California Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday ordered his secretary of Natural Resources to fire Ken Harris, the state’s top oil regulator, after learning from media reports and watchdog groups fracking permits have doubled without his knowledge since he took office, and seven supervisors regulating the industry own shares in major oil companies.
Harris is the head of the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, also known as Doggr, Kallanish Energy finds.
The Palm Springs (California) Desert Sun newspaper reported the pace at which fracking permits are issued has doubled since Newsom took office in January, and thousands of permits for new and re-used oil and gas wells also have been approved.
The Desert Sun also reported on the findings of watchdog groups Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance, which uncovered records showing top state regulators and engineers held investments in ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Valero and other petrochemical giants.
Almost half of the 2,300 well permits issued in 2019 have benefited oil companies invested in by agency officials, the consumer groups said.
“This is a good start,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, told the Desert Sun. “This shows the governor wants to change the culture at the agency to make sure it’s free of conflicts and safety comes before the oil companies’ interests. …”
The investments were reported on required disclosure forms completed by agency supervisors or senior officials in March this year. The forms cover 2018 holdings of stock and other securities and show seven senior staff with investments in 12 of the world’s top petroleum companies.
The exact amounts are unclear, because the forms ask supervisors to simply indicate whether their investments are valued at less than $10,000 or between $10,001 and $100,000, or higher amounts.
On Wednesday, the groups asked Newsom to put a freeze on all drilling permits and to clean house at Doggr.
This post appeared first on Kallanish Energy News.