Santa Clara lawmaker calls herself environmental candidate but owns lucrative oil and coal stock
Santa Clara Councilmember Teresa O'Neill is pictured with her bike. Photo courtesy of Headshots Silicon Valley/Larry Sacks Photography.

Teresa O’Neill has touted herself the environmental candidate for Santa Clara City Council but a review by this news organization found the councilmember owns up to $1.02 million in stocks in oil and coal-mining companies, according to her recent Form 700 disclosures.

On her ballot statement and in various interviews, O’Neill has cited fighting climate change and protecting the environment as her top priorities. She also won the endorsement of the county’s League of Conservation Voters (LCV).

But her disclosure forms show she owns up to $400,000 in BP, up to $200,000 in Shell, up to $200,000 in Total SA, up to $120,000 in Chevron and up to $100,000 in Exxon Mobil. The exact value of the stocks are hard to discern as they show a range, starting at $10,000 and rising to $100,000 for most of the individual stocks.

Santa Clara County LCV Chair Emeritus Rod Diridon said the organization had no idea O’Neill owned stock in oil and coal-mining companies and it’s “not attractive” that she does. He added that when they interview candidates, they don’t ask about their stock portfolio.

“If Teresa or anybody else is smart, they’ll get rid of all their coal and oil stocks and buy electric-generation stocks,” Diridon said. “We interview the candidates and ask questions and really bore down on what they’ve actually voted for while they’re in local government — and Teresa is an outstanding vote on environmental things.”

O’Neill told San José Spotlight her investments in oil and coal-mining companies are only a small fraction of her stock portfolio.

“As to my managed stock portfolio, the actual amounts in the stocks you mention are at the low end of those ranges, nowhere near the maximum,” she said. “ Most of my holdings are in technology stocks. I do support greenhouse gas reductions and am working on that within and beyond Santa Clara.”

According to her Form 700, O’Neill owns up to $2.4 million worth of stock in technology companies such as Apple, Intel and Facebook.

“I do support greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and am working on that within and beyond Santa Clara,” O’Neill added. “If we are going to achieve meaningful GHG reductions and reduce our reliance on carbon, we need all sectors of our economy to bring their research and development, operational, and particularly financial resources to the effort.”

Despite O’Neill’s investment in gas and oil, Diridon said the LCV stands by its endorsement. He pointed to O’Neill’s vote to ban plastic bags in Santa Clara and support for construction of higher-density infill housing near transit stations.

O’Neill has represented Santa Clara’s District 4 since 2012. Next month, she’ll face challenger Kevin Park as she fights for four more years on the City Council.

“We really elect people who will vote for environmental issues and so far Teresa has been a perfect vote,” Diridon said. “If she’s reelected, she should continue to be a strong environmentalist. And we’ll watch her to make sure she is.”

Contact Luke Johnson at [email protected] and follow @Scoop_Johnson on Twitter.

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