New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D.) on Wednesday appeared to blame oil companies for the damage that Hurricane Sandy caused in New York in 2012.
De Blasio appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" to discuss his plans to divest New York City's pension funds from fossil fuel companies within five years in an effort to fight climate change. The city's five pension funds currently have about $5 billion in fossil fuel investments.
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De Blasio also said that New York City is suing five of the world's most powerful oil companies—BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell—for what he described as contributing to climate change and covering it up.
"That's why we're suing five of the biggest petroleum companies, because like the tobacco companies some years ago, they understood this crisis," de Blasio said. "They tried very intently to cover up the information about climate change and to project a propaganda campaign suggesting that climate change wasn't real and go ahead and keep using your fossil fuels."
The mayor then suggested that the oil companies' alleged actions were responsible for Hurricane Sandy.
"They [the companies] damaged our society. In a city like New York that's meant billions and billions of dollars of damage for example from Hurricane Sandy," de Blasio said. "So at the local level we have to act now, especially because our national government is not."
Earlier in the interview, New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessore pushed de Blasio to defend his plans to divest when fossil fuel stocks are doing well.
"At what point are you taking away from the ability of the pension bill to actually do well for the pensioners by making it a tool of political activism for values that you support and many New Yorkers support obviously?" Confessore asked.
"As a fundamental question, whenever you look at pensions, you have to think about the people we're here to protect—our retirees," de Blasio responded. "Our fiduciary responsibility comes up front, but you know what, if you're playing the long game in investments, fossil fuels don't make a lot of sense."
De Blasio argued that fossil fuels are "not a great long-term investment because the world rightfully is more and more moving away" from them, adding that New York City will lead in the fight to combat climate change because the Trump administration is not addressing the issue.
"We will be out of fossil fuels," he added. We don't think it's a good investment. We think it’s bad for the earth. We think it's causing the climate change that afflicts coastal cities like New York."
De Blasio's decision to divest comes as energy companies are expanding their markets into renewable energy. BP recently invested $200 million in solar energy, for example, and Shell agreed to invest up to $217 million in solar. Bloomberg reported in November that Exxon has quietly been researching hundreds of low-carbon energy projects.
Exxon's vice president of research and development, Vijay Swarup, told Bloomberg that the company is continuing with its "commitment to research."
"These areas are massively challenging, and if we can solve those, they will have huge impacts on our business," Swarup said. "We bring more than money. We bring the science, the commitment to research."