Republican states move to block giant asset manager’s ESG push for utility companies

Source: BY STEPHEN NEUKAM, The Hill • Posted: Thursday, May 11, 2023

BlackRock headquarters in New York, US, on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. (Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A group of Republican-led states have filed a motion with a federal regulator to block BlackRock, the largest asset manager in the world, from imposing sustainable investing practices on utility companies.

The states, led by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R), appealed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to keep BlackRock from laying down environmental, social and governmental (ESG) investing priorities on utility companies, continuing a GOP crusade against what it argues is “woke” investing.

The states, including Utah, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia, filed the motion against the investment company on Wednesday, asking the FERC to not give it blanket authorization to buy more than $10 million in voting stakes in a utility company if it imposes ESG priorities.

“These elitists are trying to impose restrictions on energy companies and utilities that would never win approval at the ballot box,” Rokita said in a statement. “Their schemes could raise utility bills for regular Americans, including elderly Hoosiers on fixed incomes, and they could diminish the value of investment accounts.”

The move from the GOP-led states comes after BlackRock signed onto a number of climate-related goals, including the Climate Action 100+ and the Net Zero Asset Managers initiatives, which call for fossil fuel use to be slashed by 25 percent in 2030 and as far down as 2 percent by 2050.

In response to the filing from the Republican states, BlackRock said it was focused on providing the “best financial outcome” for clients.

“As a fiduciary, BlackRock’s core focus is seeking the best financial outcomes for our clients, consistent with their investment objectives,” a BlackRock spokesperson said. “We continue to offer them choice in financial products, and we are providing the ability for more and more clients to vote their proxies.”

It also continues a crusade against ESG investing by Republicans, who have argued that the practices will raise prices for consumers in pursuit of a “woke” agenda.

Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law a bill that bars state and local businesses from considering ESG factors when deciding whether to invest or contract with businesses.

In March, DeSantis, joined by 18 other Republican governors, released a statementlabeling ESG a “direct threat to the American economy, individual economic freedom, and our way of life.”