Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2022  
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  RPA and Fossil Fuel Hypocrisy
August 5, 2022

I am no fan of fossil fuels, and I know we must transition to renewable energy as soon as possible, if we are not already too late. In the building energy sector, Richmond has been a leader – going back nearly 10 years ago by joining MCE, which delivers mostly carbon-free electricity to most Richmond residents and businesses – and also saving them millions of dollars. I currently represent the City of Richmond and serve as the chair of the board of MCE, a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) that delivers clean energy to half a million customers in four counties with an annual budget of half a billion dollars and a higher credit rating than PG&E.

In the transportation sector, we are making progress but still have a long way to go. I own electric vehicles powered by a solar PV array on my roof, but they are expensive, and not everyone can afford these types of sustainable investments. The City of Richmond, however, provides free solar installations to income qualified residents. And, MCE will help income-qualified customers acquire electric vehicles  with an EV rebate and free customer support to help take advantage of all available rebates and incentives to lower the price of newly purchased and leased EVs. Depending on eligibility, Richmond residents could receive up to $13,750 in EV rebates – even more if you trade in an older vehicle – and up to $2,000 in EV charging.

MCE is also helping multifamily property owners save energy with consultations, rebates and subsidies.

Figure 1 -

As part of the Environmental and Community Investment Agreement (ECIA) with Chevron that I helped negotiate, Chevron provided land for a the MCE 10.5 megawatt Solar One project that powers 7 percent of Richmond’s electrical demand. The ECIA also provided $35 million to start the Richmond Promise Program that has funded thousands of scholarships to Richmond residents worth millions of dollars. RPA City Council members voted against the ECIA.

Instead of seeking productive solutions and partnering to transition from fossil fuels, the RPA City Council members are mostly all hat and no cattle, spending all their time and energy in rallies and political demonstrations, railing against their favorite target, Chevron. Tomorrow, they are joining with the Richmond Our Power Coalition for a march on Chevron with a rally at Gate 14.

As the Richmond Progressive Alliance continues to bash the fossil fuel industry for political points, RPA City Council members hypocritically continue to contribute to air pollution and climate change by driving their own personal cars with internal combustion engines fueled by gasoline. I wonder if they fuel up at a Chevron station or favor one of the refiners that also fuels their treasury?

Figure 2 - March on Chevron Flier for August 6, 2022

The bête noire of the Richmond Progressive Alliance is the fossil fuel industry, and more specifically, Chevron, which is ironic because the largest contribution ever made to the RPA includes money generated by Phillips 66, Marathon Petroleum and Valero. This was a $125,000 gift from the Preston-Werner Foundation, which owns and derives dividends from many corporate stocks, including the ones shown below.

Figure 3 - The RPA accepted $125,000 earned by investments in three fossil fuel companies, Monsanto, Fox News and Wynn casinos

In the evaluation of the Preston-Werner gift (Careless Internal Memo Leak Explodes RPA Hypocritical No Corporate Donations Claim)  the RPA leadership, including Claudia Jimenez, wrote, “Foundational Pillar of the RPA - No ‘Corporate Money.’ A fundamental organizing principle of the RPA has been to never accept funds from corporations.”

However, they acknowledged the intimate relationship between the Preston-Werner-Foundation and Preston-Werner Ventures, “Emily Ross discussed the opportunity with RPA leadership and then spoke with Yari [Greaney] on August 10 about Preston-Werner Ventures and its associated foundation, the Preston-Werner Foundation.” Yari Greaney also acknowledged the close relationship, “She also indicated that she and other staff members also help to manage two other family funded entities: Preston-Werner Initiative, a 501(c)(4) entity, and Preston-Werner Ventures, LLC…”

So, the Preston-Werner-Foundation is, in fact, a corporation, as can be seen from the Secretary of State filing below.

Figure 4 - Preston-Werner-Foundation is a California corporation

And the associated Preston-Werner Ventures is a for-profit LLC, which is managed by another LLC, Signatus LLC, listed as the manager for 70 other companies

Figure 5 - Preston-Werner Ventures LLC is managed by Signatus LLC

Figure 6 - The tangled web of companies associated with Signatus LLC

The latest frenzy of the RPA is trying to figure out who or what is behind the Richmond Represented campaign, which is calling out the RPA over sideshows and homeless camps, both of which RPA City Council members support. Who cares who is behind it? Instead of responding to the campaign, which is generally accurate, the RPA has twisted panties over the source. Not a word from the RPA about the substance of the allegations!

Figure 7 - Richmond Represented campaign