Gov. Newsom orders firing of California’s top oil, gas regulator over fracking permits

By ANDREW OXFORD | The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the firing of California’s top oil and gas regulator Thursday over an increase in state permits for hydraulic fracturing and allegations of conflicts of interest among senior government officials.

Newsom’s chief of staff asked the state’s natural resources secretary to dismiss Ken Harris, who was appointed to lead the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources in 2015. She also told Secretary Wade Crowfoot to continue an investigation into reports that employees at the agency own stock in companies that they regulate.

Ann O’Leary’s request came hours after advocacy groups Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Allliance released data showing regulators have been issuing permits for hydraulic fracturing at twice the rate this year when compared to 2018.

The number of permits granted for drilling new wells also increased by 35% from January 1 to June 3 when compared to the rate last year, according to the groups’ data. The organizations said that of the 2,365 well permits issued in those months, 45% benefited oil companies in which division officials owned stock.

Newsom took office in January and O’Leary told Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot in an email shared with the Associated Press that the number of hydraulic fracturing permits had increased without his knowledge.

“The Governor has long held concerns about fracking and its impacts on Californians and our environment, and knows that ultimately California and our global partners will need to transition away from oil and gas extraction,” O’Leary wrote. “In the weeks ahead, our office will work with you to find new leadership of (the division) that share this point of view and can run the division accordingly.”

O’Leary also told Crowfoot to continue an investigation into allegations that division employees have holdings in energy companies and take “the maximum disciplinary action …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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