By Breck Dumas
January 18, 2022 - West Virginia state Treasurer Riley Moore announced Monday that his state would end the use of a BlackRock Inc. investment fund over the firm's push for climate-focused investment strategies that Moore says threaten his state's economy.
"As the state’s chief financial officer and chairman of the Board of Treasury Investments, I have a duty to ensure that taxpayer dollars are managed in a responsible, financially sound fashion which reflects the best interests of our state and country, and I believe doing business with BlackRock runs contrary to that duty," Moore said in a statement.
The treasurer's press release explained that the decision came in reaction to reports that BlackRock "has urged companies to embrace ‘net zero’ investment strategies that would harm the coal, oil and natural gas industries, while increasing investments in Chinese companies that subvert national interests and damage West Virginia's manufacturing base and job market."
Last month, educational nonprofit Consumers' Research sent a letter to ten governors, including the governor of West Virginia, whose state pension funds are most invested with BlackRock, warning about the money management firm's heavy investments in China.
"BlackRock’s funneling of billions in U.S. capital to China carries with it risks not present in other markets, risks that threaten the large wagers the company is putting on steep returns from the Middle Kingdom," Consumers' Research Executive Director Will Hild wrote in the letter.
"Chinese firms are not held to the same transparency standards as their western counterparts, so foreign investors are often hard pressed to appreciate the true risk profile of what they’re investing in," Hild added.
A BlackRock spokesperson told FOX Business at the time that the U.S. and China "have a large and interconnected economic relationship."
"We recognize that our stakeholders have differing views on China — BlackRock takes those concerns seriously," the spokesperson explained. "We seek to balance the concerns of our stakeholders with our role as a global investor and fiduciary working for our clients as we navigate this very complicated relationship between the US and China. Our approach to Chinese-related investments is consistent with U.S. foreign policy."
BlackRock, the largest money manager in the world with more than $10 trillion in assets under management, announced in January 2021 that it had signed on to supporting a goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner. The company has made it no secret that it is committed to decarbonization and sustainability.
In 2020, the asset management behemoth rolled out a series of climate-focused exchange-traded funds that screen out companies with certain levels of investment in certain energy sectors such as coal and shale oil that environmentally-focused investors want to avoid.
BlackRock says on its website that its net-zero initiative is important because "climate risk will fundamentally reshape finance and drive a significant reallocation of capital," adding that the company believes "a successful and orderly net zero transition is in the financial interest" of their clients "and the economy as a whole."
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink says the company's sustainability investment strategies are in high demand. He said on the company's recent fourth-quarter earnings call that "We have already seen $4 trillion of capital move from traditional investments to sustainability ones in the last two years alone, and this is just the beginning."
West Virginia is the second-largest coal producer in the U.S. and the state ranks fifth in total energy production. Roughly 4.6% of the state's energy production comes from renewables such as hydroelectric and wind power, according to the state's Department of Economic Development.
BlackRock did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment on West Virginia's move.