urged the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which manages $201.3 billion in public pensions, to divest from all of its fossil fuel holdings. In his announcement, Cuomo declared that New York is “fully and aggressively committed to a carbon-free, clean energy future.”
However, a review of the most recent personal financial disclosures made by statewide elected officials reveal that Cuomo’s second-in-command, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, and her husband have tens of thousands of dollars personally invested in fossil fuel companies. These investments include holdings in some of the most polluting power companies in the country as well as oil and gas companies being sued by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and by New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio over their contributions to global climate change.
Governor Cuomo did not disclose holding any securities worth more than $1,000 in his most recent statement.
Hochul’s fossil fuel stocks
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has personal fossil fuel holdings that likely stretch into six figures. In 2016, Hochul disclosed ownership of between $30,000 and $119,994 worth of stocks in a variety of fossil fuel companies. Her investments include ExxonMobil, which is being sued by New York State for its years of funding the climate change denial movement, as well as by New York City for damage caused by climate change fueled by ExxonMobil’s activities.
Other holdings include the electric utility American Electric Power, which generates 47% of its power from coal and 27% from natural gas, and was the second largest emitter of carbon pollution in 2015; Dominion Resources, which is building the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline to ship fracked gas through Virginia; and Schlumberger, the largest fracking company in the world.
|Company||Low range||High range|
|American Electric Power||$5,000||$19,999|
Mutual and exchange-traded funds
In addition to their direct ownership stakes in fossil fuel companies, Hochul and her husband also invest in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds with significant energy holdings.
Hochul disclosed between $20,000 and $49,999 invested in the Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund, an ETF focused on the oil and gas industry managed by State Street Advisors. ExxonMobil and Chevron stock make up 22.74% and 16.79% of fund’s holdings respectively. Both companies are currently being sued by New York City over their contributions to climate change.
Another ETF invested in by the Hochuls, the Utilities Select Sector SPDR Fund, holds American Electric Power stock as well as that of other dirty energy producers such as Duke Energy and Southern Company. According to her disclosure, Hochul and her husband have between $20,000 and $49,999 invested in the utilities fund.
Hochul and her husband have between $20,000 and $49,999 invested in Gabelli ABC Fund, a mutual fund managed by investor Mario Gabelli, of which energy stocks make up 3% of the total portfolio. One major energy holding in the fund is the Buffalo-based vertically-integrated natural gas company National Fuel, which is currently suing New York State over its rejected application to build a pipeline to export fracked gas to Canada.
New York politicians are slowly inching towards challenging and divesting from the fossil fuel industry. Hochul touted the state’s commitment at a Buffalo rally in support of the Paris climate accord in June 2017, saying:
There are over 200 nations that believe we should fight to save the future of our planet, and if our entire country under President Trump will not do it, then the state of New York will stand and join together.
Hochul’s personal resolve when it comes to climate action, however, is uncertain considering her fossil fuel investments. If the Cuomo administration is serious about cleaning house, its top officials should join in the initiatives they have planned planned for the rest of state residents.