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Artis ’22: Brown’s reported Fortress investment is grossly misaligned with its sustainability goals

In a recently published article by Bloomberg, Brown University’s Investment Office is reportedly in advanced talks to “invest in Fortress Investment Group alongside Mubadala Investment Co. as part of the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund’s acquisition of a majority stake in the alternative asset manager.” An investment would be grossly misaligned with the University’s greenhouse gas emissions goals and the need to phase out fossil fuels globally. 

Fortress Investment Group is the parent company of New Fortress Energy, which owns, operates and develops natural gas power plants and liquefied natural gas — or LNG — export infrastructure around the world, including an offshore LNG export terminal in Altamira, Mexico and the controversial Wyalusing/Gibbstown LNG export facility stretching from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. LNG is composed primarily of methane, a greenhouse gas roughly 86 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a twenty year timescale. Left unchecked, the buildout of new LNG facilities will have devastating implications for communities and our climate.

Although the industry has touted natural gas as a sustainable transition fuel, there is nothing clean about LNG. To begin, in the U.S. the gas is primarily fracked, which pollutes local air, land and groundwater. This fracked gas is then transported via pipelines, which leak methane along the way. One estimate suggests that U.S. natural gas pipelines are leaking between 1.2 million and 2.6 million tons of methane per year. At the end of its journey through a pipeline, it is chilled to negative 260 degrees Fahrenheit to be converted into liquid form for transport via tankers. This supercooled liquid is loaded onto massive diesel-powered tankers and shipped thousands of miles away. The liquid is re-gasified at import terminals and leaks even more methane there. A 2023 study found that a gas system leakage rate as low as 0.2% places emissions from gas on par with coal

An investment from Brown University’s endowment would support expansion of New Fortress Energy’s highly polluting LNG operations. During my time at Brown, the University announced its informal divestment from the fossil fuel industry. A letter from President Christina Paxson in March 2020 announced that “90% of investments in companies that extract fossil fuels have been sold, and the remainder is being liquidated as it becomes possible to do so.” Today, the Brown University Sustainable Investment Fund, or BUSIF, a part of the endowment, is committed to being fossil fuel-free. BUSIF has committed not to invest “in companies engaged in the extraction, exploration, production, manufacturing or refining of fossil fuels.” Notably missing in President Paxson’s announcement and the endowment’s policy on fossil fuels is the word “transport.” The transport of fossil fuels, LNG in particular, will have catastrophic consequences for local environments, human health and the global system if it is not stopped. Brown University’s endowment should have no part in supporting the disastrous expansion of LNG exports and imports. 


The environmental and health impacts of liquified natural gas have been felt throughout the Gulf South for years. In 2022, Freeport LNG — the second largest LNG facility in the U.S. — exploded. The air pollutants from the explosion can contribute to increased incidences of respiratory disease, heart disease and cancer. This past fall, I helped to deliver over 200,000 petitions to the Department of Energy calling for an end to LNG expansion because of the devastation it is wreaking on low-income and Black and Brown communities in the Gulf South. In January, the Biden-Harris Administration announced that the Department of Energy would pause all new LNG export licensing pending a review of the economic and environmental analyses that underpin export authorizations. This pause is welcomed, but it should lead to the only scientifically sound conclusion: a complete rejection of all new LNG export permits. 

Despite widespread support from the climate movement and communities living around LNG facilities, the fight to stop their expansion is far from over. Following the announcement, the pause was promptly attacked by the oil and gas lobby and members of Congress. Climate activists were arrested, disrupting Senator Joe Manchin’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which criticized the pause. New licensing is paused, but LNG companies are still receiving millions of dollars in financing to expand operations across the Gulf South. 

Every single decision that we make matters at this juncture. The fossil fuel industry is fighting to expand fossil fuels when the science could not be more clear that we need a total fossil fuel phase out. It is up to us to use all of the resources at our disposal to advance a just transition to a renewable energy economy. Brown University and investors everywhere should reject investments with any ties to fossil fuels and liquified natural gas. It is time to end the era of fossil fuels.

Zanagee Artis ’22 can be reached at Artis is the co-founder and executive director of Zero Hour. He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society and a member of the Brown Alumni Association Board of Governors.


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