Municipalities along the 170-mile proposed route of the Pilgrim Pipeline, proposed to carry hydrofracked Bakken crude oil from Albany to Linden, New Jersey, have been scrambling to find alternative tactics for opposing the project ever since attempts to eliminate the New York State Thruway Authority as co-lead agency fizzled in late April. Now the New Paltz Village Board has taken a new approach: petitioning the New York State Comptroller to cut off the flow of investment dollars from the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS).
Pipeline opponents had argued that allowing the Thruway Authority to collaborate with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the project creates a potential conflict of interest, with Thruway officials possibly swayed by the lure of fee income that might help cover the astronomical costs of replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge. The Towns of New Paltz, Newburgh and New Windsor sent letters to acting DEC commissioner Basil Seggos requesting that DEC serve as sole lead agency; but on April 27, Seggos issued a ruling rejecting that request.
Barely a month after the issuance of that decision, New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers drafted a resolution asking the Comptroller’s Office to review the portfolio of companies in which the Ares Management Corporation invests NYSLRS pension funds. “The pension fund should have some influence over Ares,” explained Rogers, since some $800 million of the pension fund’s $184.5 billion in investments are managed by the Los Angeles-based third-party investment firm. And some of that money gets funneled into the Pilgrim Pipeline.
“We’re being careful not to say, ‘You’ve snuck Pilgrim Pipeline into our portfolio,’” added the mayor, explaining that the argument hinges instead on ensuring that state retirees’ nest eggs are invested in ways that reflect the priorities of Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) program, which include a swift transition from reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. “We’re asking the comptroller to take a harder look at the companies that Ares has invested in” and thereby exercise its fiduciary responsibility, he said.
The New Paltz Village Board unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing Rogers to send the letter to the Comptroller’s Office at its May 25 meeting. Mayor Rogers indicated that the document would be shared with other municipalities in the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline corridor that might want to sign on. The New Paltz Town Board, meeting the following evening, tabled discussion of the measure until legal advice on its language could be obtained from the town’s attorneys.