Gov. Jerry Brown last year directed state oil and gas regulators to research, map and report back on any mining and oil drilling history and “potential for future oil and gas activity” at the Brown family’s private land in Northern California, state records show.
After a phone call from the governor and follow-up requests from his aides, senior staffers in the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency over at least two days produced a 51-page historical report and geological assessment, plus a personalized satellite-imaged geological and oil and gas drilling map for the area around Brown’s family ranchland near the town of Williams.
State regulators labeled the map they did for Brown “Oil and Gas Potential In West Colusa County,” and “JB_Ranch,” referring to the Brown family land in Colusa County.
Ultimately, the regulators told the governor, prospects were “very low” for any commercial drilling or mining at the 2,700-acre property, which has been in Brown’s family for more than a century. …
Brown spokesman Evan Westrup declined to discuss the work for the governor, referring the AP to California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. That agency said the work was a legal and proper use of public resources — and no more than the general public would get. But oil industry experts said they could not recall a similar example of anyone getting that kind of state work done for private property.
Brown’s request to state regulators amounted to the governor using state workers as “his own private oil prospecting team,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.
The work on the Brown family ranch “is especially outrageous given his administration’s failure to prevent oil companies from polluting California’s underground water,” Kretzmann said, referring to the oil agency’s acknowledgments to federal environmental regulators that it regularly fell short in enforcing federal law on oilfield pollution.
Brown’s request to oil regulators points to the complex way that the governor, an internationally known advocate of renewable energy, approaches oil and gas issues in his own state. While spearheading ambitious programs to curb the use of climate-changing fossil fuels, Brown also has sought to spur oil production in California, the country’s No. 3 oil-producing state.