New York Gov. Cuomo Pushes Environmental Protections While Accepting Oil and Gas Donations

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

By Josefa Velasquez and Alex Kotch. This post originally appeared on Medium.

Challenger Cynthia Nixon recently unveiled an ambitious climate platform and promised to reject fossil fuel campaign donations.

As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeks to bolster his environmental platform amid a contentious primary race, campaign finance records show that the Democratic governor has taken in more than $100,000 from the oil and gas industry during this election cycle.

On Monday, days after Cynthia Nixon  —  the Sex and the City actress challenging Cuomo from the left  —  announced she would be rejecting campaign contributions from the oil, gas and coal industries, the two-term governor declared that he plans to push for legislation banning single-use plastic bags, an apparent shift from February 2017, when Cuomo blocked New York City’s efforts to impose a 5-cent fee on plastic bags.

Since Nixon entered the race in March, Cuomo has been quick to embrace issues he had previously critiqued like regulating plastic bags and legalizing recreational marijuana.

As Cuomo and Nixon vie for support ahead of September’s Democratic primary, both are attempting to appeal to the left flank of the party. Nixon received the small but influential endorsement of the left-leaning Working Families Party and later unveiled her environmental platform, which is scant on specifics but includes transitioning the state to 100 percent renewable energy, divesting from fossil fuels and putting “an end to the influence of corporate polluters on our energy policy.” Meanwhile, Cuomo’s campaign has benefited from donations linked to the fossil fuel industry.

The Democratic governor’s campaign, which had $30.5 million on hand in mid-January, has received nearly $113,000 from oil and gas companies, businesses that work extensively with the industry, and executives of natural gas utility giant Con Edison, according to campaign finance reports covering contributions from 2015 through January 12.

The companies include Amoco, originally named Standard Oil Company; Virginia-based Dominion Energy; JK Petroleum; rail company Genesee & Wyoming, and oil and gas storage and distribution company Global Partners. Another donor is STV, an engineering company that provides services to oil and gas facilities and transportation companies including Buckeye Partners, a Texas-based business that owns and operates oil and gas pipelines and terminals in central and western New York.

During the governor’s first term, oil transport rail companies revved up their lobbying, and these companies gained permission from the state to increase crude oil shipments that traveled through New York, including Buckeye Partners. Another company with oil-by-rail interests, Global Partners,* scored deals under Cuomo in 2012, but after a rail explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Canada, left 47 people dead, the state tightened its inspections of Global Partners operations.

More recently, as gas prices have fallen, crude oil transportation through New York has slowed. However, if prices increase, rail transport could follow suit. Global Partners spent $306,000 on state lobbying from 2015 to 2017, and a subsidiary contributed $5,000 to the Cuomo campaign in May 2017. Genesee & Wyoming and two subsidiaries donated to Cuomo as recently as October of last year.

The Nixon campaign said on Thursday that it isn’t accepting campaign contributions from any corporation, including fossil fuel companies or shale transportation businesses. A spokeswoman for Nixon did not reply to request for comment on whether Nixon’s campaign will accept contributions from individuals with ties to the oil and gas industry. Financial disclosures with the state’s Board of Elections covering campaign activity for the previous six months won’t be released until mid-July.

In December, Cuomo said he would push for the state pension fund to divest from fossil fuel companies as part of his 2018 legislative agenda. The New York pension fund is one of the largest in the country, valued at $209.1 billion and covering roughly one million current and retired public employees. Of that amount, an estimated more than $4.4 billion, or roughly 2 percent, is invested in top fossil fuel companies, according to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

A spokeswoman for the Cuomo campaign did not reply by Friday to a request for comment on whether the governor has received any donations from the fossil fuel industry or individuals connected to the industry since he announced his divestment plan proposal.

Campaign finance records show that several days before Cuomo announced his divestment proposal, STV donated $25,000 to the governor’s reelection campaign through several subsidiaries.

Below is a table detailing the fossil fuel-connection donations to Cuomo’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

Oil and gas-linked donations to Gov. Cuomo campaign, 2015-2017

*Note from the  editor, 4/29/2018: Updates were made to more accurately reflect Global Partners' services.

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Main image: Gov. Cuomo & Chairman Prendergast Ride E Train in 2014. Credit: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City TransitCC BY 2.0

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