L.I. union fears big green losses

ALBANY -- Going green could be a bad investment, according to some Long Island public workers.

While Democrats in Albany are considering a bill that would fully divest the state's pension system from fossil fuels, the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees is warning the move could lead to a $33.4 billion shortfall over 30 years.

The union released a report Monday it says shows that taking money out of traditional gas and oil stocks and investing in clean energy companies would lead to a significant deficiency in pension funds.

"The findings from this report should serve as a loud wakeup call to New York's taxpayers, which includes the men and women who perform the essential government services that New Yorkers rely upon every day," said Daniel Levler, president of Suffolk AME.

The Democrat-led state Senate will host a hearing on Tuesday featuring experts set to discuss the impact fossil fuel divestment would have on the state's pension fund.

Gov. Cuomo and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli have created a panel to study ways the state's more than $200 billion pension system can reduce investments in fossil fuel companies while increasing investments in clean energy.

The report, which used data from the past decade for its base, also analyzed Mayor de Blasio's move last year to divest the city's pension funds from $5 billion in fossil fuels assets and found that it would cost the Big Apple's retirement system $18.9 billion over the same period.

"We took a deep dive into the numbers in this paper and quantified the financial impact of divestment on the city and state's pension plans, as well as to the individual taxpayers," said Bradley Heinrichs, the president and CEO of Foster and Foster, whose firm conducted an independent actuarial analysis of the report. "If the future mirrors the last 10 years, divestment will be extremely expensive to all parties."

Environmental activists and advocates have engaged in a full-court press this year, pressuring DiNapoli to avoid investing any of the state's $207.4 billion pension fund in gas or oil companies. They also said the methodology of the union study is off, because it looks at the past, not the future.

"It's a last-ditch effort by folks who are speaking on behalf of the fossil fuel industry," said 350.org campaign coordinator Richard Brooks. "This isn't just about the politics or the ethics, it's about the financial risks and doing what's right for the pensioners and moving away from a risky industry."

In recent years, DiNapoli divested from gun and private prison companies. However, those investments were much smaller than the $13.1 billion activists say the state has tied up in fossil fuel companies. DiNapoli's office claims the total fossil fuel company investments are closer to $7 billion.