Oklahoma State Treasurer Todd Russ has sent questionnaires to national financial institutions to determine which companies are in breach of a state law requiring the state to boycott companies that shun fossil fuel investments.
Russ said sending out the questionnaires is the first step in compiling a legally mandated list of companies that Oklahoma government entities are now prohibited by state law from doing business with because of their environmental, social and governance policies.
The state law, called the Energy Discrimination Elimination Act of 2022, was passed in May 2022 and went into effect in November 2022, . It declares the oil-and-gas industry a vital part of the economy and that the state and companies that do business with the state should not boycott the oil-and-gas industry. It prohibits the state from signing a contract with a company unless the company submits a written certification that it is not currently engaged in a boycott of the oil-and-gas industry.
“I took office on Jan[uary] 9 and began compiling a list of companies, banks, and other entities that act against Oklahoma’s interests because of their ESG stance,” Russ said in a release. “It is my responsibility to ensure Oklahomans’ tax dollars will not be used to enrich organizations that act counter to our taxpayers’ interests and our values.”
Russ said the questionnaire provides companies an opportunity to attest to their business actions as they relate to Oklahoma and noted that other states are taking similar steps. Texas, Florida, Utah, Missouri, Kentucky, Louisiana and West Virginia, among others, have all either proposed or passed anti-ESG legislation. Last month, 25 states with Republican attorneys general sued the Department of Labor to overturn its rule permitting ESG considerations in retirement investing.
The Oklahoma law mandates that any company that does not respond to the letter and provide Russ with written verification that they do not boycott Oklahoma energy companies within 60 days from the date of the February 1 letter—April 1—is “presumed to be engaged in discriminating activities” and will be put on a public list of financial companies deemed to be in breach of the law.
“This list is crucial to provide accountability for our government entities, including organizations responsible for pension funds such as the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System and Teachers Retirement System,” Russ said. “OPERS alone has more than 60% of their portfolio totaling more than $10 billion managed by BlackRock, a well-known adversary of energy businesses.”
BlackRock, which has become the anti-ESG movement’s favorite whipping boy, recently released a statement that it “does not boycott energy companies and will continue to be investors across the energy sector.” The world’s largest asset manager also said it has invested a total of approximately $276 billion in energy companies worldwide.
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Tags: BlackRock, boycott, Climate Change, energy, Energy Discrimination Elimination Act, environmental, ESG, fossil fuel, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System, OPERS, social and governance, Teachers Retirement System, Todd Russ, Treasurer, TRS