Despite climate emergency, Arcata still invests in destructive industries

Note: On Sept. 3, the Union, other media outlets and the two incumbent City Council candidates received a letter from former City Councilmember Jason Kirkpatrick. The letter posed a question about city investment policy, which was answered by one of the incumbents. To give all the council aspirants a fair shot, we forwarded it to the other eight candidates, and one responded. Below is the letter and the two unedited candidate responses. – Ed. 

Oily investments

Greetings Mayor and candidate Michael Winkler, Vice-Mayor and candidate Paul Pitino, City Manager Karen Diemer, Finance Director Ondrea Starzhevskiy.

My name is Jason Kirkpatrick, I’m a former Councilor and Vice Mayor of Arcata (1994-1998), who used to be very active regarding Arcata’s investments.

I saw that last year Arcata declared a “climate emergency”: madriverunion.com/arcata-declares-climate-emergency-citizens-demand-action.

Yet, via Arcata’s LAIF and PMIA investments, Arcata is invested in climate-damaging oil companies like Chevron oil, which has actively lobbied against the Paris Climate Accord: treasurer.ca.gov/pmia-laif/investments/cp.pdf.

Why does Arcata continue to have any investment in Chevron, no matter how small, when Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal are reporting about conservative investors pulling out of Chevron to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars? How can Arcata declare a climate emergency, but invest in one of the worst climate damaging companies?

Source: wsj.com/articles/norways-biggest-private-money-manager-exits-from-exxon-chevron-over-climate-change-11598294780

Where I currently reside in Berlin, Germany, the City completely divested all investments in such oil companies three years ago, and since then has increased its return on investments, with a more climate friendly investment policy that accurately reflects stated City policy of striving to be Climate neutral by 2040.

I hope Arcata can do the same.

Please inform me if you will be taking any action to improve Arcata’s investment policy. For example, surely this money currenly being invested in risky oil companies could be invested, with less risk and possibly more return even, on local needs such as affordable housing.

I’m writing this as an open letter, in the hopes of it receiving proper action.

Thank you very much for a reply,

Jason Kirkpatrick
Berlin, Germany

Michael Winkler

Jason,

I agree that it sends a bad message for Arcata to have any investments in fossil fuel companies.

I personally don’t own any.

I agree that Arcata should disinvest from these companies and also encourage CalPERS, the state retirement program in which Arcata participates, to disinvest.

In terms of disinvestment, most important would be to discourage or stop sales of new shares in these companies and deprive them of new investment capital.

Disinvesting existing shares would have a smaller impact.

A current focus of mine is to enact federal, state and local policies that ban or restrict fossil fuel use.

Direct reduction of consumption, renewable generation and disinvestment aren’t mutually exclusive, but I am primarily focusing on consumption, a focus that I believe can most quickly achieve the greatest greenhouse gas reduction.

I am prioritizing policies to mandate reductions in consumption through electrification and efficiency improvements and next on generating all electricity used in Humboldt County from local renewable sources such as solar and wind. I am doing this through my work on the Arcata City Council, through my professional consulting work and as a member of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) Board.

Such policies, for example, would require all-electric new construction, ban sale of natural gas appliances, require that specified percentages of new vehicles sold be electric, require that specified percentages of electricity come from renewable sources.

For the last 20 years, I have heavily focused on electrification of buildings, starting with my home, next on the many (200+) large solar affordable housing projects that I have worked on and, finally, on local and state energy policies in conjunction with Sierra Club and the Natural Resources defense Council (NRDC).

In Arcata two years ago, the Council adopted two formal goals that I proposed:

Require all-electric new construction

Phase out all natural gas in Arcata over the next 15 years

I see these two concrete goals as where my primary focus will be.

For environmental reasons, I have completely stopped flying (a large greenhouse gas impact reduction), converted my home’s space heating and water heating to electric heat pumps and made our home a net electricity producer with solar PV. I rarely drive and overwhelmingly travel by walking, bicycling, bus and train.

In general, I see disinvestment, in the short run, as sending an important symbolic message and, in the long run, depriving fossil fuel companies of money for further investments in fossil fuel infrastructure which I regard as dead-end investments.

Regards,
Michael Winkler
Mayor of Arcata

Kimberley White

Yes, I would like to change (and improve) our investment policy. I absolutely think Arcata should divest from all fossil fuels. I believe that Arcata’s investment policy should be consistent with and reflect its goals and values. It is inconsistent that Arcata declares a climate emergency, but continues to invest in Chevron, one of the worst climate damaging companies. I wholeheartedly agree with Jason Kirkpatrick that Arcata should have divested long ago from fossil fuel companies such as Chevron etc. Therefore Arcata should not invest in any companies involved in the procurement, processing, or distribution of fossil fuels, including Chevron. If we are going to invest in energy companies, we should be investing in companies involved in the research and development of clean energy alternatives. I feel we should be moving away from all fossil fuels and toward clean energy alternatives such as solar, wind power, etc. Arcata as a whole has been discussing the idea of moving toward energy independence through solar and wind power, and supporting the use of electric vehicles. To that point several new infill development projects that have been recently approved are doing just that (solar, charging stations, including a newer development giving multiple years of free bus passes for our local transportation system for the residents of the housing project.) Other cities and investment companies have moved toward more green investment, and definitely moved away from big oil, fracking, and so forth. Arcata should be investing with a conscience. Many city council’s nationwide have adopted resolutions directing the city to divest from fossil fuels. I would be in support of the City of Arcata doing the same. We have many local needs and should invest in affordable housing, local small businesses, broadband, and in other areas where the need is great but also match our vision of Arcata‘s future. 







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